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For a snowy football weekend!

Spicy chicken chili in a spoon.

Spicy chicken chili

Tomorrow, we are entertaining for the big Giants game. I thought this chili would be perfect to serve with all the garnishes and hot cornbread, plus a big tossed salad.

What can be better than to make a big pot of chili on a beautiful snowy Saturday with a fire going in the fireplace? NOTHING!

This is a favorite recipe of mine, adapted from a very old Food and Wine Magazine. It gives you the big chili flavor and isn’t nearly as heavy as it’s made with chicken. It has a melody of spices and heat from the jalapeños. If you don’t like so much heat, remove the seeds, but I like to keep them in. I also like to use Greek oregano which is much more potent and grind cumin seeds for the cumin powder. Again, more powerful flavor.

Joko – I hope you like this!!

-serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 4), cut into thin strips, all fat removed
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped fine with seeds
1 28 oz. can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, hand crushed, with their juice
2 1/2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 15.5 oz can of drained and rinsed pinto beans
1 15.5 oz.can of drained and rinsed black beans
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

For garnish:

Minced sweet onion
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Cilantro leaves
Sliced pickled jalapeños

Serve on top of a few tortilla chips or steamed rice

Serve with warm cornbread

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook, covered, until they soften, about 20 minutes.

Increase the heat to moderate and stir in the chicken strips. Cook until they are no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Add the jalapeños, the tomatoes with their juice, and the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Uncover the saucepan and stir in the beans and black pepper. Simmer until the chili is thickened, about 15 minutes or even longer. Serve topped with the onions, sour cream, cheddar cheese or more jalapeños. It is nice to give your guests a choice. Top all with cilantro leaves.

Wedges of corn bread are always a good complement to chili. Or serve the chili over steamed rice or a few tortilla chips.

Football snacks

This past week, we had some dear friends over for cocktails and appetizers and then had dinner together at the Red Rooster restaurant, just open a year now, but famed and always crowded. It’s nice!

Charlie Rose was at the table next to ours, (poor guy, he spilled wine all over himself) and the star chef/owner Marcus Samuelsson stopped by and chatted with us. As usual, the Swedish meatballs and fried chicken (yardbird) were great!

I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think I do appetizers well and this opportunity of only having to serve just that and not a whole dinner, was unusual for me. So I wanted to make them different, not too filling, (because I knew dinner would be), and fresh. I think I achieved that.

Crackers, nuts, vegetables, and creamy dip.

I relied on my friend Margaret’s recipe for tonnato, a really creamy, bursting with flavor dip. Combining tuna, anchovies, capers and mayo and you can’t go wrong. Throw in parboiled green beans, fresh fennel and red pepper sticks and you’ve got a delicious combo. I also included a marvelous true English cheddar from Todd English’s Food Court at the Plaza Hotel, some crackers, pistachios (Susan loves) and corn nuts.

It worked out great and I think this would also be great for game watching today. Let me know what you think!

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 olive oil
8 oz Italian tuna in oil, drained (or use 1 ½ cans of water packed white albacore tuna, drained – I actually think this is better!)
5 anchovy fillets, packed in oil, at room temperature, drained and patted dry with a paper towel
3 tbs. lemon juice or a bit more to taste
2 tbs. capers, drained
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth and voila, you’ve got one tasty dip! Do taste before you add any salt and pepper as you may not need any salt at all.

For the green beans, trim the one end, drop in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately put in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Pat dry and let air dry. When dry, wrap in a paper towel and place in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator to chill.

Fennel and red pepper strips should just be raw. You could also use carrot, celery or cucumber strips too.

For Football Sunday

Or shall I say, how to love your man and make him ADORE you.

I made this for dinner last Sunday and my husband was so so happy, and the Giants won!! So maybe it’s also our good luck burger. Now I don’t usually make things like this – too rich, too fattening, too, too and not special enough for a Sunday dinner, but Steve was so excited about the game last week, we had to rush home from the country and be here in Manhattan to see it. We don’t have TV in the country – just Netflix on the Internet, which by the way, the selection there stinks, and DVD’s on our old Sony.

But I saw this Bobby Flay Nacho Burger recipe on the cover of the January issue of Food and Wine and it just seemed so right for the day. It was really good. Really.

However in my inimitable way of constantly tinkering with recipes, if I were to make it again, I might do ¼ lb. sharp cheddar and ¼ lb. Monterey Jack cheese in the sauce, instead of all Jack. And I thought the salsa was too sweet. Rather than the pickled jalapeños on top, I think I would put in ½ of a fresh, thinly sliced jalapeño, with the seeds, directly in the salsa and skip the pickled ones all together.

