It’s heeeere! The spooky season, the pumpkin period, the harvest hullabaloo! I love me some fall, if only because it means that summer is as far away as possible. We’re still getting the last of the tomatoes and corn, but also starting to see mushrooms and Brussels sprouts. It’s mostly warm enough for the grill, but I can also stand to run the oven in the house. Truly the best of all possible worlds.
2 T olive or vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 large chipotle pepper, finely chopped*
1 lb/500 g ground beef
1 T chili powder*
1 T ground cumin
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 t salt
2 t cocoa powder
1 large pinch red pepper flakes
1 T molasses
1 c/220 mL chicken broth
1 can (15 oz/400 g) stewed tomatoes
2 cans (15 oz/ 400g) kidney beans
1 c/220 mL amber beer
1 c/220 mL tomato sauce
1 t Worcestershire sauce
hot sauce (optional)
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
sour cream or Greek yogurt (optional)
Saltines or oyster crackers (optional)
tortilla chips (optional)
In a large Dutch oven, heat oil to medium and sauté the onion, garlic, pepper and chipotle until tender. Add the ground beef and cook until mostly done, then drain fat. Combine chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne, salt, cocoa and red pepper flakes and stir into meat until just fragrant. Add molasses, broth and tomatoes and break up tomatoes with spoon, then add beans. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, the stir in beer, tomato sauce and Worcestershire. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally for at least 45 minutes or until thickened. Serve with any combination of hot sauce, cheese, sour cream, crackers or tortilla chips.
Notes: If you can’t find chipotles, any hot green chili will work. I only use 1 chipotle because you can never tell how spicy it’s going to be. Also, chili powder is a US spice blend that consists of ‘chili pepper, salt, spices, garlic and silicon dioxide (to make free flowing)’. Is this ingredient list infuriatingly vague? Of course. What type of chili pepper? Which spices? But nothing else tastes like it. It’s far less fiery than cayenne, the only ‘chili powder’ I can find in groceries here. And when I asked in the Asian grocery if they had mild chili powder, their only reply was ‘why?’ Which I can respect.
1 14 oz/397 g can sweetened condensed milk, cooked into dulce de leche and cooled to room temperature
1 c/200 g unsalted butter, room temperature
2.5 oz70 g walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 t salt
2 3/4 c/450 g all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t cocoa powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
3/4 c/180 g unsalted butter
1 1/3 c/180 g powdered sugar
6 T honey
4 T cream
1/4 c/50 mL rum
3/4 c/150 mL water
Double boiler/bain marie
Mesh strainer or sifter
Hand or stand mixer
Large and medium mixing bowls
8 in/20 cm round dish or pan
2 or more cookie sheets
Step 0 – make dulce de leche: Simmer a sealed can of sweetened condensed milk in water for 3 hours, making sure the can is always fully submerged and topping the pot up with hot water when it gets low. That’s seriously the whole thing. If you let the water get too low, there is a danger that the can will explode, so, y’know…don’t. Peel off the label before boiling it and if you have an adhesive remover like Goo Gone, try to get the label glue off as much as possible. When it’s done, let the cans come all the way down to room temperature, or you risk a hot caramel explosion. It’s smart to do this the day before you want to assemble the cake. It’s even smarter to boil multiple cans at a time.
Step 1 – make cake wafers: These are either the cookiest cakes or the cakiest cookies. The texture is difficult to explain, but really satisfying. First, assemble the dry ingredients, sifting together flour, baking soda, cocoa, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and setting it aside. Next, set up your double boiler and put in the butter, powdered sugar, egg, honey and cream. Heat it to medium low and mix with a hand mixer for 5 minutes. Now fold the wet ingredients into the dry. When fully combined (no dry spots!), cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350° F/175° C. Take a sheet of parchment and trace the circumference of your 8-inch/20-centimeter round pan onto your parchment. Now, roll about 160 grams of dough into the traced round on your parchment, using extra flour for dusting as needed. When you’re happy with your round, scoot the parchment on to a baking sheet and bake for 7-9 minutes. While one is baking, you can prepare the next and set up a sweet little assembly line, even re-using the parchments. Let the finished wafers cool completely on the rack. When the dough was gone, I had a total of 6 wafers.
Important: you want your dough to have a dense enough texture to roll into rounds without sticking. Mine was too sticky, I think because I used 405 flour (rough equivalent to cake flour). I suggest all-purpose or 550 for that reason. That said, if your dough is on the sticky side, extra flour for dusting your surface and pin can help immensely.
Step 2 – make caramel cream: In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to whip together 1 can dulce de leche, butter, chopped nuts and salt until smooth and uniform.
Step 3 – secret sauce and assembly: combine rum and water in a small bowl. Place first wafer on your work surface (cake plate, cookie sheet, whatever works) and lightly brush top with secret sauce. Next, spread a layer of caramel cream on the wafer, but not too thick. Lightly brush both sides of the next wafer with secret sauce, stack it on the first and spread on caramel cream. Continue this process until you get to the top wafer. After brushing it with secret sauce and placing it on the stack, top it with the rest of the caramel cream, allowing it to run down the sides. Put a few more nuts on top if you like. I also dusted the top with a little extra fine salt.
Step 4 – WAIT: The cake needs to stand for at least 4 hours before serving, ideally in the fridge (the cream will firm up better).
Soaking the dried porcini in wine is a brilliant step! I was only able to find shiitake and brown cremini mushrooms for my fresh mushroom mixture; I can only image how earthy the flavor is with more variety.
Loose American-Style Italian Sausage
After getting over the shock that what I thought of as Italian sausage is a regional thing, I set about coming up with a homemade version. It’s great to crumble up as a pizza topping or add to a hearty meat sauce for pasta.
This recipe really only works as loose; for stuffing, you need a different recipe. If you want to do the whole casing rigamarole, contact me directly, I’ll walk you through it. It requires a fair amount of equipment and and time. This loose version just requires a bowl and a spoon.
Red Wine & Porcini Risotto
I have an unintentional wine-and-mushrooms theme happening here and I’m not sorry about it. They’re delicious together.
Blasted Broccoli & Polenta
Broccoli is such a champ; it’s widely available and fairly inexpensive, it’s a healthy way to bulk up a recipe and it tastes great in a variety of applications. Throw the polenta together while the broccoli roasts and dinner is done.
Dijon Braised Brussels Sprouts
You need a classy side dish? These sprouts are here for you and believe in your journey. I’ve also made these and thrown them on a pile of noodles. NO REGRETS.