Category Archives: main course

Butternut Squash Chili

Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}I am psyched for today’s recipe, y’all! This vegan Butternut Squash Chili is so good and good for you—perfect for the Super Bowl this weekend or any wintry night.Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}It’s made with loads of good stuff. We’re talking the standard onion, garlic and red bell pepper, of course, but also a whole butternut squash (duh), meaty mushrooms, and pinto beans. YUM!Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}I know that being Texan means I “shouldn’t” like beans in chili, but here I am, putting them in there. No regrets. I almost always go for pinto beans in chili because that’s what I like, but if black beans or red kidney beans are more your style, by all means, switch it up!Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}Small amounts of cinnamon and cocoa powder set this chili apart from the rest. They add a little nuance to the standard seasoning combination of chili powder, cumin, dried oregano, and cayenne. Minced chipotles in adobo are stirred in before serving for a touch of smoky heat.Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}Butternut Squash Chili requires a couple of long browning steps—you want maximum flavor from those onions and mushrooms—and a simmer, but comes together surprisingly quickly overall. The batch pictured clocked in at just under two hours, which gives you just enough time to whip up some Cornmeal Biscuits to go alongside!Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}As with most soupy, stewy things, this is a meal that will get better with time. It’s delicious the day it’s made, but is particularly spectacular after a day or two in the refrigerator. Basically, if you want to eat this while you watch the Super Bowl, make if Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Love a make-ahead main!

As stated many times over the years, I’m not a fan of football, but this chili? That’s a “super bowl” I can get behind.Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}

Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}
makes about 6 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, diced small
2 red bell peppers, diced small
1-1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
5-7 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces white button mushrooms, 1/2-inch diced
1 3 lb. butternut squash, 1/2-inch pieces (8-ish cups)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
4 cups vegetable stock (I use seasoned vegetable Better than Bouillon)
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained & rinsed
2 chipotles in adobo, minced

Garnish:
avocado
chopped cilantro
sliced scallions
grated cheese (vegan or dairy)
crispy tortilla strips
crushed tortilla chips

Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and swirl to coat. Add onion, red bell pepper and a pinch of salt, and sauté until very soft and gaining color (about 15-20 minutes). Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Remove from pot and set aside.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add mushrooms and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned (about 15-20 minutes). Don’t rush it!

Return onion mixture to the pan, along with butternut squash. Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, cayenne, cocoa and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, just until it begins to caramelize (it will ever-so-slightly darken).

Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook 20-25 minutes, or until squash is cooked through and tender. Add pinto beans and minced chipotles in adobo and let simmer another 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Taste for salt and adjust to your preferences.

Divide chili among bowls and serve with desired garnishes.

Leftovers will keep very well for up to 4 days. Flavors will intensify over time.Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}Butternut Squash Chili {Vegan}

