Turkey and Dried Black Bean Chili

Welcome goblins, settle down ghouls… it’s time for Halloween Chili.
h/t my favorite Halloween album of all time Halloween Hootenanny.

On Halloween night, I want a dinner that sticks to the ribs of my trick or treaters, a buffer from the high fructose corn syrup binge that is coming. I want beans, meat, and a little heat to cut through the sugar that’s on the way. And, I want a chili I can throw together during the afternoon, so I have time to answer the steady stream of witches and robots knocking on the door.
And pass out some more high fructose corn syrup. Hey, it’s one day a year.

This recipe isn’t a one pot affair - I use two pots, because I have to use dried beans. I don’t have anything against canned beans; I’ll use them in a pinch, but dried beans have so much more flavor, and they build their own thickened broth. The downside of dried beans is the science of bean cooking - they will never soften if they are cooked with acidic ingredients. Like, um…chili powder and tomatoes, two of my major ingredients. That’s OK - while the beans are cooking, I sauté all the other ingredients, and add them for a last half hour of simmering to bring everything together.
Or an hour of simmering. A pack of little girls arrived at the door, eight little Elsas from Frozen. They were the crest of the wave; candy was going out as fast as I could shovel it into the bags. By the time I looked up, my half hour of simmering turned into a whole hour.

Recipe: Dried Black Bean and Turkey Chili

Oven Roasted Crispy Fingerling Potatoes

This is an ode to half sheet pans.

Half sheet pans are the utility infielders of my kitchen. They’re not expensive, fancy, or flashy. They just get the job done, particularly when the job is roasting. They’re the key piece of equipment in this simple side dish - roast fingerling potatoes.

When I’m planning meals, I go with the traditional set of meat, two veg, and a starch. This isn’t a recipe, per se; it’s a technique to finish the starch with a minimum of effort. Halve the potatoes, sprinkle them with salt, toss them with olive oil, and spread them out face down on the half sheet pan. Pop them in a 400°F oven for 45 minutes or so. The heavy aluminum pan crisps up the bottom of the potatoes while they cook through in the heat of the oven. And there you have it; a crispy, crunchy, starchy side dish with a minimum of effort.

No half sheet pan? Any rimmed baking sheet or shallow roasting pan will work. I’ve done these potatoes in everything, from inexpensive Pyrex baking dishes to fancy All-Clad roasters, but they work best in humble half sheet pans.

Recipe: Oven Roasted Crispy Fingerling Potatoes

PicOfTheWeek: Salmon over Charcoal

Salmon on the grill, with a little flareup.

What is it we want from food?

Don’t we keep coming back to exactly that issue? What is it we want from food? Our symbolic demands are entangled with our sensory demands in the act of eating.
- Adam Gopnik, talking with Christopher Kimball on the America’s Test Kitchen Radio Podcast, Episode 325

“What is it we want from food?”

That’s it. That’s the question I try to answer every time I sit down to write.

Food is about taste, and about pleasure. But it is a shared pleasure. We, all of us, need to eat every day. It’s more than just fuel for our bodies - the ritual of eating is tied up in human existence. Simple family dinners shared with my wife and kids; dinners out, celebrating the victories of life; parties with friends, laughing and talking; holidays with extended families, getting the aunts, uncles, and cousins together. Food is so much more than how it tastes.

What is it I want from food?
  • I want it to taste good, and be good, for me and my family
  • I want it to bring people together, in the kitchen and at the table - friends and family, strangers and neighbors
  • I want it to teach me, about new ways of doing things, about different cultures, about different flavors
  • I want it to remind me, about the old way of doing things, about our history, about what I’ve done, and where I’m going
  • I want it to comfort me, the warmth of my kitchen, the feel of a knife in my hand, the sizzle of a steak on the grill, the smell of simmering soup as I walk through the door

Food is my invitation to the story we’re all telling together.

What do you think?

What is it you want from food? Talk about it in comments section below.

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Slow Roasted Pork Loin with Rosé Pan Sauce

This post is sponsored by the National Pork Board and Costco. Celebrate #Porktober with pork at Costco!

As the weather turns crisp and you start gathering around the table with family and friends more frequently, serve something you know they’ll love – tender, juicy pork! And, don’t forget to visit Costco.com for information on weekly discounted fresh pork cuts and everything else you’ll need to celebrate “Porktober”.

I have a plan - a perfect fall day, bright, crisp, sunny. My grill in the backyard, surrounded by crunchy, colorful leaves, a pork loin roasting inside while I enjoy a tasty beverage.

As I leave Costco, pork loin in hand, I get smacked in the face by swirling and spitting rain, coming at me from all angles. The wind has picked up, and the sky is an ominous gray.

I go home, plop my pork loin in a brine, and wish for blue skies…or at least for the rain to ease up. Nothing doing; the day continues, gray and wet. Cold? I can handle cold. My limit is a steady downpour, and that’s what I have on my hands.

Late afternoon, and the heavy clouds bring an early nightfall. I give up on grilling, and start on a pot roasted pork loin. It is the perfect comfort meal for a cold, dreary, October day.

Pot roasting works especially well for pork loin roasts, which should be cooked to 145°F with a three minute rest. The trick is low and slow pot roasting. I gently bring the pork loin up to temperature, covered, in a low oven; the result is pork cooked perfectly from edge to edge, with a delicious pan sauce.

Please support today’s sponsor, Costco. They have all the ingredients you need for your fall feast, including a special on whole pork loins this week, 10/20 to 10/26. Thank you, Costco!

Recipe: Slow Roasted Pork Loin with Rosé Pan Sauce