Quick and Easy Turkey and Sausage Chili and a Wine to Match

Now that winter is in full swing we are turning to heartier fare up here in Vermont. And what better cold-night dinner than chili? And let’s keep it healthy by using, mostly, turkey. This is a super-simple to make, one dish meal that only takes about 25 minutes.

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 small Spanish onion, medium dice

1 yellow pepper, medium dice

1 green pepper, medium dice

1 red pepper, medium dice

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 pound ground turkey

1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage

1 32 ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 16 ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons chili powder (or you can use equal parts ground garlic, cayenne, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes)

In a large saucepan heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion, peppers and garlic. Saute until translucent, about 4 minutes.

Add the ground turkey and sausage and cook for additional 5-7 minutes.

Add the beans, tomatoes and chili powder. Turn heat to med-high and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10-15 minutes. You may need to add a bit of water if it gets too thick.

Serve in bowls with some crusty French bread. You can also shred some cheddar on top.

Serves 4-8 depending on size and you’ll have some leftover.

With something hearty and a bit spicy like this chili I like a wine that is a little rustic but also has some fruit to stand up to the spice. I reached for a Syrah/Grenache blend from southern France.

2012 Chateau Cadenette Costieres de Nimes, about $12

This is a juicy, rustic wine from a region that straddles the border of the Rhone Valley and Languedoc. The wines here are blends of several grapes, this being mostly Syrah with a smattering of Grenache. The nose is very aromatic with ripe red and black fruits, prune, cooked plums and tomato skin. The palate is fresh and clean with soft, ripe tannins. This, or something very similar, is a perfect match to this hearty, spicy chili.

Risotto Milanese: Saffron Risotto

People loved the risotto at our restaurant L’Amante. No matter how we served it, it was always a big hit. It was always on the menu. In fact, at one point we had 2 on the menu. And it’s not an easy dish to pull off in a restaurant. Risotto takes a lot of work as you really need to pay attention to it. Fortunately I learned from a couple of masters. Daniele Baliani¬† was the chef at Pignoli in Boston, the first restaurant I worked in out of culinary school a long time ago. And Francesco Berardinelli, his friend and chef/owner at Osteria di Rendola in Tuscany, are two of my mentors and they showed me the way with risotto. They also taught me the trick to serving perfect risotto in a restaurant which I will keep to myself for now.

As I said, Risotto is not an easy dish as it needs attention. I think this is why so many people don’t cook it at home. If it’s just a little under or overcooked it’s pedestrian. Getting it right takes practice and patience.¬† When it’s cooked properly it is ethereal. Hopefully this recipe will help. Don’t get too married to the quantities of liquid. The dish is about feel. You have to taste as you’re making it. The finished rice should be creamy and al dente.

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 small, Spanish onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon saffron threads

4 cups water*, simmering

2 cups canaroli* rice (can substitute arborio)

1/2 cup dry, white wine

3/4 stick of unsalted butter

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

*A quick word about the liquid and rice. I like to use water even though most recipes call for some sort of stock. My reasoning is that as you cook the rice the liquid will get concentrated. That’s fine if you are using a good stock. But by using water it lets the ingredients shine as opposed to the stock. For rice I like carnaroli. It’s harder to find than arborio but I think it stands up better and is much more forgiving. It takes just a bit longer to cook as well.

In a heavy 14-inch skillet or sauce pan heat the oil and 1 teaspoon of butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the saffron and season with salt. Stir to coat. Turn the heat to med-high and add the wine. Stir until almost all the wine is absorbed. Add a 6-ounce ladle of water and stir until absorbed.

Keep adding the water, a ladle at a time, waiting until it is absorbed each time and continue stirring. After about 15-20 minutes the rice should start to look creamy (this is the starch being released by the constant stirring). Taste the rice to see if it is slightly al dente and creamy at the same time. If it is, remove from heat and add the remaining butter and the cheese. Stir to incorporate. Portion the rice on plates and serve warm.

Serves 4 portions.


Light Pasta for a Cold, Wintry Night

Penne, Roasted Cherry Tomato, Tuscan Kale and Rapini

We felt like some pasta on Sunday night but didn’t want anything too heavy. I think this Penne with Roasted Cherry Tomato, Tuscan Kale and Rapini did the trick. It’s hearty enough without giving you that tired feeling after eating it. Drizzled with some really good Extra Virgin Olive Oil it was perfect with a Slovenian Pinot Grigio.

I’m a chef and don’t follow recipes when I cook at home. I look at recipes to get an idea of what a dish is supposed to be or what I want it to be. I then do what I want. I find that it always turns out well. I wish that the average home cook had that same mentality and confidence. Look at a cook book or recipe and then go for it! With that in mind, below is the ‘recipe’ for the dish above.

16 ounces Penne Rigate (We used whole wheat which I did not like. The texture is off. Use a good brand like Barilla or DeCecco)

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

Canola oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1 bunch Lacinato Kale (Tuscan Kale), cleaned and roughly chopped

1 bunch Rapini (Broccoli Rabe), cleaned and roughly chopped

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and then add pasta. Stir. Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.

After the pasta has been cooking for about 2 minutes, bring about a tablespoon canola oil in a saute pan to medium heat and add the garlic. Cook for a bout 2 minutes.

Add the cherry tomatoes and toss. Cook for about 2 minutes

Add the Rapini and Kale. Stir to mix. Add a few ounces of the pasta water. Cook about 4 minutes.

Drain pasta and add to pan with kale and tomatoes and rapini. Add a few tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil and toss to coat. Place in large bowl (or several small bowls), top with some cheese and serve with more olive oil for drizzling.

Serves 8