Pared-Down Porchetta

Pared-Down PorchettaWhen I was allowed to take the reins on planning Christmas dinner last month, I knew immediately what I wanted to make: Porchetta. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Porchetta is a slow-roasted Italian herbed pork dish that is traditionally made with whole pigs, but most home cooks use a center-cut pork loin wrapped in a sheet of pork belly.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaI spent weeks planning this meal, going so far as to make a 1/4-sized tester in the days before Christmas. After that, I called Central Market (think Texas-specific Whole Foods…but way better than Whole Foods) and ordered all the meat. I packed my favorite knife, a sharpener, my largest meat cutting board, trussing string and an apron in my checked luggage and hightailed it to Fort Worth.Pared-Down PorchettaOver the next several days, my mom, sister and I obtained the special-ordered pork and made a great fuss over preparing it…except that it wasn’t actually that much fuss. Once the herb mix was prepared, I butterflied the center-cut pork loin and scattered it over the top. Then I rolled it up jelly-roll-style, rolled that in the sheet of pork belly and tied it all up with trussing string. Afterward, I let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator (“dry brining”) until Christmas Day, on which it was brought to room temperature and then roasted until golden and crisp and pretty irresistible.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaI was (am) very proud of myself and posted it to all my social media outlets, where I was promptly asked when I’d be posting a recipe. This was something I hadn’t even considered because while the Porchetta I made for Christmas is not particularly difficult to put together, but it *is* pricey.Pared-Down PorchettaThe meat had to be special-ordered for quantity and quality—a 5 pound sheet of skin-on pork belly is not an easy find—and came out to about $60. That’s $60 in Texas, so I’d guess it’s more like $80-$100 in New York, and that’s before the herbs. I love y’all, but not quite enough to spend hundreds testing one lone recipe.Pared-Down PorchettaBut. But! I had it in my head that I could give my beloved Slow-Roasted Pulled Pork recipe the Porchetta treatment, and Porchetta Queen Sara Jenkins (formerly of the Lower East Side, now of Maine) agrees. And so, with those recipes and the herb mixture I used at Christmas as guides, I set to work making this: the Pared-Down Porchetta. It’s got all the fatty, herby, meaty, crispy magic you love in traditional Porchetta, but it’s a little rough and tumble.Pared-Down PorchettaYes, it still has to sit in your fridge for a day or two, but it is made from just one piece of meat (a boneless pork butt AKA pork shoulder), is mostly hands-off, and won’t cost you an obscene-ish amount of money.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaLet’s start with the meat. This pork butt? It weighed in at 4.5 pounds and cost a cool $14–pretty reasonable compared to $60+! You’ll want it to have a layer of skin or a good, thick fat cap (pictured here) for both flavor and texture. If you can’t find a pork butt that fits either of those descriptions, you can purchase a piece of pork belly or pork skin and tie it onto the butt with trussing string. You want that fatty lid so it can keep the meat moist during roasting and then get crispy at the end. Cracklings are life, am I right?!Pared-Down PorchettaYour pork butt is unlikely to be in one seamless piece due to its heavy marbling and having had a bone cut out of it. This spot (or cavity or whatever you want to call it)? This is where the herb mixture will go. I used my knife to extend that opening down the length of the roast, while making sure to keep one edge intact.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaAnother thing you want? Kosher salt—about 1/2 teaspoon per pound. Don’t be tempted to skimp, or all the days of dry brining and the herbs and the money you spent will be for nothing. Salt is critical for both flavor and texture (it draws out moisture), and if used in proper amounts, will not leave your meat particularly salty, just flavorful. You’ll blitz most of it with toasted fennel seeds, sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemon zest and crushed red pepper flakes to make the herb mixture. The rest will be rubbed into the crosshatched skin/fat cap.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaYou will have to truss your pork butt, which is really no trouble. Just tie it at short intervals and then anywhere else it isn’t holding together as one cohesive unit. You want all those good herbs to stay put! Then stick the whole thing in a dish and put in the refrigerator and forget about it for 24-48 hours until it’s dry to the touch and the color has changed.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaAnd then roast it looooow and slooooow before crisping up that fat cap, and slicing and serving it on rolls or crusty bread that you’ve given the slightest dip in the rendered fat. You can also serve it alongside garlicky greens or roasted vegetables. Really, you can’t go wrong.Pared-Down PorchettaI feel like this Pared-Down Porchetta would be a wonderful main for Super Bowl Sunday, Oscar Night, Easter, or any old night. I mean, you could certainly hold onto this recipe until next Christmas, but that seems like an awfully long time from now, don’t you think?Pared-Down Porchetta

Pared-Down Porchetta
makes 8 (or so) servings

1 4-4.5 lb. boneless pork butt with skin or a thick fat cap*
3 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest (about 1 medium-large lemon)
1-1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2-2 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided

Special Equipment:
trussing string
a dutch oven or roasting dish

For serving:
rolls (I used Trader Joe’s Ciabatta Rolls)
crusty bread

Read this recipe carefully before proceeding. While the majority of it is hands-off, it will take a minimum of two days to prepare.

If your pork butt was trussed when you purchased it, cut off the trussing string and discard. Blot pork butt to remove excess moisture. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife (or razor blade) to crosshatch the skin.

Toast fennel seeds in a dry pan over low heat until fragrant. Remove to a bowl to cool.

Make the herb mixture. Combine sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic lemon zest, red pepper flakes,1 1/2-2 teaspoons* Kosher salt. and fennel seeds in a food processor and pulse to combine (alternatively, mince with a large, sharp chef’s knife).

Look at your pork butt. It is unlikely to be one stable piece, so take a look and see a natural spot to butterfly it. I chose an area that was already open, and used my knife to further the opening a bit more, leaving one edge still intact (see photos).

Fill opening with herb mixture and then fold back together. Some herb mixture will fall out—this is okay. Use trussing string/kitchen twine to truss the meat. Tie it together at 2-inch intervals and then any other directions necessary to hold it together as a cohesive unit. Rub the herb mixture that fell out of the butterflied section over the outside of the meat. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt over the crosshatched skin and lightly massage in. Place pork in a small dish (I used a 9-inch square pan) and refrigerate uncovered for 24-48 hours.

Remove pork from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for an hour. Place pork in a clean, dry oven-safe pot (I use my dutch oven).

Preheat oven to 250F. Place pork in the oven and let cook for 4.5-5.5 hours, until it registers 180F on a meat thermometer and is tender.

Remove pork from oven. Turn temperature up to 500F.

Return pork to the oven and let cook, turning the pot every 5 minutes, until the skin is golden and crispy. (Mine was done for 15 minutes, but I probably should have gone to 20.)

