Thursday, January 15, 2015

Chilly, Chile, Chili - When its chilly get some chile and make some chili! - Here's a Recipe.

New Mexicans are very particular about their chile and no New Mexican worth their salsa would ever call our wonderful chile pepper chili. Chili is that Texas style bean and meat or lack of beans or lack of meat thick stew sort of concoction that you pour into a Fritos corn chip bag. Nothing wrong with chili but don't get it confused with chile.
As much as I love my traditional style of making chile and all the various chile sauces there are times when a big ol' bowl of hot steaming chili is just the ticket, add cornbread, avocado and sour cream and this is a bowl of winter heaven. 

Christo's Big Cowboy Chili

1 lb ground beef (or chicken or turkey)
1 large onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
3 Tbs cumin powder
4 Tbs (use as much or as little as you want for level of heat desired) red chile powder (get it from New Mexico) 
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb dry of cooked kidney beans (I cooked a pound of dry beans in the pressure cooker you could use canned and it would probably work out to 2 quarts of beans) Make sure you have at least 3 cups of liquid with your beans
Avocado, sour cream and green onion for garnish

Brown the meat in a large skillet. When meat is brown add the onion and garlic and saute until soft. When the onion and garlic have softened then add the cumin and the chile powder and stir till everything is coated (if its not spicy enough add more red chile powder). When all of this is a nice deep red color then add the tomato paste and water. Simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add this mixture to your cooked beans and bean broth and simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve with your garnish and cornbread of you have it.

This is by far the easiest and tastiest chili you will ever have. No need to add any sugar as the onions add all the sweetness you need but if you do find that your particular can of tomato paste was extra acidy then add a squeeze of honey. Enjoy
A bowl of chili is a soothing, warming and an inexpensive way to bring lots of flavor and nutrition for you and your family, make some.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Once Upon A Time I Wanted To Be A Chef - My Little Story

Many of you have been following my blog from the very beginning and you know first hand the evolution I have gone thru. Some of you are newer and you have seen me now as I am. I am going to try to fill in the blanks but first lets talk about knives. I love knives.
I have knives I never use because they are way too special and I don't want anything to happen to them and this custom knife by Middleton Made Knives is a perfect example - I treated my self to this knife for Christmas in 2013 - so its pretty new.
I have knives I have customized with special handles that I use when I want people to ooh and ahh over how cool the knife is and this razor sharp Japanese beauty I have had for probably 20 years now is the one that shines in that spot light.
Then I have the knives I use at home, gobs of them. You name it I probably have two and all sorts of other little doodads and whatnots.
I already mentioned the knives I never use except on rare occasions and here they are all together.
And then there are the knives I use for work, I have this knife bag and I also have a smaller one (not shown) with utility knives that I loan out to people who help me on occasion. This particular kit is now a year old as my other cherished set that I had collected over the years was stolen, very heart breaking. I also have a bag of zesters and other assorted tools and yet one more bag of specialty plating spoons but thats a post for another time as well as my oddball knives and hunting knives and machetes and ghurkas and you name it - plus my huge pocket knife collection - I get all frazzled just thinking about it. This is where we start the story - with the knives I use for work. 
Fortunate to have met Liza Minelli
Fourteen years ago I decided that I was going to live my dream and work as a chef. This was not an easy path to take at 40 years old but I had to do it. Ten years ago I started my blog, that was an easy step to take and it introduced me to all of you. I was happy to find a community of like minded people who all shared their lovely food and inspirational words and blogging was exciting and new. I was able to learn a lot from the blogging community and at the same time I was able to hone my skills as a self taught chef. I worked hard at learning everything there was to learn. I had an adolescent boy as I was a single dad at this time (he is 16 now) that demanded a lot of my attention so I wasn't able to dedicate myself to any job so blogging became my biggest effort. I blogged and blogged and blogged and blogged. I also started to take foods to the playground for other moms and dads and child care givers to taste. I spent a lot of time in playgrounds with my son. Before you know it (3 years into it or so) I started a little soup subscription service where I made a couple of kinds of soup each week and would deliver containers of them for a small fee to whomever wanted them. I did this for a couple of years until one day one of my subscribers mentioned to me that they had a friend of a friend that was looking for chefs to help with a catering company and I should give them a call. I called them and started working right away. While working for this one company on occasion (the catering work wasn't regular which was perfect for my schedule and my adolescent son was now a teenager) - a party planner for another catering company asked me to assemble a tasting as they were looking for a new chef. I jumped at that opportunity and gave it all I had. I got the job. I was the new chef. It took me 6 years from when I first made the jump to when I was doing it as a pro at the level I am now. I could not be more grateful, happy and proud. I worked hard then and I still do now. I set a goal and I achieved it even at my later age.  Don't let anyone ever stop you or discourage you from your goals, with persistency and consistency success will follow. I won't ever be able to thank all the individual bloggers that were and still are a huge inspiration to me but I think you know who you are. Thank You.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Cold Days = Comfort Food: Whats your go to dish that warms your soul?

