Tag Archives: comfort food

Lone Star Chili Cook-off

13 May
Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club

Lone Star Chili Cook-Off – beautiful day for chili, beer and the “beach”!

Yesterday, D and I went with some friends to the Lone Star Chili Cook-Off at the Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club at the South Street Seaport.  This annual event is sponsored by the NYC Texas Exes (UT Alumni Association) and the NYC A&M Club (Texas A&M Alumni Association).  Thirty-six amateur teams compete against each other for bragging rights of “best chili” and “best team presentation.”  Alongside the amateur chefs is a restaurant category with all of the usual suspects in NYC that have chili on their menu: Hill Country, Southern Hospitality (aka Justin Timberlake’s BBQ joint), Manhattan Chili Co., Sidebar (seemed extremely random they were there), etc.  You can bet your hat that I am going to sign up to cook in this event next year!  The idea of making five gallons of chili all the while coming up with a clever team name and fun presentation may seem daunting but at least I’ve got a year to prepare myself to meet the challenge!

After a cold and rainy week with weather that was WAY too cold for NYC in mid-May, we were finally in store for some beautiful weather and couldn’t wait to relax out side while tasting a bunch of homemade chili and drinking cold beers.  While we weren’t able to sample all 40+ chilis on tap, I’d say we tasted at least 25 of them, and yes, we left completely stuffed.  They ran the range of being pretty bland and basic to being so spicy that we had to take a 20 minute break before eating, drinking or even talking (I’m talking about you, Asses of Fire).  But on the whole, I was amazed that these chilis were all made by amateur chefs just like you and me!  The biggest differential among chilis was the type of beef used.  Most used ground beef but a few used brisket which was a nice touch.  When tasting a bunch of chilis side by side, you could definitely tell who had used higher quality meat in their dish.  The other thing that stood out was teams who offered sides (cornbread, desserts) and garnishes (cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, onion crunch, Fritos, etc.).  According to D, when you serve Fritos with chili, it’s called a pepperbelly.  Who knew?  Thanks hun!

Here are some pictures from the event as well as my thoughts on a few favorites that really stood out from the crowd.

Most Creative Name and Side: King County Cretaceous Chili.  These guys totally went overboard with the dinosaur theme, and I loved it!  The chili was made from “tyrannosaurus rex meat” (aka ground beef) and the side was a “pterodactyl egg” (aka a sweet potato fritter).  I’ve never had sweet potato fritters before and they reminded me a little bit of hush puppies or fried cornbread.  Very clever, guys!

Chili Samples

Team Red Hot Chili Peppers (L) and Team King County Cretaceous Chili (R)

Spiciest Chili: Asses of Fire.  I am all for a little heat and think I have pretty high spice tolerance, but I met my match here.  I’d be curious to know what kind of spices this team put in their chili because we were all dying after trying this chili!

Best First Impression: Chili Bombers.  This was the first chili we tried when we walked in the venue.  It was piping hot, had just the right amount of spice and was just a good basic chili to start the day.  The small serving of cornbread was just the right size for a chili tasting.  (Other teams overloaded you with garnishes and you could barely taste the chili!)  This goes to show that sometimes less is more.

Chili Samples

Team Asses of Fire (L) and Team Chili Bombers (R)

Best Overall: Chili Con Blarney.  These guys were hands down the best of the best.  The quality of the brisket  was top notch and  you could tell they didn’t scrimp on ingredients.  It wasn’t too spicy, but after some of the other chilis we tried, it was a nice respite.  The sour cream was homemade (yum!) and the cheese was “Irish” to go along with their theme.  They were also the only team I noticed who served dessert.  The bite-size chipotle brownies were awesome and a great way to finish off the chili.    I also gave these guys bonus points for handing out green mardis gras beads and going all out on the Irish theme in their table decoration.  Nice work guys!  This was the only team where we went back for seconds, and I wish we had gone back for thirds.  If anyone on the team is reading this, I would LOVE to get your recipe. 🙂

Chili Sample

The Winner! Team Chili Con Blarney

Team Chili Con Blarney

Team Chili Con Blarney

Runner Up and Best Use of Veggies: Chill-ayyyy Bro.  This was a meaty chili but they also used tons of fresh veggies in their chili when many chilis only contained beef.  It tasted great and made me feel like I was getting my recommended serving of veggies.

Third Place: T. Love and Special Sauce.  2nd Place in the 2011 Cook-Off.  We can’t remember why we liked this one, but clearly they are doing something right to place last year and stand out in our minds this year too!

Last year’s winner was WildER Turkey.  We didn’t see them at this years event and I hope we didn’t miss them!  We had to leave before the winner was announced but I have my fingers crossed for Chili Con Blarney and can’t wait to join in the fun next year!

Chocolate Caramel Oatmeal Bars

3 May

Chocolate caramel oatmeal bars are one of my favorite desserts to make for a party or to bring when visiting friends.  They are very easy to make and are super rich, gooey and decadent.  The best part is, because they contain oatmeal, you can claim they are healthy! 🙂  You can find my recipe below.  Be careful with this dessert – they are so addictive that my friend Marc who runs a fitness company and has the best diet and self-restraint on the planet can’t even resist them!