Let pork cool for 20 minutes before carefully, removing trussing string, slicing and serving with rolls or crusty bread.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days.

Note:

1. If you cannot find a boneless pork butt with skin or a fat cap, purchase a piece of pork belly or skin to tie on with trussing string. I’ve seen pork belly for sale at Whole Foods, Whole Foods 365, Costco and some regular supermarkets.

2. You’ll need 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt per pound of meat, so 2 teaspoons for 4 lbs or 2 1/2 teaspoons for 4.5 lbs. With that knowledge, set aside 1/2 teaspoon of the salt for the skin/fat cap and add the rest to the herb mixture.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down Porchetta

Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}

Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}While many of my food memories of my childhood in Texas revolve around Tex-Mex and barbecue, I also have a place in my heart for Lebanese food. My dad began going to a Lebanese restaurant called Hedary’s in the 1970s and, over time, got my mom, my sisters, and myself hooked on their mezze, lahem meshwi, and steaming hot pillows of fresh pita. And tabouleh. And the rice pudding. And the sodas that came in short, round glass bottles.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}For years, Hedary’s (“heh-dah-rees”) was our restaurant of choice for weekend dinners and special occasions alike, and as we grew up and moved away, a must-go whenever one (or all) of us came back to Fort Worth to visit. That is, until they closed the original location near my parents’ neighborhood a couple years back.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Our unanimous family-favorite Hedary’s entree was Frarej, a roast chicken dish made with tons of lemon and garlic and served with tender potatoes, tomatoes and onions. It somehow towed the line between light and bright and deeply comforting and was always the centerpiece of our extensive order.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej appears to be specific to the Hedary family—I’ve never seen it on any other Lebanese menu, the owners of my beloved Sahadi’s have never heard of it (nor have my Lebanese friends), and a quick internet search turns up only recipes by people like me who are trying to recapture the magic of this dish from a now-closed restaurant in a strip mall in Fort Worth, Texas.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}My older sister started making a version Frarej at home when she was in graduate school and has honed it over the years. She gave me her recipe when I wanted to impress a new boyfriend* a few years ago and since then, I have slowly made adjustments—not many though—until I achieved a Frarej I could make and eat any day of the week.

*I’m the sort of person who will try to seduce you with garlic. This is why I’m single. Although, to be fair, that boyfriend stuck around for a few years so…?Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Start by chopping (or pressing) 8-10 cloves of fresh garlic. Mix that with 1/3 cup of olive oil, 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper, and pour it all over a bunch of sliced Yukon gold potatoes and onion wedges.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Let that roast for 15 minutes at 500F (yes, 500F) before stirring in some tomato wedges and topping it all off with some bone-in skin-on chicken thighs that you’ve given the lightest coating of olive oil. Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Throw that back in a 500F oven (again, yes, that hot) and let it go for 45 minutes, occasionally spooning accumulated liquid over the chicken, but otherwise leaving it alone. You’ll know it’s ready when the chicken is gorgeous and golden and the potatoes are tender. Your kitchen should also smell ahhh-mazing. Lemony and garlicky and chickeny—amazing.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej will be good the day it’s made—what could possibly be bad about juicy roast chicken, lemony potatoes, sweet onions and tangy tomatoes?—but the leftovers are where it’s at. I turned down a dinner invitation a couple weeks ago just because I wanted to eat the Frarej leftovers* in my fridge. The vegetables absorb all the lemony, chickeny fattiness and are just so…effing…delicious.

*This is actually why I’m single.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}

Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}
inspired by Hedary’s Restaurant, adapted from E1’s recipe
makes 4-6 servings

2 small Spanish onions, sliced into 8 wedges each
1 1/2 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes, sliced in quarters
2/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 3-4 large lemons)
1/3 cup olive oil + more for coating chicken
8-10 cloves fresh garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
3 pounds skin-on chicken thighs (about 6-8 thighs)
4 large or 5-6 small Roma tomatoes, sliced in quarters
chopped Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 500F.

Toss onions and potatoes together on a large rimmed sheet pan.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a liquid measuring cup or small mixing bowl. Stir together with a fork (it won’t emulsify). Pour mixture over potatoes and onions and toss together with your hands. Bake for 15 minutes.

Pat chicken thighs dry. Rub them all over with olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Remove onions and potatoes from the oven. Stir in tomato wedges. Carefully nestle chicken thighs over the top.

Roast for 40-45 minutes, spooning a little of the accumulated liquid over chicken every 15 minutes. It’s ready when chicken is golden and cooked through, and vegetables are tender and browning in places. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley if desired.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. They will get more and more delicious as time goes on.Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}Frarej {Lebanese Lemon Chicken}