Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pork and Pepper Chili with Very Special Corn Bread

I made a huge pot of Chili this past weekend with the intention of enjoying this comforting hot dish while I watched the New England Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night, but that didn't happen. The good news is when you plan a fantastic meal around a sporting event even if your team loses you can still have lots of fun eating!

I made this Chili with ground pork instead of beef and ground the pork myself from 2 nice thick center-cut boneless pork chops. The ground pork in the grocery store often is very fatty and the color looks 'off' to me. It is so simple to grind this or any meat and that ensures you know what you have. I ground the pork in my little, but powerful Cuisinart mini-max--takes only a few seconds, but food processor or hand meat grinder works well, too.

4 cups assorted beans, I used kidney, small whites, and shell beans, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
2 center-cut boneless pork chops equalling about 1 pound
4 Tbsp. Olive Oil
7 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
2 medium onions, also chopped in the mini-max or diced finely
4 cloves garlic, same as above
4 Tbsp. Sea Salt
2 Tbsp. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Cumin
3 tsp. Smoky Paprika chipolte seasoning*
1/2 tsp.+ Hot pepper flakes
4 small jalapenos, seeded and chopped finely. I used jarred, but fresh are even better.
10 small mini Bell Peppers, various colors, chopped finely

Clean and rinse the beans. Check for small pebbles. Cover beans with water and let soak for at least 4 hours, but you can soak them before you go to bed the night before. Check beans every so often to make sure they are still under water. Obviously if you soak overnight you won't do this, but just make sure you give them lots of water before you head off to bed.
Heat 4 Tbsp. Olive Oil in a large pot until bubbling. Add the onion and garlic and 1 Tbsp. of the salt. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes stirring to coat onion and garlic thoroughly with oil. Turn the heat to high and add the ground pork stirring to incorporate all.
Reduce heat back to medium and let cook for about 5 minutes. Add 7 Tbsp. tomato paste, 2 Tbsp. Chili Powder, the last 3 Tbsp. of Salt, 1 tsp. Cumin, Smoky Paprika, 1/2 tsp, Pepper flakes (The amount of pepper depends first, on how much heat you like and second, how hot are your pepper flakes. Mine were very hot from last summer's cayenne crop so 1/2 tsp. was just right.) Stir to combine all the spices well.
Next drain the beans in a collander and shake a few times to get most of the water out. Add the drained beans to the Chili pot and add about 4 cups of water, to cover.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for about 1 hour stirring occasionally. Add more water if the beans start to dry out.
Seed and cut the little Bell peppers and the jalapenos and add this to the Chili and cook for another 1/2 hour or until beans are tender.  By now the Chili should be quite thick.

Check seasoning. Add more salt if necessary. This may sound like a lot of salt, but remember you have 4 cups of beans to season plus the meat. I like to make this Chili the day before I am serving to really let the flavors come together. Just re-heat when ready to eat. Top with Monterey Pepper Jack or any other cheese you like.

*Here is the Victoria Taylor brand Smoky Paprika Chipolte Seasoning I used. I bought this at Home Goods for half price, but am sure you can get it online or at a specialty store.

I served my Chili with a dense and delicious Corn Bread. The recipe came from the Dorsett Inn in Dorsett, VT (www.dorsettinn.com.) My husband and I stayed at this quintessential New England Inn a few years ago. It is charming and the food fabulous! I did make a couple changes to the recipe, which I always believe is cooks prerogative.


1 cup Corn Meal
1 cup Flour
1 1/2 tsp. Double-Acting Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/3 cup Sugar
2 tsp. ground Cumin
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 cup Sour Cream (I used non-fat Greek style Plain Yogurt.)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup Milk
1 cup grated Monterey Pepper Jack (recipe calls for 1/2 cup Swiss)
1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes
3 small mini Bell Peppers, seeded and chopped finely
3 jalapenos, seeded and chopped finely
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 cup corn kernels

Preheat oven to 370 degrees. In a large bowl sift together the corn meal, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cumin. In a separate bowl whisk together the sour cream (or yogurt), butter, and milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix thoroughly. Stir in hot pepper flakes, Bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, onion and corn kernels and mix well until all ingredients are combined. Pour the batter into a greased 2 qt. round or 9" square baking dish. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown and tester comes out clean.

That's all for today.  I have a whole year to think about
next year's playoff game menu!...Any suggestions?
I look forward to talking with you again about fabulous food, creative cooking, and more!

Thank you for following:  www.cookwithcindy.com
Here I am ready for the stage at the Vienna Opera house...Being silly is very serious business in the kitchen and out!
Until next time, happy cooking!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Csirke Paprikas aka Chicken Paprika!

