In Praise of Cincinnati Chili

Nick finally takes a look back at the chili of his youth.

13th Jun 2011

Cockaigne: an imaginary land of great luxury and ease.
—Merriam-Webster Dictionary

"Cockaigne was the name of the family home...Any time there's a recipe with this in the title, it means it's an old family favorite."
— 'Joy Of Cooking': 75 Years Young, CBS

When the words "imaginary land of great luxury" and "chili" collide, usually that means we're set for some hyperbolic descri...

The Trick to Better Refried Black Beans

Some pasilla chiles and avocado leaves make all the difference.

26th Jan 2011

If you happened to stumble across the recipe for “Seasoned Black Beans” in Diana Kennedy’s Oaxaca al Gusto there wouldn’t be much to immediately keep you from turning the page. Dont get me wrong, it is housed in a beautiful book, it is just that besides the boring name and lack of picture, this is all Kennedy says in the headnote: “This fried bean paste is used for filling tamales, for t...

Beyond the Tortilla Chip: Three Mexican Snacks that Aren''t Deep Fried

Plus a recipe for Oaxacan-Style Peanuts with Chile and Garlic

16th Sep 2010

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Forget the chips.

You know the drill. You walk into a Mexican restaurant anywhere in the country. You sit down. Within moments -often before drink orders are taken- a bowl of tortilla chips and salsa are rushed out to the table. You immediately dig in. Time disappears. Before you order, before you even think about ordering, salsa stains the tablecloth and all the chips are mysteriously gone....

The Five Dishes that Surprised Me In Mexico

2 weeks in Oaxaca

1st Sep 2010

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The Al Pastor was way better...

We travel to be surprised, right? While picking my favorite five dishes took some deliberation, coming up with five different foods or dishes that surprised me on a trip to Mexico should have taken me all of five minutes. But for some reason I wasn't expecting this. I have a vertiable library of Mexican cuisine in my condo courtesy of Rick Bayless, Diana K...

The Five Best Things I Ate in Oaxaca, Mexico

These are the five things I can't stop thinking about

25th Aug 2010

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I went to Mexico to eat, and I handpicked the region of Oaxaca specifically because I figured I could eat there best. It’s a place where chiles, chocolate, and tomatoes have been growing for thousands of years, and where the holy trinity of corn, beans, and squash make up the local diet. Forget Italy, France, or Spain. Oaxaca is where my favorite food in the world comes from.

I spent two we...

Griddled Carne Asada Tacos

Or, the best carne asada tacos we've ever had

9th Jul 2010

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As far as I know there are only two kinds of ways to make carne asada. The first method is to take thinly sliced flank or skirt steak, sear it over mad charcoal fire, chop it up, and then stuff it into warm corn tortillas. It's almost always great. The second method is the kind that most taquerias use, which is to scoop some bits of raw steak, plop it on a grill, and sauté until it is cooked....

The Case for Hot Pimentón

Smoked paprika transforms a Spanish garlic soup

5th May 2010

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In today's Dinner Tonight column (the post will be up later this afternoon) I walk through a very simple garlic soup recipe from Mario Batali's Spain: A Culinary Road Trip . It's the kind of a soup I adore, being nothing more than a few cloves of garlic, good chicken stock, and a few pieces of stale bread. The one wild card is hot pimentón, which is a Spanish smoked paprika .

I...

Can You Make Hot Sauce at Home?

How to take 60 arbol chiles and make hot sauce.

11th Feb 2010

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Can you make hot sauce at home that's better than stuff from the store? For years I've considered hot sauce to be something you just had to buy in those little glass bottles. I have a half-dozen of them to prove it. Open up my fridge door, and they clank around for a good 15 seconds, announcing that they are ready to be used. And you know what? I like them all. Franks, Tabasco, El Yucateco, L...

The Maxwell Street Market, Chicago

We take a walk around the legendary market.

22nd Sep 2009

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Nick and I arrived at the Maxwell Street Market to a line of colorful tents stretching out into the distance along Desplaines Street longer than we could see: men playing blues on the sidewalk, piles of tchotkes and used power tools, used DVDs, discount bras and panties, and endless stands full of tube socks. In fact, it wasn't immediately clear what we were doing there. If it weren't for th...

Chiles Rellenos

This Mexican classic deserves a little love.

