Category Archives: Classic Dishes

Spicy Chili in the not so chilly Caribbean – My “Chill” Life

Beautiful Frangipani flowers in Anguilla

Frangipani flowers in Anguilla

Well here I am, finally adding to my ohhh so neglected blog. Things have been crazy busy on this end of the Caribbean. Where did I leave off? I believe sometime in 2013..

Since then, I had my good friend from back home come to visit. Was amazing to catch up, hit the beaches, act like a tourist, enjoy good food & drinks of course 😉

Cheers & welcome to the Caribbean my friend!

Cheers & welcome to the Caribbean my friend!

Ran away (or should I say sailed away) a few times to my favourite island being Anguilla, with my camera on hand to capture all the beauty the island has to offer. Was able to truly relax and see the island from a different perspective these last several visits.

Viceroy is a must visit if you get the chance. I won’t even get into the chaos we caused running around there. 🙂

Viceroy in Anguilla. Beautiful grounds, villas etc

The many beautiful beaches is what keeps me escaping to Anguilla time & time again for ultimate peace

Climb down a rope to the secluded beach at Little Bay, Anguilla. I could live down there in a tent w/ a bbq & i'd be just fine! ;)

Climb down a rope to the secluded beach at Little Bay, Anguilla. I could live down there in a tent w/ a bbq & i’d be just fine! 😉

Balcony view of beautiful blue waters of Anguilla

Balcony view of beautiful blue waters of Anguilla

So, real life kinda took over and I’ve now found myself in February 2014 wondering how I got here!?!?  We are still in high season on the island, so thankfully things really picked up and I couldn’t be more blessed for the way the season has gone so far.

Noticed this on the wall at da'Vida Resto & Spa in Anguilla...It was a sign..

Noticed this on the wall at da’Vida Resto & Spa in Anguilla…It was a sign..Get it? A sign…

What can I say about Chili besides it’s ability to comfort a sad soul or just to warm you up? Ok, here’s my bit on it. I like it thick with chunks of meat/veggies, colourful..yes colourful & extra extra spicy. Otherwise its just pasta sauce with beans. Just my opinion.

At least once a month I’m cooking up a batch. Filled with meat & beans it’s a great emergency energy meal when in a hurry. Packed with protein and iron it makes for a filling lunch or dinner. For everyone who knows me, when I get busy running around I forget to eat SO Chili has become a saving staple in my home.

Flavours coming together

Flavours coming together

Growing up…yes, most of my food stories have a bit of that in it, the dish was never prepared by either of my Nonna’s. Obviously not an Italian dish. I can bet cumin has never seen the inside of either of their homes. However my parents both had their own spin on it using different beans, veggies, meats, spices etc.. Funny, now that I think about it, my first real memory of Chili would be my dad making a huge pot every year for his buddies for super bowl sunday. ugggh, I still don’t get that sport & I really don’t care to. I just like their uniforms..ahhhh ha ha ha ha 😉

Anyways back to the Chili, it wasn’t a regular household dish yet something different during those chilly winter months and a way to use the bushels of kidney beans we’d all help separate during the summer months that came from both city Nonna’s garden & farm Nonna. Italians reading this will understand what I mean by “bushels” of Fagoli/beans 🙂 Canned beans were never really used in the house, mainly dried. Shamefully I admit that yes,  I find myself using canned beans for Chili most of the time. Pre cooking dried beans for this recipe always gives a nicer texture. So if you have the time, I’d say go dry vs/ canned any day.

This is one of those dishes that i’ve been asked how I make and of course my usual answer is, “I don’t know” I just put it together. This past weekend while in the kitchen I finally made an effort with my pen & paper on hand to jot down all my ingredients. My newest addition, now studded with bright yellow kernals of corn also adds a hint of sweetness to complement the spice.

Today’s share is my simple batch of Chili to feed plenty of hungry bellies. The great thing about Chili is using it in different ways when leftover or that it freezes well for those rainy/snowy days!

Chili Con Carne 

500 Gram Ground Beef

200 Gram Stewing Beef chunks (small dice)

1/2 Red Pepper (small dice)

1/2 Yellow pepper (small dice)

1/2 Green pepper (small dice)

Fresh Onion & 2 garlic cloves (chop finely)

1 Jalapeno pepper

1 Habanero or chili pepper

2 Bay leaves

Salt, black pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder

Sprig of Thyme

400 Gram Crushed/puree Tomatoes

480 Gram can plum tomatoes with juices

1 can or dried Kidney Beans (drained & rinsed)

1 can or dried Black Beans (drained & rinsed)

Corn kernels – aprx 1 cup or 1 can

First off I fry the beef chunks in a splash of olive oil, season with all listed dry seasonings while cooking. Remove from pan, set aside.  Next add the ground beef to the pan, fry & season until fully cooked. Remove & set aside. At times I add red wine while cooking the meats but I needed to blog this recipe so  opening a bottle of wine was not going to get this entry done! 😉

In a large pot add a splash of olive oil and sauté the green/red/yellow peppers, onion & garlic.  Add Bay leaves, sprig of thyme, season with salt & pepper. Once slightly tender add both cooked meats to the pot. Next, add both the crushed tomatoes & whole tomatoes with juices to the pot. Season generously with all dry seasonings.  Finely chop the jalapeno & habanero, add to pot.  Depending on how spicy you like it.

