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One Good Meal Thu Jan 28 2010

Super Food

In my last column, I wrote about how cooking at home could help you save money, eat healthier, and make you a better cook. And while I firmly believe that to be true, I have to admit that occasionally, I'm going to make things that taste good but aren't necessarily healthy. With the Super Bowl coming up in a few weeks, there are going to be a lot of parties where comfort food and deep-fried snacks are going to reign supreme.

I have to admit that even though I'm not a football fan, I kinda like the Super Bowl. The commercials are awfully interesting, or just awful. The halftime show is usually worth making fun of, a la Prince and his phallic guitar shadows. Being in a room full of people who have varying interests in the game is fun. But, like many occasions, I like the food. I like chicken wings, and chips with dips, and chili. But admittedly, sometimes it is nice to break out of that pattern a bit. And this year, I plan on doing just that for the Super Bowl.

I wanted to find a few dishes that satisfied the comfort food portion of the day's needs, while still just being a touch different than the norm. I also wanted dishes that I could prepare ahead of time so I didn't have to spend the party cooking. Conversely, I wanted something I could prepare ahead of time and then just bring with me. I also wanted to make dishes that would be good for a large group, but wouldn't cost more than $15 to make. Here are recipes for a Smoked Cheddar and Black Bean Bacon Dip that would be great for an appetizer and an Alsatian dish called Choucroute Garnie that would make a great main course.

Smoked Cheddar and Black Bean Bacon Dip
The smoked cheddar is the winner in this dish, but you can substitute non-smoked cheddar as well. You can also leave out the bacon to make it vegetarian-friendly. This dish is best served warm and reheats fairly well. The chipotle peppers make the dish spicy, so you can reduce that if you prefer a milder dish.

1/2 pound bacon, cut into thin strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 15-ounce can refried black beans
1 1/2 cups shredded smoked cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
3 tablespoons canned chipotle pepper, minced
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Roma tomato, seeded and finely chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced
tortilla chips

Place a skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon to the pan and stir it frequently until it is cooked through, but not crispy. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of fat and leave the bacon in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the garlic and cumin. Once that is mixed together, stir in the can of black beans. Let them heat through. Resist the urge to add water to thin them out. As they warm, they'll become smoother. Once they're heated through, stir in the shredded cheeses and the chipotle pepper. Once the cheese has melted, stir in the the sour cream, tomato, and scallion. Remove from the heat and serve while warm. If you're going to travel with this, don't stir in the last few ingredients until you've arrived at your destination and have heated it back up.

Makes about 4 cups of dip.


Choucroute Garnie
This dish is French, even though it will seem quite German. It comes from the area known as Alsace that resides at the German-edge of France. Many of their dishes are healthy mixes of French and German ingredients and techniques.

The word "choucroute" means "sauerkraut" and "Garnie" means "garnished or dressed". Several people have written about what makes a traditional and authentic dish, but the basics are sauerkraut, pork products, wine or beer, juniper berries, pepper, and garlic. Even people who don't like sauerkraut will like this dish. The slow cooking, sweet beer or wine, and apples remove the sharp acidic tang of the sauerkraut.

This recipe calls for pretty modest sausage, bacon, and ham. But fancier dishes will often call for the onion to be sauteed in duck fat instead of bacon fat. And you can add a variety of any pork or charcuterie to this dish. Try adding salt pork, smoked ham hocks (available at Harvestime, 2632 West Lawrence Avenue, for $1.49 a pound), pork belly cut into 1" slices, frankfurters, or other sausages like boudin blanc.

4 slices of bacon, cut into 1" slices
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 apples, cored and sliced
1 quart of sauerkraut (bagged or jarred, not canned)
1 bottle of non-bitter beer or 12 ounces of Riesling
7 juniper berries, or 1/2 cup of gin
8 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 pound ham, cubed
1 1/2 pounds German sausage (kielbasa, garlic sausage, or bratwurst)
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed

Place a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the bacon. Stir frequently until the bacon is cooked through, but not crispy. Add the onion to the pan and let it cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the onion has softened and is starting to brown. Add the apples and sauerkraut to the pot and stir to combine. Pour the beer over the surface and add the juniper berries, peppercorns, bay leaves, and sugar to the dish. Reduce the heat to low and cover it with a lid. Let it simmer for 1 hour.

Stir in the ham and add the sausages. Try to nestle the meat under the sauerkraut. Cover the pan and let it cook for 45 minutes. Add the potatoes to the pan and stir gently to nestle the potatoes in the cooking liquid. Cover the pan and let it cook for 45 minutes. Check it every 15 minutes and add water if it appears to be getting dry. Once the sausages have split and are cooked through and the potatoes are tender, serve with some mustard.

Makes 6-8 servings.

So even if you're not all that interested in The Game, you can still have an enjoyable time hanging out and chatting with friends while eating tasty vittles. And should you end up with leftovers, the rest assured that a smear of the leftover dip in a tortilla can make a great quesadilla. And everything in the choucroute will reheat nicely. And if you end up with a lot of leftovers, you can freeze them in a tightly sealed container for up to three months.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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