Venison chile stew with winter vegetables

Whoever created the endless Christmas soundtrack you hear every time you walk into a shop post-Halloween, has a lot to answer for. Bing, Frank, Nat and Co. must literally be rolling in their graves as the holiday season approaches. And spare a thought for the shop staff who are subjected to this torture every day. Surely the UN Human Rights Convention has something to say about this?

Yes, we know the weather outside is frightful. Yes, we know the fire is so delightful. So go ahead and snow already. And don’t even get me started on Frosty…

The only solution is to tune out and hunker down. Close the curtains and stoke the fire. Rustle up something hearty and warming to ease your way through a day that’s more dark than light. Find the advent calendar tucked in a box in the attic. Deck the halls – okay, forget that last one but you get what I mean.

It’s the perfect season for a stew laced with chile and winter vegetables. The great thing about this dish – and trust me, there is a long list – is that the longer it cooks, the better it tastes. I’ve used venison here but you could substitute beef or pork. The red wine creates a rich sauce that hugs the meat like a warm embrace.

Winter vegetables? Potatoes, carrots and turnips – baby ones if you can find them – are a natural but you could use parsnips, hard squashes or leeks too. This makes a big enough batch for a spot of pre-holiday entertaining or you can freeze the leftovers to tide you over during the long nights ahead.

Serve with a glass of red wine, a salad with a tart, mustardy dressing and silence. Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it?

Venison chile stew with winter vegetables

Serves 4-6

2 lbs. diced venison

1 red onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

½ cup flour, seasoned with salt & pepper

½ cup tomato puree

½ bottle red wine

1 Chile Mulato

1 Chile Negro

7oz baby turnips

10oz carrots (about 4 medium)

10oz small potatoes (about 15 or 16)

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 250º

Gently sauté the onion in olive oil in a deep, heavy, oven proof casserole dish until the onion is soft but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute or two. Remove from the casserole and set aside. Dredge the venison in the flour and brown in olive oil in the casserole. Don’t overcrowd the pan – you’ll need to do this three or four batches depending on the size of the pan. When you’ve browned all the venison, deglaze the pan with some of the red wine, scrapping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add back in the onions, garlic, and browned venison. Stir in the tomato puree and more wine until the meat is just covered. Add in the two dried chiles, cover and place in the oven and cook for 3 hours or more, until the venison is tender.

While the venison is cooking, prep the vegetables. Peel the carrots and slice on an angle into chunks. Scrub the potatoes and the turnips. Either steam or blanch the vegetables until just cooked through.

Take the casserole from the oven and remove the two dried chiles. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. The chile should be warming but mellow but of course add in additional chile powder if you want more of a hit. The sauce should be thick and coat the meat. If not, strain out the meat and reduce the sauce on the stove top. Add in the vegetables and stir to coat with the red wine sauce and serve with any baby turnip leaves, chopped.

Have yourself a very chile Christmas

ANIMATED-PEPPERSIs it just me or does it feel like Thanksgiving was just last week? Now here we are with Christmas looming over us and New Year’s lurking around the corner.

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If you’ve dared venture into the supermarket you can sense the siege mentality as people stock up like they’re getting ready for another Hundred Years War. To-do lists spawn secondary to-do lists and scribbled notes get shoved in coat pockets as we try to remember if we were supposed to pick up single cream, heavy, double, whipped or some other milk-based product.

photoAt moments like this it’s important to breathe and remember if all else fails you can probably find a gas station open on Christmas Day selling microwave bean burritos. Okay, it’s not much consolation but it’s something. So, for what’s it’s worth, here are some tips/suggestion/ideas to help you navigate the holidays.

  1. Eat more chile. Not just because it tastes great (natch) but because chile is said to help your body fight colds and let’s be honest – ‘tis the season. It’s also a great source of vitamin C.
  2. If you’re cooking a turkey, consider a chile spice rub. Ease the skin away from the meat (gently so it doesn’t tear) and rub in a mix of chile powder, salt and softened butter. Ease the skin back and rub a bit more butter on top. If you can, do this the night before so it has a chance to soak up all that chile goodness. Yum.
  3. Cranberries. Have you noticed how you make them and then – surprise – no one eats them. This year, place the whole berries with the zest and juice of an orange with a whole dried chile and sugar to taste. Cook until the berries start to burst. Remove from the heat and puree the chile (with or without seeds) with some of the berries then add back to the rest of the berries and stir. Very good and very spicy.
  4. Remember the chile cornbread stuffing from Thanksgiving? It tastes just as good at Christmas.
  5. Chile Bloody Marys are an important tool to help you put up with your in-laws. Think of them as medicine.
  6. Avoid wearing Christmas sweaters. This has nothing to do with chile but it will prevent someone publishing embarrassing photos of you on Facebook.

So get going. It’s time to celebrate. See you in 2014.