My son Michael came over the other night and I made him some of my favorite Hungarian comfort food. My Mom's parents were from Budapest and visiting this beautiful city last fall was an amazing experience for my husband and me. We thoroughly enjoyed this historic and fascinating city. I could've filled a suitcase with spices, but only bought a few as these days you can get anything online so don't really need to be in the country of origin, but it sure is fun to grocery shop in a foreign land!

This recipe for Csirke Paprikas (pronounced Cherrtaka Pappreekash) is my Mom's, but I have made a few changes; specifically using two kinds of Hungarian pepper paste under the skin of the chicken, which I think gives the dish an extremely rich depth of flavor and moistness.

These are the pepper pastes I used:
I did buy them in Budapest, but have since done a little research to find you can get them online: www.JudisUniverStore.com. Go to Hungarian Paprikas. The first is a little spicy and the second is a sweet blend of peppers and tomatoes. They are both somewhat salty so be cautious when adding additional salt to the dish. Combined they are wonderful!
This is the dish, all baked and ready to serve!

4 Tbsp. butter or olive oil (I used olive oil.)
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into rings
3/4 cup cold water
8 large chicken thighs*
3 medium red bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips
1 large tomato, cut into chunks
2 Tbsp. sweet Paprika (or use 1 Tbsp. sweet and 1 hot)
1 Tbsp. Gulyaskrem Eredeti Csmege (pepper paste)
2 Tbsp. Piros Csipos Arany Etelizesito (pepper paste)
1 cup sour cream (or non-fat, plain Greek-style Yogurt)

* Traditionally you would use a whole chicken cut up, but I prefer to use either all breast or all thigh/legs so the meat cooks evenly. If you use a combo, the breast can get overdone.

I like to get most of my ingredients assembled before beginning to cook;
helps me stay organized.

Heat butter or oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and a sprinkle of salt. Saute for 2 minutes stirring to coat onion evenly in the oil. Add 1/4 cup water and reduce heat to lowest possible. Cover and simmer for about an hour until onions carmelize.

While the onions are carmelizing, mix the two Hungarian pepper pastes together in a small bowl. Using your fingers, gently pull the skin from the chicken thighs, but don't pull it all the way off--keep intact in some places so it doesn't fall away from the meat.  Rub the paste under the skin dividing equally between the 8 thighs. Place the thighs in a 9x13 baking dish and let the pepper sauce marinate into the chicken while the onions continue to cook. When the onions are done they will be soft, fragrant and just golden brown. Remove the onions from the pan into a bowl.

Add a little more oil and get the pan nearly smoking hot. Brown the chicken thighs (this makes a bit of a mess, but is important) for about 3 minutes per side. Place the browned thighs back into the 9x13 inch baking dish which you have washed and dried thoroughly since using as the marinade dish for the raw chicken.
Here is the chicken after browning.
Do NOT wash the frying pan; just scrape up the bits of chicken from bottom of pan. Next add all your sliced red peppers to the pan; stir while cooking over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomato, 2 Tbsp. Paprika, Salt/Pepper, last half cup of water, and the cooked onions back into the pan. Stir until well combined and pour the whole thing over the top of the browned chicken thighs.
This is what it looks like before going into the oven for baking.

Put the Chicken Paprika in a preheated 400 degree oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn heat down to 350 and continue baking for another 45 minutes until chicken is very tender.

I served this with a cucumber salad--chopped English style cuke, salt, fresh dill and enough non-fat Greek style yogurt to moisten. My Mother would be cringing with all this yogurt. She was NOT a fan and would never substitute sour cream with yogurt. Sorry Mom!

I also served with another of my Mom's favorites which she cooked often. This pasta dish goes well with almost everything so don't wait to cook it until you're going all Hungarian!
1 medium head of cabbage, cored, trimmed and shredded
1 Tbsp. of salt
4 Tbsp. butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. of square shaped egg noodles (I had bow-ties in the pantry which worked fine. Mom always made her own pasta.)

Put shredded cabbage into a large bowl. Add the salt and toss to distribute evenly. Leave for 1 hour. Then squeeze to remove the liquid. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add the cabbage and season with black pepper. Toss to distribute. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Do not let it burn so stir from time to time. Cook noodles for 8 minutes. Drain in colander. Add noodles to the pan of cabbage. Mix thoroughly. It is ready to eat now or you can put it in a buttered casserole and reheat just before serving.

In Hungary cabbage is occasionally sweetened with sugar just before serving. I don't do that because I like the buttery, salty cabbage just as it is. This is truly a comfort dish and combined with the Chicken Paprika...out of this world!