Bring to a simmer for 15 – 20 mins.  Give a taste for spice. At this point, add the drained kidney beans, black beans & corn. Continue to simmer for another 20 mins.

chili con carne with toasted corn tortillas

chili con carne with toasted corn tortillas

If you have corn tortillas cut them in triangles & bake them to serve with the chili. Otherwise fresh crusty bread is always the best choice in mopping up all the goodness in your dish!

Buon Appetito 😉

Necessary funny photo post..Ferry named after me & well the rest speaks for itself!!! "Chill Life"

Necessary funny photo post..Ferry named after me & well the rest speaks for itself!!! “Chill Life”

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Coq Au Vin (O) – Cheers to Julia Child on her birthday..Brandy you say?

chicken after mushrooms added

Yes, I added an “O” . Needed to change-up the traditional French dish into an Italian dish without altering the ingredients and a simple vowel did the trick! 🙂 Just a little funny

So, apparently living on a French island is starting to get under my little “chicken head” skin. (inside joke) Finding myself interested in exploring some of the classic French dishes.

When I hear Coq Au Vin I immediately think about Julia Child. How could you not. This is one of her famous dishes which she featured in her first cook book in 1961 “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.  Ahh Julia,  very 1st cooking show I remember watching as a child. It also just so happen to be Julia Childs birthday on the day I prepared the dish, so it was a cheers to Julia and all that she brought to the table!

The traditional dish calls for fresh Thyme which I don’t always have (must start growing). So that was really the only ingredient missing from what I researched. I almost added fresh Rosemary sprigs and I am so happy i didn’t. The Rosemary really would have thrown the flavours off. I also opted out of using any garlic. This is one of the 1st times I cooked without fresh garlic! The temptation was there. Next time I’ll be sure to add fresh thyme. Season the chicken the night before is a must to allow the dry spice to absorb. Some also marinate in wine overnight and I’m pleased i didn’t. You will notice I used cremini mushrooms. Find them to have a firmer texture then a white mushroom and well a tastier mushroom overall.

Cremini Mushrooms

This dish will become one of my regulars. The aroma that day in my kitchen was delectable. The rich deep colour and flavour of the sauce is lip smacking!

Here is my take on the dish. I cut back on Brandy I’d actually used. A close friend who is a great sport when I’m experimenting in the kitchen felt the brandy was a bit much. I don’t even want to admit how much I actually poured in! ooops

Coq Au Vin (O)

4 piece chicken leg & thigh attached – separate & you’ll have 8 pieces of chicken. Remove skin

1/4 cup Lardons

3 medium carrots sliced into coins

1/2 onion – diced

1/4 cup Brandy + 2 tblsp

250 ml Red Wine – i used a Bordeaux

475ml (2 cups) Chicken Stock

Bay Leaves, fresh thyme

salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, dried thyme

butter – as much as you need 😉

10 Cremini mushrooms or white – quartered

1 tblsp Flour

The night before:

I take the skin off the chicken because you don’t want all that grease floating around in this dish.

Season the cleaned chicken with all the dry spices. Rub it in nicely. Break up a few Bay leaves and place on the chicken. Cover and refrigerate over night.

Next day:

Start with a large pot, sauté the lardons until cooked but not crisp. Remove from the pot & set aside.

Take your seasoned chicken & sear all sides. About 8 min. Remove from the pot & set aside.

seared chicken

Add diced onions, carrot coins and a bay leaf. Butter will be required at this point if the lardons & chicken did not release enough juices. Saute until tender.  Deglaze the pot now by adding aprx 1/4 cup brandy. This should be sufficient. Add the cooked lardons & chicken back to the pot. Add the red wine, chicken stock & fresh thyme. Simmer covered and allow to slowly braise for aprx 30-40 mins.

While the chicken is floating around in all that booze, take a small pan with 1 tblsp butter. Add the quartered mushrooms and reserved 2 tblsp of brandy.  Use even less if you prefer. Fry just until slightly tender.

After the 30 mins of cooking, add the sautéed mushrooms to the pot. Continue cooking uncovered for another 10mins. At this point I also added a small bit of roux to the sauce to thicken it. I used aprx 1 tblsp of both butter and flour. Melt the butter. stir in the flour and add it to chicken. This should thicken slightly.

To serve, well It could be served with rice, mashed potatoes or I did something different. I served it with Chow Mein noodles. I’m addicted to a particular brand of these noodles here. I know the combination sounds odd but it was a nice change to plain ‘ol rice.

If you’ve never ventured into the past with classic dishes, I urge you to try this one.

Coq Au Vin

Coq Au Vin

Bon appetit (O)

😉

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