New & NowChili

Winner of Your Best Chili

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Congratulations to lastnightsdinner whose Short Rib Chili won this week's contest for Your Best Chili!

lastnightsdinner  chili

1. Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.

I’ve spoken a lot here about my grandmother’s kitchen, and how her food and cooking have done so much to shape who I am as a cook, and that legacy of feeding others, of sharing meals with family, friends, and loved ones, is on my mind more than ever now that I’m a mom. My husband and I want our little guy to grow up knowing where and how things grow, to meet chickens and pigs and cows and sheep, to be accustomed to living in a home in which canning jars line the shelves, full of delicious things we’ve grown, picked, or put up ourselves.

We want to share all sorts of food experiences with him, whether it involves meals we’ve cooked at home, or just sitting with him while we share one perfect cheese, a tin of great sardines with Triscuits and mustard, a juicy ripe peach, cold briny oysters, or a hot dog in the park. Cooking at home, feeding yourself, feeding others, has so much value beyond just nourishing your body. It provides comfort and sustenance on so many levels, and I hope that we can teach this to our son, the way that our families taught us.

2. What's your least favorite food?

I can’t say I actively dislike any food – I’ll try anything at least once! I try to keep an open mind, even with ingredients I don’t love, like winter squash and sweet potatoes. Oranges and grapefruits make me break out in a rash, though, so I avoid them.

3. What is the best thing you've made so far this year?

As a new parent, my time in the kitchen has been quite limited this year. I’ve relied heavily on old standards that are easy and relatively quick to make, but I’m slowly getting my creative groove back.  I recently picked up a gorgeous pork skirt steak, a new-to-me cut, from our butcher, and made a really wonderful meal with it. I seared the meat, sliced it thin, and served it with farro, baby napa cabbage, an anchovy-herb sauce, and an olive oil fried egg. The meal was inspired by several things – steak and eggs, Caesar salad – and it turned out surprisingly well. My husband actually wants me to make it again so I can get it in “recipe” form and post it here.

4. Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster.

When I was dating my first long-term beau and just starting to get adventurous in the kitchen, I had a bright idea to make a big pot of duck and sausage gumbo for his parents, just like one we had when we vacationed with them in the Florida panhandle. It was a weeknight, and I started with a whole, very large, very frozen duck. I put it into a huge stockpot to cook, made my roux and prepped everything else I would need to assemble the gumbo after the duck meat and stock were ready. Several hours and glasses of wine later, that duck was still frozen solid. We ordered pizza.

5. What is your idea of comfort food?

Mashed potatoes, refried beans, grits or polenta – something creamy, spoonable, and better with a little cheese.  And anything with a runny egg on top always satisfies.

6. Apron or no apron?

No apron. Live dangerously.

7. What's your favorite food-related scene in a movie?

A Lady, a Tramp, and a plate of spaghetti and meatballs -- it doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

8. If you could make a show-stopping dinner for one person, living or dead, who would it be?

Right now I’m very much looking forward to my little guy’s first bite of solid food.

9. You prefer to cook:
     a. alone
     b. with others
     c. it depends on your mood

Typically I like to cook alone, but my husband and I have gotten very good over the last few months at tag-teaming in the kitchen to get a good meal in our bellies.

10. When it comes to tidying up, you usually:
     a. clean as you cook.
     b. do all the dishes once you've finished cooking.
     c. leave the kitchen a shambles for your spouse/roommate/kids to          

I clean as I cook.  I can’t stand dirty countertops, stacks of bowls in the sink or drips on the stove.