It must be cold outside or something because all I have wanted as of late is the kind of grub that sticks to your ribs and sends you into a food cocoon for hours. It’s an odd sensation for a girl who hates feeling weighted down after a meal, and yet, salad has seemed an insult to freezing fingers and chapped lips, thin soups a cry for help and even my favorite dumplings have seemed too bright and springy this week. Go away, you peppy foods, I declare, and don’t come back until I can feel my toes.
Saturday morning I made another of those frittatas I’d mentioned a couple weeks back, hoping those potatoes, bacon and eggs with a toasted English muffin would make the icy breeze in Brooklyn less cruel and unforgivable, but no dice. (Though we loved it, despite all that, and I encourage you to design your own favorite frittata with on-hand ingredients.) We returned in the evening with intent make a reservation at whichever fireplace-d and cozy restaurant would take us but when first through fourth choices failed to see our charms, we started reminiscing about that three-bean chili I used to make with cheddar-jalapeno cornbread and suddenly, the idea of smarting up and going to a restaurant seemed utterly ridiculous. Go out? But why? We stayed in, spiced up and let Jennifer Hudson croon a hole in our speakers with a top-secret copy of Dreamgirls, happy as clams.
Having learned my lesson leaving the apartment to, like, do things on Saturday and being rewarded with only a frosty nose, I fought it tooth-and-nail on Sunday, going back to bed twice after waking up because climbing into a tangle of heavy blankets is simply the best sensation on earth and I’ve resolved to not limit this joy to just once a day anymore. At 3 p.m., we finally rolled out, but only to hit the gym and the Hellmouth that is Whole Foods before friends came over at 8. I scrambled a bit, short on time when we got home, tearing casings off sausages, chopping everything haphazardly, cranking out thick ribbons of varying-width pappardelle, calling instructions to my sous-chef and not measuring a whole lot but thankfully, big ragus are less of a set recipe and more of a suggestion, I think. Or so it was last night.
This recipe makes a shocking amount of food — with the pasta, our 7.5 quart Cocotte was filled nearly to the brim — made doubly scary by the fact that even half a bowl could make you so full, you’d swear off food for good. Or, at least until the grapefruit cake came out. We keep a special compartment in our bellies (though I believe mine is closer to my arse) that allows us to be too gutted for another speck of dinner but a wee slice of cake, if you insist, knows just where to go. I consider it a gift. Stuffed to our very gills with crumbled sausage and thick peels of pasta, the oddest sensation came over us — Warmth! Glorious warmth! — and though it might be just that they’ve finally turned up the heat in our building, I’d rather think it’s the rib-sticking grub.
(I should probably note here that neither the chili nor the cornbread came out to my liking. I dumped the wrong texture tomato, and also too much, into the pot — below I have the corrected recipe — and the cornbread, well, I’ve needed a new recipe for a while but in the absence of one, went back to the one I found adequate enough. Gosh, doesn’t this make you really want to try these recipes? Such marketing!)
Deb’s Three-Bean Chili
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 humongous onion, diced
1 15-ounce can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 28-ounce plus one 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup water or stock
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 minced chipotle in adobo, from a can, or if your store is out, ahem, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne will do (the amount here will add a nice kick so tune it up or down according to your tastes; the type and brand of chili powder you use will also affect the heat)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sliced green onions, for garnish
Ingredients you might add, if you are not me: Peppers or ground beef (with the onions), fresh cilantro (stirred in at the very end)
Heat vegetable oil in a large pot, adding diced onion and sauteing until browned. Add beans, tomatoes, water or stock and spices, including cocoa, all at once, letting mixture simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Corn Bread with Cheddar, Jalapeno and Green Onions
Adapted from Mark Bittman
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, milk or yogurt (or 1 1/4 cups milk and 1 tablespoon white vinegar — see Step 2 below) plus more as need
2 tablespoons butter, olive oil, lard or bacon drippings
1 1/2 cups (about 7 ounces) medium-grind cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar, plus more if you like sweet cornbread
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. If you are using buttermilk, milk or yogurt, ignore this step. If you want to use soured milk (a good substitute for buttermilk), warm the milk gently — one minute in the microwave is sufficient, just enough to take the chill off — and add the vinegar. Let it rest while you prepare the other ingredients.
3. Place the fat in a medium oven-proof skillet or in an 8-inch square baking pan over medium heat (Deb note: would you believe I lack both? I used three of my mini-loaf pans); heat until good and hot, about 2 minutes, then turn off the heat. Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the egg into the buttermilk, milk or soured milk. Stir the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, combining well; if it seems too dry, add another tablespoon or two of milk. Pour the batter into the preheated fat, smooth out the top if necessary, and place in the oven.
4. Bake about 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly brown and the sides have pulled away from the pan; a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean. Serve hot or warm.
Optional additions I used: One cup canned creamed corn, one cup grated extra-sharp cheddar, two thinly sliced scallions, and 1 tablespoon chili powder, but only because the store was out of jalapenos. I usually mince one in.
Optional additions I didn’t use: 1 tablespoon cumin (instead of chili powder); 1 cup fresh corn (instead of creamed); molasses or honey, in place of the sugar, about 1/4 cup; minced herbs such as cilantro or fresh parsley, 2 tablespoons; sautéed onions, shallots or leeks, about 1/2 cup.
Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Mushrooms
Adapted from Eccoqui Restaurant in Bernardsville, NJ via Bon Appetit
Makes (at least) 8 servings.
2 1/2 pounds Italian sweet sausages, casings removed, crumbled (Deb note: we replaced this with some sweet, and some spicy Italian chicken and turkey sausages)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, thickly sliced
3 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
5 cups canned crushed tomatoes with added puree
2 cups diced tomatoes (about 4 medium-large tomatoes)
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 1/4 pounds pappardelle or mafaldine pasta (or any wide, flat noodles)*
1 1/2 cups grated pecorino Romano cheese (about 4 1/2 ounces)
Saute sausage in heavy large pot over medium-high heat until brown, about 12 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to large bowl. Add oil to drippings in pot. Add mushrooms and onions; saute until tender and brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in 1 cup chopped basil, oregano, and garlic; saute 1 minute. Add wine; cook until almost absorbed, about 4 minutes. Add sausage and crushed tomatoes; cover and simmer over medium heat until thickened, about 25 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and butter; simmer until tomatoes are soft, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before continuing.)
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain well; return to pot. Pour sauce over pasta; toss to coat. Add 1/2 cup cheese and 1/2 cup basil; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to serving dish.
Serve, passing remaining cheese separately.
* I made pappardelle with my now-standard pasta recipe, cranking it out to level 5 thinness, which may have in the end been a little thick, but held up well in the hearty sauce. I cut it by hand into wide, completely uneven strips with a ravioli wheel. It cooked in about 6 minutes.