Chocolate Caramel Oatmeal Bars

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup quick cooking oatmeal
2 cups milk chocolate candies with soft caramel centers*
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

* I prefer to go the decadent route and use Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate & Caramel Squares cut into quarters, but mini Rolos or Rolos cut in half also work.  If you are going to use full size Rolos or Ghiradelli squares, refrigerate the candy before trying to cut each piece.  This way will be significantly less messy.

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9″x13″ banking pan with parchment paper.
2. In a small size bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt.
3. In a medium size bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy.
4.  Add flour mixture to medium size bowl.  When mixed, add oatmeal and mix until incorporated.
5. Using floured hands, press about 2/3 of the mixture evenly into the baking pan.  Bake until deep golden brown around edges, about 25 minutes.  Meanwhile, add 1/2 the chocolate-caramel candies to the bowl with the remainder of the oatmeal mixture.  Mix well with floured hands.
7. When the bottom layer is finished, remove from oven.  Evenly drizzle condensed milk over hot base.  Sprinkle chocolate chips and remaining chocolate-caramel candies over condensed milk.  Finally, add oatmeal mixture containing the chocolate-caramel over this.  Note: This top layer will not fully cover the pan.
8. Bake until topping is deep golden brown and edges are bubbling, about 25-27 minutes.
9. Cool in a pan on a wire rack.  When cooled, cut into small bars.
10. Serve warm with ice cream or alone at room temperature.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Southern-Style Chicken Cordon Bleu

26 Apr

One of my good friends Kristin is an editor at the fabulous blog A Woman’s Paris.  I would highly recommend this site for anyone interested in French style, culture, cooking and more.  In addition, the creator of the site is a talented artist and sells her whimsical drawings as iPhone and iPad covers at the following site.  I love them all but I think the Avenue Montaigne drawing is my favorite.

Avenue Montaigne, Paris

Avenue Montaigne, Paris
Photo Credit: A Woman's Paris

After my successful (but tiring!) attempt creating French macarons last year and talking with Kristin about French cooking, I was inspired to try and create a classic French dish but to add a Southern twist to it.  Below is my adaptation of the famous French entree Chicken Cordon Bleu.  This recipe has its roots in a Rachel Ray 30-Minute Meals episode that I watched years ago in college but never wrote down.  The thick, hearty mushroom-gravy is what really makes this a “Southern” dish.  Bring your appetite to the table when you make this dish – it’s rich and very filling!

Southern-Style Chicken Cordon Bleu with Mushroom Gravy
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the chicken)
4 chicken breasts, butterflied (you can have the butcher do this for you)
Fresh sage
Prosciutto
Fontina cheese
Flour
2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

*You also need: Toothpicks 

Directions (for the chicken)
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place small amount of cheese, sage and prosciutto in each chicken breast.  (Note: I overstuffed the chicken breasts and put way too much filling in the pictures below.  They are included so you can see the layout only.)


3. Starting at one of the narrow ends of the chicken breast, roll each chicken breast up and secure with a couple of toothpicks.  Coat each roll up in flour.


4. Heat a skillet using medium heat and add extra virgin olive oil.  When heated, add the chicken breasts and brown.
5. When browned, place chicken breasts on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes until fully cooked.
6. Remove from oven and place one breast on each plate.  Remove toothpicks immediately before adding gravy and serving.

Ingredients (for the gravy)
1 package crimini or button mushrooms
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. flour
Dry white wine
Chicken Broth (low sodium stock)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions (for the gravy)
1.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add butter.  When butter is melted, add mushrooms to skillet and cook until browned and soft.
2. Add flour and 1/4 cup wine and 1/4 cup chicken broth to skillet.  Mix until incorporated and warm.
3.  Season with salt & pepper.  If you want more acidic sauce, add more wine.  If you want thicker sauce, add more flour.  I usually wing it here so apologies I can’t give more specific directions!

Serve With…

Sauteed Green Beans or Spinach

and

Cheesy Risotto with Peas
Serves 4

Ingredients
Arborio Rice (4 servings according to rice package)
2 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 32 oz. container low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 – 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions
1. In a saucepan, heat chicken stock until warm but not boiling.  Keep warm while you prepare the risotto.
2. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add butter.  When melted, add garlic, rice and 1 cup chicken stock, stirring frequently.
3. When the chicken stock cooks off, ladle another cup of broth into the pot.  Continue doing so until the rice is cooked, which should take about 20 minutes.
4. About halfway through cooking the risotto, try out the rice.  If it is TOO chicken-y, substitute 1 cup of water instead of chicken broth when the liquid runs out for the next cycle.
5. When the rice is cooked, add the peas and Parmesan cheese to the pot, stirring rapidly to incorporate.
6. Serve immediately and top with freshly ground black pepper and an additional sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.