Finished Chili

My Chili Recipe

Read about my love of chili here.

Ingredients:

1lb thick cut bacon, cubed

1lb stew beef, cut into ~1/2″ cubes

2lbs 80/20 ground beef

2 yellow onions, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 poblano pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

4T Mexene Chili Powder

2T Chili Powder

1T Ancho Chili Powder

2T Paprika

1T Kosher Salt (more as needed)

2T Cumin

2T Tomato Paste (I use Cento)

2T Beef Better than Bouillon

2 12oz Dark Lager (I recommend Negra Modelo)

1 box tomato sauce (approx 13oz)

1 can diced tomatoes

1 pack unflavored gelatin

32oz Unsalted Beef Stock

1 dried Guajillo chili (seeds removed) Continue reading →

B. Matthews

Review – B. Matthews (Savannah, GA)

Breakfast of Champions

Savannah is one of those towns where you can not really go wrong.  Booze and food tend to be uniformly good – with better than average options.  That being said, there are a few standout places.  B. Matthews happens to be one of them.  I first heard about the place on Youtube.  Several videos mentioned them as a go-to place for brunch.  Upon further research, we discovered they do breakfast every day till 11.  We decided to visit.

Great decision.

The wife and I are decidedly in favor of good breakfast places.  We both *love* breakfast.  On my days off, I usually do breakfast as a given.  When we travel though breakfast tends to be hit or miss. Blame me for that, I like to drink on vacation and getting up early is generally not my idea of fun while on vacation.  That being said, we knew we would be in downtown Savannah early enough for breakfast and I decided to try something new.

Boy howdy, am I glad Anna agreed to my suggestion. Continue reading →

Soup, with garnish

Beer Cheese Soup Recipe

Read the article here.

Ingredients:

1lb thick cut bacon – sliced and diced

2 leeks – diced

1 medium Poblano pepper – diced

3 carrots – peeled and grated (fine grate)

4 cloves garlic – chopped

1 tbsp good prepared mustard (I recommend Lusty Monk Burn in Hell*)

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp sweet paprika (get a good Hungarian one for Pete’s sake)

1 tbsp dried thyme

Dash Cayenne

1 Turkish Bay Leaf

(2) 12oz beers (Sierra Nevada Porter recommended)

1qt Chicken stock (preferably homemade)

1tbsp chicken base or similar (Better than Boullion)

1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce (L&P recommended)

Salt and Pepper to taste (white pepper preferred)

20oz Heavy Cream

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 cup all purpose flour

6oz Gouda* – shredded

6oz sharp cheddar** – shredded

chives (for garnish)

olive oil (for garnish)

reserved bacon (for garnish)

Mise-en-place:

Dice up your bacon and get it going in a heavy bottomed dutch oven or similar pot over medium heat.  While that is cooking, get your leeks and your Poblano diced (and remember to ALWAYS wash your leeks well). These two ingredients will go in together.  In another bowl, you can add your chopped garlic and shredded carrots.  Measure out your spices and have them ready to add together as well. Ditto for your cheese.

Method:

Add bacon to a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.  Stir frequently.  When bacon begins to brown and foamy, remove from pan to a bowl lined with paper towels to drain.  Reserve the cooked bacon for garnishing later.

Add leeks and Poblano pepper to pan.  Cook until vegetables wilt and have released most of their liquid.  (about 5 minutes)

Add in the carrots and garlic.  Cook another 3-4 minutes.

Put the bay leaf and your spices into the pot.  Toss in some salt and grind in some fresh pepper.  Stir.  The heat will wake up your spices.  Enjoy the aromas!

Pour the 2 beers in.  Stir quickly to deglaze the bottom of the pan.  That fond is pure flavor and you want it!

Return to a simmer and reduce soup by 3/4.

Add chicken base, worcestershire sauce, and chicken stock.  Return to a simmer.

Reduce by half over low to medium heat. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

While the soup is simmering, make your roux.  Add flour to melted butter and whisk over medium heat.  You want your roux to thicken a bit, but not take on too much color.  More color = more flavor.  I recommend a tan roux.

Add cream and return to a simmer.  Adjust seasonings for flavor.

Whisk roux into soup a bit at a time.  You may not need it all, so do not add all of it at once.  After each addition, whisk soup thoroughly to incorporate.  Continue to simmer so the roux will activate and thicken the soup.  Add roux to desired thickness.  Aim for just shy of your ideal, as the cheese will provide a bit of thickening as well.

Taste and adjust seasonings.

Bacon cooking. Drool on!

Garnish:

Ladle soup into bowl.  Drizzle olive oil over soup.  Sprinkle chives over soup.  Place some bacon on top.  Serve with Crusty Herb Bread.

Notes:

* If you can find this brand and mustard, get some.  Lusty Monk is consistently awesome.

** I use Boars Head Gouda and sharp cheddar since it’s easy to find and consistently good for the price.  This combination just works great and is easy to get ahold of.

Grilled cheese with bacon

The Humble Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Get the recipe for my favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwich here.

Childhood Memories

I dunno about you, but I have a LOT of memories connected to grilled cheese sandwiches.  I imagine many people will scoff at that statement, but allow me to explain.