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Ho Ho Humbug

As soon as the words are out of your mouth you want to take them back. “Pop over for a drink during the holidays.” Are you out of your mind? What were you thinking? Pop over??? That basically means: 1) come over anytime, 2) stay for as long as you want, and 3) I’ll make sure there’s plenty to eat and drink. Big mistake.

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Picture the scene…you’re watching your favorite shopping channel, just about to order that 44-piece kitchen knife set (only $29.95 and if you order in the next :30 seconds they’ll throw in a set of steak knives FREE!) when ding-dong goes the doorbell. And it’s Bob from Accounting, his kids and that lovely wife of his. So you hide your bag of cheetos, turn off the TV and hope they like your reindeer pj’s.

Now of course, if you’ve planned ahead – stashed a case or two of wine and made some nibbles, it’s really no big deal. I make a batch of Chile Logs and keep them in the fridge, ready for Bob. They’re chile-cheesy and you do want to eat more and more of them. Start with a mix of cream cheese and cheddar cheese and then hot it up with some chile powder and dust with more chile powder (cuz you can’t ever get enough chile) and sprinkle with some nuts (totally optional but definitely good eating).

And if I’m really smart (50-50 chance on that one) I make an extra batch so I can bring some along when I “pop over” to see friends. If I swing by your place this season and you’re in the middle of a big shopping channel order then not to worry. Take your time answering the doorbell. I know that steak knife freebie won’t last forever.     

chile log finalChile Cheese Logs

I’d like to make this sound incredibly difficult to make but it’s not. It’s kind of ‘Mad Men’ food – you could even serve it with triscuits for a really retro feel. I like to make it in a food processor because it’s easier and less messy but you decide. The logs definitely improve with age so keep in the fridge for a day or two before serving. I made one with a dusting of chipotle and New Mexico and one with the addition of toasted pine nuts – but create your own combos.

Makes two logs; serves approximately 6-10 people

12 oz white cheddar cheese, medium grated
3 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp salt
1 tsp Chile Molido hot
½ tsp Child Molido mild

Additional chile powder for rolling (I used a combination of Chipotle and Child Molido)

Toasted pine nuts (or chopped walnuts, pecans or sliced almonds would be good too).

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Combine the first six ingredients, divide into two and shape into two logs. Roll the logs in the additional chile powder to coat and then roll in toasted pine nuts if using (make sure the nuts have cooled first). Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least a day – preferably 2 or 3 – before serving with crackers or bread. Any leftovers are great spread on toast or in sandwiches.

Christmas Chile—Red and/or Green?

In New Mexico we’re not that interested in what you do for work. Or if you’re married, single, all-of-the-above, none-of-the-above, or other. The question we’re burning to ask is: Red? Green? Or Christmas? It’s a question that makes for some fiery – excuse the phrase – debates around the dinner table.

Some peacemakers will say there’s no right or wrong answer. There are folks who like red chile, folks who like green and heck, some people like Christmas – a bit of both.


But not everyone is so kumbaya calm. You hear grumblings. They’ll say that people who like Christmas can’t make up their minds. They dither. Vacillate. They’re fence sitters. Others think that Christmas lovers are just gluttons. They want it all and now. They can’t imagine making it through one meal without red and green – so they get ‘em both.

But in this Christmas season is there perhaps a kinder, gentler way to look at the great chile question? I turned to all-knowing, all-consuming Chef Johnny Vee to get his take. “I love that we associate red and green with Christmas so it’s a perfect fit for our state question…Red or Green?”

But surely there’s a right answer and a wrong answer, isn’t there? “I’m like Santa,” said Chef Johnny, who come to think of it does bear an incredible likeness to St. Nick. “I love both especially at this time a year…not on everything but snuck in here and there…warms us up in winter!”

Have you got a favorite? Let us know. In the meantime, remember that blessed are the peacemakers, so here’s a handy recipe for Christmas Chile Corn Bread.

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Christmas Chile Cornbread

This is good – very good. Great with a bowl of soup or hearty stew. Yummy alongside a plate of scrambled eggs and it makes a mean stuffing. This is pretty mild but with a bit of a kick. Just ramp up the salsa mix if you want something spicier.

CORNBREAD

Makes about 10-12 servings

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
½ cup sour cream or crème fraiche
1 ¾ cup whole milk
½ Tbsp Los Chileros Christmas Salsa Mix (or more to taste)
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp baking powder
¼ cup corn, canned or frozen
¼ pine nuts (optional but very tasty)
1 cup shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F and grease an 8×12” baking dish.

Pour the milk into a measuring cup and add the Christmas salsa mix, giving it a good stir. In a large bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar together then add the eggs and sour cream or crème fraiche and mix until well blended. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder together then stir in the corn meal. Add the milk and dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg/sour cream mix, alternating between dry and milk. Mix in the corn, nuts and cheese.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool before serving if you can bear to wait.

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS