Cooking For Others: A House, Warmed by Chili

EVENT: A Hot Mexican House Warming
VENUE: Rodrigo’s New Apartment, West Village
TYPE: Weekend “Sit-down” Dinner Party
MENU: Autumn Brisket Chili; Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones; Arugula Salad with Cilantro-Citrus Vinaigrette; Braeburn Apple Tart (Steph)
WHAT YOU’LL NEED: 7-Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Over the course of many Mexican-themed meals, I’ve come to understand just how much Rodrigo loves chipotles. The fact that this is his self-proclaimed favorite food shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, considering Rodrigo is from Tijuana. But somehow it doesn’t cease to make him (or me) happy when every time he comes over for dinner, some large amalgamation of smokey chipotle chiles are served, and all of the non-Mexicans in the room are popping Zantac and reaching for water.

One of these more notable evenings was the Chili Cook-Off, when Keith and I went head to head, him with his Spiked Meat-Lover’s Chili, and me with my Smoky Chipotle Vegetarian version. After initially scoffing at me for even daring to enter a chili contest with a veggie option, Rodrigo came around to the power of his favorite ingredient and shot me a mischievous, satisfied smile.

Perhaps it was this memory that led Rodrigo and Steph to invite me to be the “celebrity” guest chef at his housewarming. Or, on the other hand, maybe it was this memory of mine, and the fact that Keith was attending, that led me to bring over a 10-pound pot of chili to serve for the occasion. This time, it was a brisk October evening, one that in my mind called for brisket. The rich meaty pumpkin chili did its job to warm us, and we washed it down with some pumpkin ale, nearly disastrous jalapeno-cheddar scones for dipping, and a beautifully crafted apple tart that Steph lovingly made for dessert.

The chili hopefully showed my chops for carne and may have ignited the need for a second-round chili challenge against Keith. Whatever the fire or flavor, I was content to see the famous Rodrigo smile in his brand new, shockingly adult apartment, surrounded by plenty of friends (spice-loving and not), all reaching for water and an extra dollop of sour cream.

From my kitchen, where chipotles light the fire and warm the house, to yours,


p.s. I will be competing in the Chili-Takedown with some version of this Autumn Chipotle Chili on November 22nd. Mark your calendars, buy your tickets here, and come out to support!

Steph with her tart, and Rodrigo with his smile


Autumn Brisket & Pumpkin Chili
8 servings
Inspired by Bon Appetit Texas Chili Recipe by Bruce Aidells

I’ve made the Bon Appetit Texas Chili from last year’s November issue and it was a huge success. To shake things up a little bit, I decided to use pumpkin instead of butternut squash, and I added chipotles to pack on the heat. The original recipe came out rather mild, and I felt it necessary to incorporate my Mexican host’s favorite type of chile. You can certainly use just the ancho and the butternut squash from the BA version–it’s really a wonderful recipe.


For the chili:

3 oz dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, coarsely torn
6 ounces beef bacon, diced
1 large vidalia onion (1lb), diced
4 lb beef brisket, fat trimmed, cut into 2 inch cubes and seasoned with salt and pepper
6 large garlic cloves
3-4 canned chipotle chilies in adobo (& 1 tbsp juice)
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp salt
1 12oz bottle Mexican beer
1 7-ounce can diced roasted green chiles
3 10oz cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes with chipotle
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro stems
4 cups seeded peeled pumpkin (from 3 ½ pound pumpkin), cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks

For Garnish:

Sliced avocado (doused in lime juice to prevent browning, and add flavor)
Shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
Sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over the ancho chiles to rehydrate them. If they float to the surface, use a small bowl to submerge them. Set aside.

In a large oven-proof Dutch oven, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the bacon until browned all over. Turn the heat down to medium, add the onions and continue to sauté until tender. Stir in the beef and return the heat to high.

While the beef cooks, at the garlic, ancho chiles, chipotle chiles, and 1 cup of the soaking liquid to a small food processor. Blend until smooth.

To the pot, add the chili mixture and the spices (chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, salt) and toss to coat. Cook for a few minutes until very fragrant, and then add the beer, green chiles, 2 cans of tomatoes, and cilantro stems. Bring the chili to simmer.

Cover the pot and place it in oven. Cook 2 hours. Uncover and cook until beef is almost tender, about 1 hour. Stir in the pumpkin, and the remaining can of tomatoes and return to the oven. Cook uncovered until beef and pumpkin are tender, about 1 hour longer. Tilt pot and spoon off any fat from surface of sauce.