My first clear and enduring memory related to a grilled cheese sandwich is attached to my cousin, Chris.  Chris is several years older than me and (to this day) one of the nicest people I know.  Years can go by between talking, and we still pick up a conversation right where we left off.  When I was about seven, I was visiting my cousins with my mom.  I couldn’t tell you where my mom and my Aunt Nancy were at the time, but we got hungry.  Being a precocious seven year old, I had yet to get any kitchen experience.  Chris, however, had a few chops.  He showed me how to make a grilled cheese from scratch (something which blew me away at the time).  He also let me make my own – something which I can definitively point to as a life changing experience for me.

Again, I can hear my readers scoffing.  A grilled cheese sandwich changed your life?

Yes.

That grilled cheese sandwich got me excited about cooking.  Granted, it wasn’t a souffle – but it was something I could cook (safely) for myself.  Somewhere, at that moment in time, my parents smiled and had no idea why.

Speaking of whom, my parents will tell you that there were several years where I ate nothing but hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches.

I can neither confirm or deny this assertion.

Now that I am older and wiser (hah!), I still enjoy the simple pleasure of a good grilled cheese.  I am not talking about white bread and american cheese (though you will still catch me eating those on occasion).  The grilled cheese sandwich is another one of those iconic dishes you can make as simple or as complicated as you like.  Sadly, this also means a lot of people muck it up in trying too hard.

The Basics:

At it’s core, a good grilled cheese is based around a few core ingredients.  Bread, cheese, and butter (I know, you can use Mayo – but I personally have not tried this).  Find yourself a nice bread you like and start there.  Get a couple cheeses – try out some of the ones that sound fun from your deli section at the grocery store. Snag some good butter.

Avoid loading the sandwich up with fifteen kinds of cheese.  You want balance between the bread and the cheese.  Don’t go too heavy on the butter (wow, that hurt to write).  You want it to get crisp, but not soggy. Soggy grilled cheeses make kittens cry.

Technique:

If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m picky about my grilled cheese sandwiches.  One of the most affirming things I have ever felt was seeing a making of scene from the movie Chef with Jon Favreau.  In it, Favreau is getting advice from a chef about how to act in a scene where the main character is making a grilled cheese.  It’s actually pretty intense (and the clip I think conveys the mindset better than the scene used in the movie)   Aside from the excellent technique employed (specifically – keeping the sandwich moving), I find that scene strikes a chord because someone else gets it.  Silly, I know. But hey, validation!

So, to begin.

From my father (and later Thomas Keller) – butter both sides of your bread.  This way, you get flavor as well as browning.  Again, use good butter.

I like to add potato chips to the inside of my grilled cheese sandwiches (again, from Thomas Keller).  I recommend kettle chips as they hold up better (although oddly, the old standbys do great too).  The chips give you a textural change which is great.  Depending on the cheese you are using, they can also keep things from going over to the gooey side.

Be sure you get your skillet or griddle hot before you start.  And have a spatula handy.  You want to keep the sandwich moving throughout to insure it doesn’t develop soggy spots (too much butter in one location), or have less than golden areas (not enough butter in another spot).  Keeping the sandwich moving helps to even this out and make your sandwich golden all over.

Putting your grilled cheese in the oven after the pan is a game changer.  If you like harder cheeses (gouda for instance), then just doing the sandwich in a skillet won’t result in grilled cheese goodness  – the bread will burn to blackness before the cheese ever gets to wonderful meltiness.  Popping the sandwich in the oven melts the cheese and also gives you a buffer to cook a few more sandwiches for family and friends.

Recommended:

Bacon.  Yes.  Put it in there.

I like to add a few chili flakes to mine, simply because I like the flavor.  In lieu of these, there are some nice pepper cheeses which also work – though I find many of them to be a bit on the overpowering side for my tastes.

Salt and pepper your sandwich just like any other food.  You’ll notice the difference!

Slices of chorizo and pear in the same sandwich linked in my recipe substituted for the bacon and chips would make a fantastic sandwich with some or cheeses.

Grilled cheese with bacon

My Favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipe

Read the article here.

Ingredients:

8 slices Brioche (or your favorite bread)

Butter (room temperature)

3 slices thicker cut cheese (Gouda, Cheddar, American, be inventive!)

Potato Chips (I like Kettle Chips)

2 slices thick cut Bacon

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Salt and Pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Bake bacon until crisp in oven and lower oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Let your butter come up to room temperature.

Buttered bread

Buttered bread

Butter one side of each slice of bread.  Place one slice of cheese on the buttered bread (butter side up).  Add some potato chips, covering the space from edge to edge.  Add another slice of cheese.  Break two slices of bacon up and cover the

Assembly!

space.  Add another slice of cheese.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the buttered top slice of bread and set it on top.  You want the butter on the inside again.

Gently butter the bread on the top slice of bread.

Get a large nonstick skillet or griddle onto your stove and set it for medium to medium low heat.  You want to brown your bread, but not burn it.

Into the skillet!

Place your sandwich with the buttered side down first (if you move fast, you can get two or three going at once).  Quickly butter the top slice of bread.

You want to keep your bread moving in the skillet.  Shift and turn the sandwiches a bit at a time to insure the butter melts evenly and the bread browns evenly.

Golden brown goodness!

Now, once your bread reaches the color you prefer, you want to yank them out of the pan and put them on the heated tray in the oven.  Work your way through the rest of the sandwiches you are preparing in the same fashion.  The oven will insure your cheese is melted while retaining the crispy bread you have created in the skillet.

Enjoy your sandwich!

*Sandwiches cut into triangles taste better.  Its science.  Or something.

Grilled cheese with bacon