Chili on a Snow Day; revisiting recipes

Something about the quiet hush of snowfall transforms the external world into an ethereal alternative universe, and makes you want to curl up on the couch with a good book. Or in my case, make a big pot of chili.

Lately, I’ve been revisiting old favorite recipes and I thought I would post a medley of thoughts and photographs. Below are some notes on a braised-pork chili, swiss chard and leek gratin, and mac and cheese.

chili snow

Braised Pork Chili
I’ve been playing around with different chili recipes, but have returned to one I posted back in October (link) as my favorite. I have decided that I prefer pork to beef in chili, and meat that has been braised before the chili is made. The texture of the meat is just so much better! This time around, I had braised a 5lb pork shoulder earlier in the week for a different meal, but saved the majority of the meat for the chili.

vaquero beans
The black and white Vaquero beans are like little cows, in bean form that is!

I followed the old recipe fairly closely, but this time did not save any of the braising liquid and just used more of the bean cooking liquid. I used 1/2 lb of Vaquero beans and 1/2 lb of Pebbles beans for this chili (both from Rancho Gordo), and loved the darker coloration that came with this choice. I also threw in a dried chipotle chile to add a touch of smokiness, although probably could have used more than one to make the flavor influence more clear, and instead of fresh jalapenos, I crumbled up two small red hot chile peppers I dried in the summer.

Swiss Chard Gratin
Another favorite recipe from last year was Alice Waters’ Swiss Chard Gratin (link). This time I made it with leeks instead of onions, used more of the chard stems than Waters calls for, and bumped up the quantity of breadcrumbs. I like cooking this in a cast iron frying pan, so there is only one dish to wash.

Lisl and I ate this as a vegetarian meal unto itself earlier in the week, with a small glass of red wine to cut through the richness of the gratin. Delicious! I was so captivated by the color of the chard stems that I decided to get ambitious and take a photo of the stems chopped up for the gratin, and submit it to Click, the photo contest put on be Bee and Jai at Jugalbandi, which has “red” as its theme this month.

red swiss chard

Mac and Cheese
I have been meaning to explore other macaroni and cheese recipes, but when the craving hit one day last week, I went back to the tried and true recipe I adore (link), and which I believe I originally adapted from a Gourmet magazine. This time I bumped up the amount of cheese and breadcrumbs I had on the top. Isn’t the browning on top marvelous? I had to use farfalle since the pantry was pretty bare, but I prefer to make it with penne. So good!

mac and cheese

Now I think I’m off to make Recipe Girl’s roasted mushroom soup and enjoy the snow cascading down outside. Here are a few miscellaneous pictures from the week that I also liked:

chili bowl
Chili, Monterey Jack cheese, and rice

swiss chard leaf
Swiss Chard

Onions are fun to chop with the new Santoku knife Lisl was kind enough to get me for Christmas.

24 thoughts on “Chili on a Snow Day; revisiting recipes”

  1. Great photos to browse on a snow day.
    What should I make tonight? Stuck inside on a snowy night.
    You picked it.
    Mac and Cheese, Giff’s way. DONE.

  2. I have been craving chili, and have made quite a lot of swiss chard lately, what a beautiful post and my favorite pic is the swiss chard ring…one day I will get a new camera…

  3. a santoku knife…envying you now! we love chard…grows without too much trouble and we have lots of it from early spring to late fall.


  4. Ah chard… I grew some lovely ruby chard for the first time last year – a few leaves of it are still surviving outside (goodness knows how!). Maybe there’s just enough there to make a little gratin…

  5. Oh my… this post is filled with such gorgeous food and photography. I absolutely love your CLICK entry!

    I’ve seen the vaquero peas at the supermarket and it costs US$8 per packet! 🙁 I think I’ll make your chili but with another bean.

  6. Stacey: hope that mac and cheese was a hit

    Chef E: I love my little point-and-shoot, but suspect that one of these days I’m going to save up and splurge on an SLR

    Jai: you grow your own chard? That sounds great. The deer are impossible around which prevents much in the way of casual gardening.

    Cynthia: 8$! wow that’s pricey. Rancho Gordo sells it for 5$ for a lb, versus $2 for a lb of goya pinto beans for example, and you do have to pay for shipping, which I why I buy in batches. I like knowing that the beans are fresher and that I like the company from which I purchase. But I too often make chili with pinto and kidney beans, quite happily.

  7. I love being inside where it’s warm with something cooking on the stove while snow falls outside. It’s one of the best feelings I know.

    Your chili looks so good, although the mac and cheese makes me hungry too.

  8. Giff, you know you're really snowed in when you have all these dishes on the same day!

    I love the mac & cheese in the cast iron pan.

  9. Those beans almost don’t look real.

    I was really loving that chili. I love the idea of pork in chili. Then I saw the mac and cheese, and I realized what true love is.

  10. Ah, YOU managed to make your chili look sexy. I’m jealous.

    Also, can the vaquero bean be considered a vegeterian friendly food, I wonder.

  11. The Vaquero bean is 100% Vegetarian approved method to get your daily recommended dose of cow spots without crossing over to the dark side.

  12. Beautiful dishes, beautiful photos Giff. Those beans are absolutely adorable–LOVE them!
    I am definitely taking a look at that chard recipe cause it seems like a dish right up our alley (especially on a no-meat night of the week).
    And we are going to have to get Lisl to talk to my husband about that Santoku knife–I’d been hinting for a month up to Christmas about it and … well … that’s why we’re going to need Lisl. Valentine’s Day is coming up soon and my birthday’s in April, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.

  13. LOVE the pics. me wants that mac and cheese. god i wish i didn’t have to cook tonight and that could just be put in front of me!

  14. LOL Maria. Giff was very specific about his “hints” including sending me links to Santoku knife websites even after I had purchased the gift. One thing he didn’t mention was that after he received it, he did not immediately rip it open, but went into a store to see and feel it in person to make sure it was the *right* one. Fortunately it was, otherwise this may have ended up as a Valentine present too… – Lisl

  15. You have answered two of my questions on an old blog in November- Included googling ‘Farroto’ and if Stacey had an a meet up with other foodbuzz’ers…glad you guys had a good time, and this chili is calling my name again!

  16. I love the “cow beans!” My kids are here on the bed with me looking at your pics on my laptop – they screamed “COW BEANS!”

    so now I must find them….

  17. Giff, those are the coolest looking beans i ever seen! I would never want to cook them though. haha. The Mac & Cheese in the cast iron pan is a masterpiece, made one similar while in Aspen and it was a big success.

    I'm glad you're enjoying your new Santoku knife. 🙂

  18. Those beans are gorgeous!! I like the idea of using braised pork in the chili. I mostly make vegetable chili because that’s my favorite but then I brown ground pork or beef on the side for my husband to add. He’d love adding braised pork instead.

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