Nothing says comfort like soups and chili. So with autumn moving in, Cloverfields Farm & Kitchen's Janine Washle has some ideas to fill your bowls with a new twist on some old favorites.
Most cultures have soups that are synonymous with that country: Russian borscht, Spanish gazpacho, Italian minestrone to name a few. Soups are inexpensive and probably got their start when times were lean. It was easy to take scraps of meat, stale bread, water or broth and combine them in a pot over a fire or in a fireplace. Adding seasonings like bay leaves, parsley, and garlic not only provided medicinal benefits but allowed the cook to put her personal touch on the meal. Names like gruel, pottage, and broth let us know these early soups were thin.
Fast forward to today, while thin is in, we like soups with substance. Soups that are one pot meals are appealing because they can be made in a crock pot or in a big Dutch oven and can be frozen for future meals. Soups are convenient because of their portability. Pour them into a thermos or other container and they can go to work as a filling lunch.
Soup's economical appeal certainly makes it popular with young families, since the most basic of ingredients can be highlighted with the desired protein whether animal-based or legumes, and seasoned to each household's preference. With all of these superlatives, it still is the tradition and nostalgia of soup that makes it the most appealing. Everyone has a story of Mom's chicken soup, when cold season arrived.
Grandmas the world over have made vegetable soups whose signature recipes are still passed through the family. Whatever your reason for enjoying soup, ease, economy, or variety, one thing you can be certain of you will never get bored since every continent has a soup history that bears exploration.
Chili has history too, but that history is somewhat murky as to who made the first bowlful of chili. There are those who claim that angry Aztecs cut up Spanish explorers seasoned the chunks with spices and served them up. It has to be mentioned though that the Incas, Aztecs, and Mayans have records of meals that were mixtures of meat, beans, and spices long before Columbus and other explorers showed up. A popular claim states that cowboys and cattle drives developed chili out on the range. It is this angle, cowboys and cattle, which puts Texas at the front of the chili discussion in the United States. Texas has a passionate chili history. A great 'bowlful of red' as they affectionately refer to chili is the topic of many conversations in bars, homes, and the many cook off competitions that chili has spawned.
Chili is its own category when trying to figure out where to put it in the world of soups, stews, and chowders. It should not be soupy or stewy. Those textures are too loose. Chili should be thick but not dry; plenty of meat maybe pork never seafood in each spoonful; and most importantly, no beans. While many Texas chilis are made from cut up pieces of chuck, some chili makers actually grind the chuck with a coarse grinding plate and refer to this as the chili grind. No recipe that I could locate ever used pre-ground beef from the grocery.
Whether you hand cut the pieces or grind them yourself, you can make a pot of Texas style chili no matter where you live. Some recipes actually toast whole dried chiles and then grind them but it seems that modern Texans embrace the convenience of ground chiles readily available in any spice aisle. An important tip that bears passing along is to create "dumps." These dumps are mixes of spices that are added at least 2-3 times preferably 3; once at the beginning, in the middle, and then right before serving. It is this layering of spices and seasonings that adds complexity and a rich color to the concoction.
No matter what you prefer, a vegetable laden soup or a meaty chili, both are beloved and a family staple especially during the colder months. If you don't have a go to recipe, it is easy to find many on line to try out. By the end of the year, you will have found at least one that bears repeating. After a few more years and tweaking to fit your tastes, you will have that signature recipe and plenty of people asking you, "can I have a copy of your recipe?"
Crock Pot Chili
(adapted from a Food Network recipe)
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 TB salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, smashed
2 4.5-ounce cans chopped green chiles, drained
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3/4 cup chili powder
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with chiles
1 to 2 tablespoons green hot sauce
Toppings: Sliced scallions, fresh cilantro, sour cream
Tortilla chips, for serving (optional)
Toss the beef with 1 tablespoon each brown sugar and salt in a large bowl. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the beef in batches until browned on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes (do not crowd the pan). Transfer to a 5-to-6-quart slow cooker.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion to the skillet and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chiles, cumin and chili powder and cook 3 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups water and the tomatoes and simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker, cover and cook on low, 7 hours.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar and the hot sauce to the chili. Adjust the salt. Serve with scallions, cilantro and/or sour cream for topping, and chips, if desired.
Cloverfields Farm and Kitchen also has a special Soup & Chili Recipe Booklet available by email. To ask for a complimentary copy, just email Janine Washle at firstname.lastname@example.org
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CloverFields Farm & Kitchen
3720 Mt. Olive Rd.
Hardin Springs Area
Big Clifty, KY 42712
About Janine Washle:
Janine Washle and her family live at the Cloverfields Farm and Kitchen in Big Clifty, Kentucky in Hardin County. CloverFields Farm & Kitchen, part of a century old farmstead, is our home and business. The McGuffin house, the original farmhouse, is a registered state landmark. CloverFields Farm has a prosperous farming history. They are continuing this rural story in their own unique way by the addition of CloverFields Kitchen a place to explore the past through food and merge it with our modern lifestyles.
CloverFields Farm is dedicated to the preservation of southern, especially Kentucky, food traditions. The kitchen is commercially-outfitted compliant with Health Department standards. In this kitchen I develop new recipes based on original ideas, inspirations from my culinary research, and most often according to what is in season.
On the farm, they make many gifts and specialty items. She is currently working on her first cookbook, but she also has a long resume developing recipes for several companies. She has also won several contests and cook-offs with her original recipes.