See how this spoon hooks on the side of the glass.
My son accompanied his meal with a Half and Half, sometimes also called a Black and Tan, which is made by half filling a pint glass with a nice amber Lager (like Sam Adams), and then slowly adding Guinness difusing the pour over a special little Guinness spoon.

A perfect pour!

It was a fun and festive night and the sweet aroma of peppers
lingered in the kitchen for 2 days!

***I have a vision of my Aunt Ikey
lifting her glass and toasting us all!***
which in Hungarian is CHEERS!
Loosely pronounced..Eggashegada!
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Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy Epiphany!

January 6th is "officially" the end of the holiday season. In Christian cultures, January 6th--Epiphany, is celebrated in different ways around the world. One of the most interesting customs I recently learned about is from Spain where children fill their shoes with hay and grain for the three kings' horses to eat and place them outside the front door or on balconies on Epiphany Eve. The next day, the children find sweets, cookies and gifts in place of the straw they left the night before. And speaking of sweets, today I am going to begin with the special pie I made for our Christmas dinner.

I found this recipe online on another food blog called www.thehungrymouse.com. The Mouse said this recipe is based on an original from Saveur Magazine. Her site is very pretty and sophisticated and the photos of this pie were amazing. I took my own shots, but take a look at the Mouses, too. The pie is rich, delicious, creamy, but not too heavy which makes it an excellent choice after a big holiday meal. The recipe is not difficult, but took a fair amount of time as there are many steps prior to assembling the pie, but definitely worth it. This dessert IS in the "Wow" category and my Dad said he believes the BEST dessert I have ever made.


8 Tbsp. butter (Yes, that is a whole stick! I used salted butter.)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar (I used light.)
1-9 oz. package chocolate wafer cookies

3 1/2 cups half and half
8 Tbsp. butter, cut into pieces (Yes, that is stick #2!)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
9 egg yolks
9 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
(I made this pie at my Dad's house and upon arriving realized I had forgotten to buy nice quality semi-sweet chocolate so instead used 1 cup of Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate bits and 2 Tbsp. of Hershey chocolate powder. I did have the 2 oz. of bitter chocolate. I am sure the taste will vary slightly depending on what type of chocolate you use, but his worked really well.)

2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate bits

Makes 1 very full 9 inch pie.

Grease a 9 inch glass pie plate and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make the cookie crumb crust.
Crush the cookies into fine crumbs. Use a food processor to do this, or the Mouse recommended the 'bag and bash' method which is the one I used. Place the cookies inside a zip-lock bag and smash them with a heavy rolling pin until they are the consistency of fine potting soil.

Melt 1 stick butter in medium pan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar. Whisk until the brown sugar is dissolved in the butter. Pour the mixture into a large bowl. Add the chocolate cookie crumbs and mix well until thoroughly incorporated with the butter. Pour the crumb mixture into the greased pie plate (--you wouldn't think with all that butter you'd have to grease the plate, but I did anyway!) and press the crumbs using a glass or your fingers. Slide your finger around the edge of the plate which helps keep a nice edge on the crust when you slice it. Chill the crust for about 20 minutes and then bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until set. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. I did this earlier in the day.
Chocolate Cream filling with plastic wrap pressed on top.

Put the half and half in a 3 quart pot. Heat over medium-hight heat until it just starts to bubble being careful not to scorch the bottom. While it is heating, combine the sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Whisk together until combined. It will look like baby powder--the Mouse is exactly right--that is just what it looks like!
If you have not already, chop the butter and chocolate so it is ready to add when needed.
Add the egg yolks to the sugar/cornstarch mixture. Whisk until well combined.
In a thin stream, very slowly pour the hot half and half into the egg yolk mixture. If you add the hot half and half too quickly it will 'cook' the eggs. Pouring slowly 'tempers' the egg yolks so they do not scramble. Keep whisking the whole time you are pouring the cream in. Here's a trick...to keep the bowl from moving all over the counter, set your bowl on a scrunched up dish towel which holds it in place as you are whisking with one hand and pouring with the other...unless you have 3 hands.
Pour the egg/cream mixture back into the pot. Set back on the stove over medium heat and whisk constantly for 4-5 minutes until thickened considerably (pudding should coat the back of a spoon).
Remove from heat and add chopped butter and chocolate or in my case the chocolate bits, bitter chocolate and cocoa powder. Whisk until completely melted. Texture will be velvety.
Strain into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer to filter any little pieces of egg yolk that may have 'cooked'. This step is important to final texture so don't skip it. It is a lucky person who gets to lick the strainer!
Cover the pudding with plastic wrap so it doesn't form a skin on top. Make sure the plastic covers the entire surface of the pudding.
Put the filling into the fridge for at least 4 hours, which means you obviously are doing this step ahead of time, too. The mixture gets even thicker as it cools.

