I had some very special guests coming over this past Wednesday and so I spent the weekend before that trying to figure out what to make. My first destination was the top shelf of my cookbook collection, where, as you now know, I keep the books I’m most excited to cook from these days. The book that I reached for was Nancy Silverton’s Mozza at Home which, I’ve come to believe, is Nancy Silverton’s best cookbook.
I own all of Nancy’s books–from her iconic Breads from the La Brea Bakery to The Food of Campanile (which she wrote with her then-husband, Mark Peel)–but this one is really geared towards the home cook, much more so than the others. Sure, it’s nice to know how she makes her sourdough bread (and I made that recipe once from Breads from the La Brea Bakery, almost a decade ago, creating a wild yeast starter with grapes and flour and water in an open Tupperware container… my roommate Lauren wasn’t thrilled), but it’s even better to know how she feeds her actual friends who are coming over for dinner. And as I flipped through the pages, I suddenly found my answer in the least likely recipe you’d ever expect to find in a Nancy Silverton cookbook: her version of Dean Fearing’s Frito Pie.
What happens when a famous French chef offers up a recipe for chili? Here’s what happens: the birthday girl that you make it for (in this case, Diana) writes you an e-mail the next day that says, “Best chili I’ve ever had, hands down.”
Notice I’m not the one saying that. It’s not because I don’t agree, it’s that I’ve already done a post called The Best Chili of Your Life. That chili came from Michael Symon, a man who was born to make chili. This recipe comes from Daniel Boulud, a man who was born to serve foie gras-stuffed truffles at his Michelin-starred restaurant Daniel. Symon’s chili is all explosive flavor; Boulud’s chili has deep, layered flavor, flavor that doesn’t hit you over the head but sort of blooms in your mouth.
My cookbook photographer Lizzie Leitzell is in town for a wedding and, of course, I had to have her and her fiance Kyle over for dinner to catch up, to reminisce about our cookbook travels and to talk about what we’re working on now.
The nice thing about having Lizzie over for dinner is that she’ll take much better pictures of the food than I ever will. Hence, the picture above is much nicer than the one I would have taken. You should see the size of Lizzie’s lens.
There are two chili recipes in Lisa Fain’s incredible and indispensable new “Homesick Texan Cookbook.” The first is, according to Fain, “an all-day affair,” a real-deal Texas chili (that means no beans) that requires careful shopping (seven different chiles–anhcho, pasilla, guajillo, chipotle, chiles de arbol, cayenne, and pequin–are employed) and five hours of simmering on the stove. The second chili is a one-hour chili for those who “don’t have the time or the patience to wait for a hearty bowl of red.”
As I considered these two chilis last Friday I had to ask myself some tough questions. Was I going to take the wimpy way out and do the one-hour chili? Or would I man up and face the challenge and make the intimidating, time-consuming, costly, and dirty-dish causing Seven Chile Chili? Two chilis diverged before me and readers, I’m proud to say, I chose the chili less traveled by. Here’s how it all went down.
For as long as I’ve known my friend Lisa (and I’ve known her for over 10 years (see the Lisa A.G. archive)) she’s been singing the praises of her hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio. There were many times where she tried to convince me to visit her and her family there, and there were many excuses why I couldn’t go; but this past weekend, Lisa got married in the Natti and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
I love chili, but ever since reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and watching “Food Inc.” I have a hard time making it with ground beef. Of course, on special occasions, I make Michael Symon’s recipe with slab bacon and pork shoulder, but last Wednesday wasn’t a special occasion. No: it was just a weeknight and as I found myself wandering the aisles of Gourmet Garage, I wondered: “What if I just get a bunch of vegetables and beans and cook them the way I cook Michael Symon’s chili? Ya know: with beer and chilis in adobo and freshly ground coriander and cumin seeds?” The results, as you can see above, were so good even Craig agreed: “I don’t miss the meat!”
If Craig had his way, this post wouldn’t have this title. I just asked him, “Would you call the chili I made the other day the best of your life?” And he answered: “I don’t even think of it as chili because there weren’t any beans; just lots of meat and stuff. But it was certainly delicious.”
Luckily, when my friend Diana ate it, she said the words that justify this post’s title. “This is seriously the best chili I’ve ever had.”
My friend Cole Escola had a birthday recently and to celebrate I decided to cook him and his friend Jeffery Self a birthday dinner. You may know Jeffery and Cole as stars of their own show on LOGO, “Jeffery & Cole Casserole.” To honor their show, I once made them a casserole; now, for his birthday, I decided to make Cole two more C dishes (ones that he requested): chiili & carrot cake.