Comfort food comes in many forms, for some its as simple as a cheeseburger with fries and for others its a warm plate of scrambled eggs and buttered toast or a big bowl of steaming pasta so to try to say that one dish is more comforting than another is like trying to get everyone to have the same favorite color (mine is purple - just in case).
Memories play a big role in how we experience comfort. Sure a warm blanket and a hot cup of cocoa is comforting to many and certainly it stirs up fond memories but I am talking about a deeper connection. 
I grew up in rural New Mexico staying with my grandparents often on a small farm with a couple of goats, a milk cow a few sheep and some chickens as well as a very large sprawling garden and some acres of alfalfa and I had chores to do. Every day started at 4:30 or 5:00 with a cup of warm, chocolate flavored blue corn porridge called ATOLE  - it was thicker than cocoa but thinner than oatmeal and I would have this with a cup of milky and sweet coffee before going out to do the morning chores before school.
Comfort for me its a dish my grandmother made almost every single day for lunch. For many in New Mexico with my similar heritage this is a common dish that almost everyone made in some form or another. Caldo or broth, or soup or whatever the definition of caldo is, was and still is a popular and quick meal. 
Lunch would roll around pretty much exactly at noon and I would come in from whatever I was doing whether it was tending to the sheep as they grazed along the ditch bank or watering the alfalfa fields and my grandmother would have a skillet full of this for her and my grandfather and I to have with some fresh made and warm tortillas. This is Papas con Caldo - or Potato Soup and its simple and fast to make. Its a little onion and garlic, some browned meat and diced potatoes a little water and salt and pepper and it all simmers together to make a pot of heaven. Whats your favorite comfort food?

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Resolutions Revolutions Absolutions Evolution Infusion Solutions

Perfectly poached eggs topped with parsley aioli and salmon caviar along with smoked trout on a garlic crostini with grilled plantains and mushrooms and a small salad are a New Years Day brunch anyone would love. 
Don't start the love till after you have had your "good luck" bowl of black eyed peas and collard greens - it just wouldn't be proper. Two quick tips: 1) black eyed peas cook fast 2) collard greens are best when simmered for a good long while to soften up and mellow out.
Recipes. I am often asked about recipes and on that same note I am often told how I should write a cookbook. This whole cookbook idea is nothing new to me here on the blog as I have mentioned it often. As much as I want to write a cookbook I simply don't feel strongly enough that there is a market for one more cookbook. This year I will give it the most thought I have ever given it and we shall see.
Innovations. Innovative cooking is all the rage. The curious thing about the word innovative is how loosely it can be construed. If you have never poached an egg before then you are being innovative. I am going to make it my mission to try to bring innovation to each and every one of you and do it in a way that is functional and feasible. Anything can be innovative and teaching is also a way of learning.
Lets grow together in the coming year. I have written this blog for a very long time now, 10 years to be exact. I have had waves of readers from the many to the few to the very many down to the very few. I have learned a thing or two along the way and I want to pick up a few more things to round it out. I am looking forward to your feedback and your help in 2015.
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