When the filling is cooled, remove plastic and give the pudding a stir to smooth it out.
Pour the filling into your prepared crust.
Smooth it into a nice dome with a rubber spatula.

Whip the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla together until stiff peaks are formed.
Scoop the whipped cream onto the pie filling so it completely covers the pie.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Melt the chocolate bits in a small pan over medium heat. Pour the melted chocolate onto a piece of waxed or parchment paper and using a spatula spread out so it is really thin. Place in freezer for about 15 minutes (or more--this can also be done ahead of time.). Once the chocolate is frozen, take out of freezer and roll up the paper so the chocolate crumbles in shards. Use a knife to fine-tune your shards so they are thin and relatively even. Sprinkle on top of the pie and serve! Both you and your guests will not be disappointed!

Here's a quick and easy chicken dish that you may want to try. Apples and garlic pair well and I believe their flavors are enhanced when combined.


I served this with coleslaw with cranberries and apple and cauliflower mashed potato.

2 chicken breasts, boneless skinless
1 apple
4 cloves garlic, sliced
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut a deep slit in the fat portion of the chicken breast to create a pocket, but don't cut all the way through; keep the breast intact. Thinly slice the apples and place as many pieces as will fit inside the pocket you have just made; really stuff them in. Add 2 cloves sliced garlic per breast reserving a few slices of garlic for the top. Add about 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to a baking dish lined with foil. Place the stuffed breasts in the pan and add another tbsp. or 2 to the top of the breasts. Sprinkle liberally with salt/pepper. Top each breast with apple slices and a few garlic slices. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Pop under a hot broiler for 2 minutes to brown the top.
This is the cauliflower before being reheated.

To make the cauliflower mashed potato, steam chopped cauliflower with a little salt until tender. Mash in a blender or food processor. Add a little butter, season with salt/pepper, and a couple tbsps. of light cream. The texture becomes much like that of mashed potato and it is a good low-carb alternative. This can be made ahead of time and heated in the oven. Pop it under the broiler for a couple minutes before serving if you want a nice brown crust. I got this from the South Beach diet. My husband and I really enjoy it so we have it quite often.

Here's a fun little appetizer that I also used this Christmas.


1 package Little Smoky dogs
1 package crescent dough

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and dry the smokies. Open the crescent dough and unroll. Cut the triangular pices into thin strips and wrap a strip around each smoky. Bake for 15 minutes until the dough is browned and dogs are sizzling. This is an old-fashioned appetizer and not very gourmet, but they all don't have to be fancy and these little dogs were delicious!

I am going to close today with the meal I made for my husband on New Year's Eve...


I served the sole over truffled mashed potatoes topped with steamed asparagus. It was very yummy and took about 45 minutes to make and assemble the whole dinner!

4 pieces of filet of sole totalling about 1 lb. (more or less)
12 oz. fresh crab, not canned*
1 cup fresh bread crumbs**
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil for greasing the pan
3 Tbsp. Butter
Dash onion salt/dehydrated garlic, freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make the crumb topping...
Melt butter in a frying pan. Add fresh bread crumbs, spices, and stir until combined. If there is any liquid left in the crab container, add that as well. Cook over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
Put a Tbsp. of Olive Oil in bottom of casserole. Place sole in the dish and rub each side with the oil by dragging the fish over the bottom of the casserole dish. Evenly divide the crab between the 4 pieces of sole and fold into a loose roll. Top with bread crumbs and bake for 15 minutes. Pop the fish under a hot broiler for 2 minutes to brown the crumbs. Serve on truffled mashed potatoes (I used Yukon golds, mashed with butter, salt/pepper, and added a few drops of black truffle oil) and top each portion with a few pieces of steamed asparagus. We had this lovely meal with a bottle of champagne!

* When I am in Massachusetts I shop at Rock Bottom Seafood in Cedarville--a fabulous, family owned and operated store selling and serving incredibly fresh and delicious seafood, mainly local fish and shellfish. Dennis sells crab from Maine in 12 oz frozen tubs which works perfectly for this dish. www.rockbottomseafood.com

** Did you know that 1 piece of bread (I use crusts or stale bread to make my fresh crumbs) makes just about 1 cup of bread crumbs.
This is a bread bowl filled with delicious mushroom soup that I had in Poland.
I want to recreate this at home! It looks a little like a party hat!

We are beginning 'Year Two' together and I thank you
for sharing my love of cooking.
Make it a fun year filled with lots of
experimentation in the kitchen.

Go for the Gusto!
Be Bold!
Take Risks and Chances...Challenge Yourself!

Thanks for tuning in again with www.cookwithcindy.com