31st Aug 2009

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Around hour five, I became terribly exhausted from what felt like continuous marathon of chopping, sautéing, blending, grinding, broiling, stuffing, whisking, dipping, and frying. It was the most complex and curious chile relleno I'd ever laid eyes on and the flavor nearly bawled me over. Every bite revealed layers of flavor, from the salsa, pork stuffing, to the batter. Nothing was an aft...

A Weekend of Beans and Brats

Insight into perfecting 90 minute, no-soak beans and homemade bratwursts.

24th Jun 2009

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It's been a delicious week.  I've been doling out my homemade bratwurst to close friends and making batches of 90 Minute, No-Soak beans just because I can.  I know some people had some questions about both of these posts, and this week has given me a few more insights to both processes which hopefully will answer some of them.  Also, Michael Ruhlman wanted to see my amateurish sp...

90 Minute, No-Soak Beans

How to make great beans in less time.

9th Jun 2009

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It seems that in the past few years there have been a few monumental revelations of the "everything you thought you knew about cooking was wrong" variety.
- Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy", Executive Director, eGullet Society

When the timer sounded, I was caught off guard.  I reached for a kitchen towel, carefully folded it around the hot handles of my dutch oven, and transfered the...

The Elements of Chili

A recipe for Texas-style chili.

30th Jan 2009

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Diced instead of Ground Meat
I had stopped using ground beef a few years back, after watching a Good Eats episode. The reasoning makes sense.  When ground beef is used, the fat either needs to be drained off immediately, or needs to be skimmed off the day after when all the fat has accumulated at the top.  But if you use chunks a lot of the juices stay inside, leaving both the chili less...

First Step: Chili Powder

The best chili starts with the best chili powder.

29th Jan 2009

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That meant forgoing the blend I had in my spice rack and picking up a load of dried chilies from the local Mexican market.  I needed to create my own blend, something that was completely unique to me, but where do I start?  There honestly aren't that many recipes for chili powder out there.  My only real resources were Homesick Texan (great site) and Alton Brown .

Thanks to the larg...

Fresh Mexican Chorizo

How to make the staple Mexican sausage.

18th Sep 2008

The recipe comes from Diana Kennedy's "From My Mexican Kitchen".  This particular version comes from the Michoacán region.  She does give direction on how to stuff the mixture into casings, but I bailed out early.  Some day.

As first sausage making experiences go, I'd have to say this was pretty remarkable.  I got about 2 pounds of fresh sausage and spent about $12 dollars.  Half of it is fro...

A Weekend in Seattle and Olympia: Day 3, Carnitas on the Run

Killer tacos and no-corn-syrup Mexican Coke

17th Nov 2007

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With the time change and a long flight ahead of us, we have to leave by 4pm just to arrive home in New York at midnight (Correction: arrive in Newark.  I'm never doing that again).  With a morning left and having had scarce time to explore Olympia itself, we asked Scott exactly what to do with the remaining hours.  “Well, there’s this Mexican taco truck,” he said casually.  And it wa...

Eating Tacos All Over San Antonio

If that means eating 5 lunches in one day, so be it.

11th Dec 2006

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Honestly, there's a real need for these signs.  When we were venturing around the mercado square in San Antonio, a land of slightly schlocky and catchpenny Mexican crafts, every third vendor warned against this practice, where gringo , giggling tourists pretended to experience Mexican culture by putting on outrageous hats and saying " Arriba, Arriba " like Speedy Gonzalez. How to a...

Baja Fish Tacos

The best fried fish tacos we've ever had.

9th Jun 2006

Our own version culled from a few different recipes, an emulation of the classic recipe of homemade tortillas, lightly fried tempura-style fish, a dairy-based white sauce, and fresh, crunchy, gently spicy cabbage.

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Real Baja fish tacos are nothing like what you're used to eating when it comes to Mexican food.  In fact, true Mexican cuisine might be our biggest missed chance.  Satisfied...

Mussels a la Portuguese, OR: "Hey man, that''s a lot of mussels." "Yeah, that''s what she said."

A chorizo-laden recipe deglazed with champagne

15th Apr 2006

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When’s the last time you went to a butcher or fish guy and ordered six pounds of anything?  “Hey, I was wondering if you can give me six pounds of salmon.”  “Sure thing, bub.  That’ll be a hundred and eight dollars.”  “Um, thanks.” With mussels, you can.  They're like $2.50 a pound.  Three of us devoured (and I mean devoured : mussels are a sensual, hands-on affair) two pounds each of thes...