I have also switched the order of his process – you need to make the cheese sauce first so it cools and gets thick.

Let me know what you think.


(Fortunately we are invited to our friend’s house upstate for this weekend. They have a TV and Margaret is going to make rabbit! A bit more elegant than this!)

NACHO BURGERS from Bobby Flay and Food and Wine magazine

Nacho Burgers.

© John Kernick

Cheese Sauce
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
2 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
3 plum tomatoes, finely diced
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 chipotle chile in adobo, seeded and minced (I left the seeds in)

Vegetable oil, for brushing (I used olive oil)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Sliced pickled jalapeños and blue corn tortilla chips, for topping
1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
4 hamburger buns, split and toasted

MAKE THE CHEESE SAUCE In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook over moderate heat for 30 seconds. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking, until smooth and thickened, 5 minutes. Stir in the Jack cheese until melted, then stir in the pecorino; season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce cool until it is very thick and spreadable.

MAKE THE SALSA In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients and season with salt.

MAKE THE BURGERS Light a grill or heat a grill pan on high heat. Form the beef into 4 patties (try to handle the meat as little as possible) and brush with oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat until browned outside and medium-rare within, about 3 – 4 minutes per side, depending on your heat.

Place the burgers on the buns. Top with the cheese sauce, salsa, pickled jalapeños and chips. Close the burgers and serve.

How to deal?

I’ve been walking around in circles, trying to make sense of my dear friend’s so sudden passing.

It was a brain aneurism. So quick. So final. So shocking. So unbelievable.

So what does one do to try to heal the pain – for me, for her husband and for her children?

I cooked. I did 3 loads of laundry. I baked 3 different kinds of Christmas cookies.

My boys promised to help me put up the Christmas tree on Sunday. The older one arrived with a Santa hat and proceeded to make eggnog from scratch before taking a nap and then decorating the tree a little. His brother did more. Football was also a big component with everyone yelling for Tebow and then the Giants.

But the eggnog was so, so delicious!! You take heavy cream, whole milk, egg yolks, vanilla, fresh nutmeg and cinnamon and beat it all up, add the bourbon, then whip the egg whites separately and fold in.

I’m telling you, it was so light and delicious!! Unlike any goopy store-bought eggnog. This is a completely different animal. I told him I wish my father were still alive. He loved eggnog and to see him doing this! Well, he said, he could see. (He even looks like him!)

I made a 3 course meal for my family on Sunday. Baby artichokes to start with a hot mustard mayo dipping sauce. Then I made a tandoori chicken recipe from a Weber Grill cookbook, with cous cous, a cucumber onion salad and steamed buttered carrots. The whole meal was really delicious but the chicken did not taste like tandoori chicken. It tasted like an interesting, Middle Eastern spiced chicken, but that’s about it. So I’ll just have to rename it to manage expectations, if I should make it again.

Then, for dessert, I made a German chocolate cake that was divine. I used a Duncan Hines boxed cake mix. I followed the directions exactly. I used my mother’s heavy duty bundt pan (my layer cake pans are at the country house so that was out) and really, this cake was spectacular. So light and fluffy – just a beautiful texture. I’m thinking it was this pan that made it so.

However, I had to cut the thing in 2 layers to properly distribute the topping and it was so light, delicate and fresh, that it was a hard thing to do and in the end, it didn’t look so pretty. My mother would not have been proud. But it was yummy! My husband and Zach each had 2 pieces and and the older son took a big chunk home with him this morning.

So here’s the recipe from my Mom for the topping that “makes” it a German chocolate cake!

Makes enough for two 8″ layer cakes or one bundt split horizontally

1 cup of evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/4 lb. unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups of coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
Sprinkling of fine sea salt on top at the very end.
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chip pieces (optional)

German chocolate cake on a holiday plate.

German Chocolate Cake

In a saucepan, combine the evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer strongly over medium heat for about 12 minutes until mixture thickens. Use a whisk to stir throughout this process.

Remove from heat and add coconut, nuts and a sprinkling of fine sea salt. Beat until cool and thick enough to spread between 2 layer cakes and on the top. Do not ice the sides. After spreading the topping on the first layer, I sprinkled about 1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chip pieces on top, before covering with the second layer. Just a little extra surprise touch that everyone loved!

You will LOVE this.