Taste for seasoning, and serve with a dollop of sour cream, a slice of avocado, and a sprinkle of cheese.

Braeburn Apple Tart
Makes 8-10 servings
As Adapted from Bon Appetit and Barefoot Contessa

Says Steph: In October’s issue of Bon Appetit, I was tempted by the gorgeous array of apple desserts, so I decided to pick one to make for Rodrigo’s housewarming. I wanted something that was not overly fussy and did not require unusual serving pieces or individual plating. I decided on the Braeburn Apple Tart as not only did it fit all of my criteria, but it looked both lovely and delicious. The night before the party, I just happened to catch a Parisian-inspired episode of Barefoot Contessa in which Ina makes a French apple tart. The elegance and simplicity of both recipes appealed both to my taste and timetable. I decided to follow Bon Appetit‘s recipe with a few Ina inspirations here and there, and ended up with an easy but elegant dessert.Ingredients

For the Almond Cream:

1 1/4 cups almond flour or almond meal
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

For the Crust:

8 sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed (each about 14×9 inches)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons (about) sugar
3 medium Braeburn or Gala apples (about 20 ounces total), peeled, halved, cored, each half cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1/2 cup apricot preserves
3 tablespoons water

NOTE: A few tips to start and many more to follow. I did not have a pastry brush, so I ran down to the hardware store and picked up a little paint brush for 99 cents; it worked perfectly.

Whisk almond flour and sugar in medium bowl. Whisk egg, vanilla, and salt in another medium bowl. Whisk half of almond mixture into egg mixture. Whisk in whipping cream, then remaining almond mixture. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of almond cream, then cover with foil and chill at least 4 hours.

Next, tackle the crust.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Place stack of phyllo sheets on work surface and cover with plastic wrap, then damp kitchen towel to prevent drying. Transfer 1 phyllo sheet to prepared baking sheet (keep remaining phyllo covered). Brush phyllo sheet lightly with some of melted butter, then sprinkle evenly with scant 1 teaspoon sugar. Top with second phyllo sheet; brush with melted butter. Repeat with remaining 6 phyllo sheets and melted butter.

NOTE: Before spreading the almond cream, I sprayed my hands with some non-stick cooking spray and tried using the heels of my hands, but it was still a bit frustrating. Don’t worry about tearing the phyllo a little bit here and there. The recipe says you will only have a 1/2 inch border of dough, but as hard as I tried, my almond spread came no where close to spreading that much. If you have the same problem, you could cut the sheets down a bit with a sharp knife before adding the apples, but you could also do what I did and use the spatula to break off the excess dough just before serving.

Spoon almond cream in dollops atop phyllo, then carefully spread evenly over, leaving 1/2-inch plain border on all sides. Ina layered her apples diagonally by starting in the corner and finishing in the opposite corner, using that first row as her guide for the rest of the tart. I thought this approach looked beautiful. Layer the apples in this manner over the almond cream. Sprinkle with 3 tbsp of sugar.

NOTE: Bon Appetit’s recipe called for sprinkling each layer of phyllo with a teaspoon of sugar, while Ina put sugar atop her apples to make them caramelize. I think Ina’s approach makes the apples look gorgeous and brown, so I sprinkled them with sugar before baking.

Bake tart until apples are tender, almond cream is set, and crust is golden and crisp, about 40 minutes. Transfer baking sheet with tart to rack. Carefully run metal spatula under tart to loosen from sheet.

Combine preserves and 3 tablespoons water in heavy small saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring to loosen. Brush preserves over apples and tart crust. Using 2 large metal spatulas, transfer tart to platter and serve warm or at room temperature.

NOTE: my oven took a bit longer to tenderize the apples…more like an hour, so monitor your process and leave some extra time.

Per Ina’s suggestion, I served this tart on a wooden cutting board to add to the rustic, easy appeal.

Some painfully adorable couple’s memorabilia found around the apt. Oh, and books.
Posted in: Cooking for Others
  • themanhattanfoodproject

    I can't imagine a better housewarming gift than showing up with a big pot of chili.

    A few days ago a good friend from college told the husband and I that she's coming to visit in a few weeks and would love it if we could make her dinner. Oh–and that she's bringing seven friends along. I've been wracking my brain trying to decide what to make, but this post has made a very strong case for chili.

  • Deborah Dowd

    I am a real fan of chipotle- it is a flavor that adds a kind of sophisticated heat- this looks like a fabulous chili!

Buy Now - In The Small Kitchen