Blog of an aspiring foodie

Archive for December, 2007

Bedtime thoughts – chili, pie, chocolate

Posted by beer_chris on 30-December-2007

A couple of thoughts before heading off to bed.

Chili needs anchos . . .
. . . probably as much as spaghetti sauce needs tomatoes. I made a variation of the beef chili recipe and basically replaced the chili powder with hot paprika as an experiment. I brought it back from Hungary, so I know it is authentic, and it smells as rich and full as my regular chili powder – but the flavor cooked out completely. The chili tasted underseasoned – it was missing a fullness. It had heat, it had saltiness, but was missing something – the smoky heat of the ancho chili that is the backbone of most chili powder. Oh well, lesson learned.

Pecan pie
Well, the pecan pie I made was close but no cigar to the Goode Co. standard. As it turned out my mother had a Goode Co. pie to do a taste test with. My pie was still too sweet, and the filling didn't set up as nicely – it was a little runny. Additionally the crust was not par-baked – following the recipe – and it was gummy and undercooked. I made it in a Pyrex dish, so maybe that had something to do with it. Next time may up the lemon juice/vinegar, and I think it needs vanilla extract and maybe some more salt. Perhaps more eggs in the custard layer will help it setup.

Also, read some interesting stuff regarding joint history of pecan pie and corn syrup – including that American evil, the subsidized high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). There are tons of websites out there touting how terrible HFCS is for Americans and their health, and in reading various alternative recipes for pecan pie that replaced the corn syrup with other alternatives, there was a long discussion of how the Karo home economists invented pumpkin pie in the 20's as an outlet for the product – it uses nearly half of a normal sized jar. There was a posting (I've not verified it) that stated that food historians cannot find mention of pie earlier than this time – and there was a push by Karo to get their product adopted around that time. Also, found that the various manufacturers have been replacing normal corn syrup with HFCS in all of their products. Now, apparently 'light' syrup is now 100% HFCS, while 'dark' Karo syrup still is just plain corn syrup. Apparently since HFCS is a cause of all ills this is something important to pay attention to.

Chocolate as social microcosm
In the Chron today was an article about a freshman seminar at Southwestern University focused on an interdisciplinary approach to chocolate – political science, economics, marketing/business and sociology (among other examples). Two thoughts on this:

  1. How cool is it to have freshman seminars like this to engage students in the 'university learning process' early?
  2. The article portrays chocolate as a unique commodity that enables this type of analysis – my thought would be that just about any commodity type food could be looked at in the same way. I would argue that basically all 'world foods' (i.e. foods consumed/produced the world over) could be analyzed in this way, as food is the great common denominator amongst humanity – we all eat, we all have the same physiological methods for obtaining, tasting, harvesting foods – it's the mental and sociological side of foods that creates the differences, so take any food and it could be put into this interdisciplinary focus.



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SPAM chili redux & pecan pie

Posted by beer_chris on 23-December-2007

Jaime and I have gone an especially long duration this fall/winter without having cooked up a batch of chili. Ever since I made the Elk chili I've been messing around with the recipe to perfect my own version of chili. My preferences in chili have always been influenced by the '2 Alarm' chili kits that are ubiquitous in the grocery store around here. As an aside, I found the website for the company that makes these spice kits –, and the inventor is actually from Texas.

Anyway, the recipe has gone through some changes over the years, eventually settling on Penzey's medium-hot as the chili powder and providing an all-beef and a SPAM version.

I also made an all-SPAM version (the one linked above includes beef), and it was TERRIBLE. I cubed the SPAM as I had done before and it just tasted like ham sandwich chili – too much SPAM flavor, way to pork-ish flavored.

In any event, earlier this week I tried it again – this time with low-sodium SPAM from the hurricane closet that I minced. The recipe is below – as usual, changes are noted in bold, omissions in strikethrough. (delta is against the SPAM recipe).

Ytee's ALL-SPAM Chili

5 cloves garlic
2 tbsp butter
1 lb ground beef
1 12 oz can SPAM, cubed minced
1 shallot
4 tbsp ground cumin
3 tbsp dried whole thyme
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp dried oregano
5 tbsp chili powder (Penzeys medium hot)
1.5 tbsp Penzeys Northwoods seasoning
1 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large (28 oz) can tomatoes plus juice
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp masa (corn)
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine cumin, thyme, oregano, chili powder and Northwoods seasoning in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet until foam subsides. Saute garlic briefly, add minced SPAM and continue to cook until SPAM begins to brown. Lower heat to medium and add spice mixture. Stir well to fully coat all SPAM pieces. Once spices become noticeably aromatic add tomatoes and juice. Stir to combine well. Bring to a simmer – reduce heat to low and add salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for approximately 15 minutes. Combine flour and 2 1/4 cup of water – mix until flour is dissolved. Add flour/water mixture to pan, stir well and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes more or until thickened to taste.

Serve over hot rice with cheese and saltine crackers.

NOTES for this version:

  • Mincing the spam really worked! It was meaty without being SPAMmy
  • Need to cut back on the chili powder – this was REALLY spicy. I liked it, Jaime didn't
  • Didn't add shallot because I didn't have any
  • Subbed flour for masa because I didn't have any
  • Straight up forgot about the tomato paste – didn't really miss it.
  • I use the cheapest brand of canned tomatoes I can find that contains only juice (no puree – I think it tastes tinny). In any case, cheap canned tomatoes have thick green stem ends. I did not trim these first, and my chili suffered a little because these were tough even after 30 minutes of cooking/simmering. Either buy better tomatoes or trim the stems next time. (aside – I don't like to trim them because I lose a lot of juice this way unless I do it over a strainer. What a pain that is!)
  • Think next time need to add the garlic with the salt and pepper. It gets obliterated with all the heat and spices. I cannot even taste it.
  • Next time ought to try it with Hungarian hot paprika only – and lose the chili powder altogether.
  • Used whole thyme rather than dried crushed because it is all I had – but final version had noticeable little thyme sticks in it – need to stick with the dried crushed next 'thyme' (HA!)

I stopped by Canino's the other day and they are chock full 'o nuts – literally. The entire front entrance of the place is completely filled with bins and crates of all types of nuts – but an especially large selection of pecans. I bought a 1 lb sack of some especially wonderful pecans – they are not the usual Choctaw variety – a bit smaller and much smoother tasting. I was inspired to attempt a pecan pie with these beauties.

I'm not really a fan of the pecan pie, but this Thanksgiving someone brought a pecan pie from Goode Company BBQ – let's just say their version is simply life changing.

I did some searching to find a facsimile of this recipe – thinking what an injustice it would be to ruin these fantastic special pecans with some pedestrian recipe – and found this one. I'm going to try it out this Christmas and see what comes of it.

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Happy Holidays (best Egg Nog)

Posted by beer_chris on 16-December-2007

So, it's been nearly six months – but I think this is a good update if there is one.

With the trip to Europe the first week of December, holidays have been delayed a bit at our house – so I'm just getting to my first half gallon of grocery store egg nog. I've spent the afternoon doctoring it up, and I believe I have stumbled on something magical to do to this stuff:

2 parts good bourbon (Makers)
1 part sweet brandy (Korbel)
1 part white rum (Bacardi)
6 parts egg nog (Kroger brand)

Sprinkle cinnamon and grate fresh nutmeg over the top of the glass of this heady alcoholic stuff.

Merry bloody Christmas everyone!

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