When the temperature drops, the first thing I crave is chili. The past couple of weeks have been in the high 20s, sometimes flirting in the 30s. My standard crockpot chili recipe is a good standby, but I was interested in creating something different. Usually when I’m searching for a new twist on an old recipe, I turn to my Secret Recipe Club pairing for an idea. Serena and Deanna over at a Teaspoon of Spice did not disappoint.
When we arrived to our cozy cottage in Keene, New York, right smack in the center of the Adirondacks High Peaks, I found myself at a loss of words. The silence was not from the sheer beauty of the place (it was plain, but cute and cozy, serving our hiking needs perfectly) but due to the size of the kitchen. I never really thought of myself as a kitchen snob, but somehow in that moment, knowing I’d be here for a week, it all became clear. I guess you can say I have certain standards. I would gladly trade in my queen sized pillow-top bed for a generic branded air mattress every night for the opportunity to cook in a chef’s kitchen daily. It also makes me wonder if my snobbishness has anything to do with our 3-year quest to find a suitable apartment. Maybe just a tiny bit…
You really can make anything in the crockpot. While I tend to stick mostly to dinner foods but have come across recipes for oatmeal, bread puddings, even cakes! Personally, I’d cook everything in a crockpot if I could, but I do understand not everyone is as into the idea. One woman said her kids referred to it as “mushy food”. If you want the sharp snap of a carrot that goes along with vegetable stir-fry, a crockpot may not be your best friend. But for warm, comforting stew or chili, or a faster, easy way to make BBQ Brisket or Pulled Pork, welcome to my little corner of the kitchen.
I’m not sure I fully understood and appreciated real barbeque until I moved to Brooklyn. Growing up, I thought of barbeque more as a cook out. Friends and family would come over, and we’d grill hotdogs and hamburgers, maybe some steaks if we were being really fancy. I knew of pulled pork and ribs and brisket, and sure I had them a few times, but never really craved them. My first real barbeque joint in Brooklyn was Fette Sau. If you’ve never been, you are truly missing out. Don’t expect fancy. Fette Sau in Williamsburg is a renovated garage that dishes out trays of the most delicious smoked, braised meats you could imagine. Dining is communal, picnic tables inside and out stacked with rolls of paper towels. On a Friday or Saturday night you can spot the place from the huge line that forms outside. Meat is ordered by the pound, slapped on a tray and served with as many slider buns as you can handle. Line two offers local craft beers served in mason jars, of if you have a crowd, by the gallon. Yes it’s a bit gritty but that’s what barbeque should be.
I have a tendency to hoard food. There’s no basis for this habit. I’ve always been well fed (too well fed as my scale sometimes notes) and never gone without, but for some reason I have this anxiety that if I eat it all, I can’t get it again. Maybe it happened when I started taking this locavore thing so seriously. The realization that strawberries can’t grow year round in the northeast. I need to get my fill while they’re in season, preserve their flavors as best I can and hunker down for a round 9 months without seeing them again. By the time strawberry season finishes, I’ve stuff myself so full I can’t imagine having even the smallest of berries. That lasts for about a month or so, then the cravings return with a vengeance. Preserving helps, knowing that I have fresh strawberry jam to last the winter puts me slightly at ease. Until it doesn’t. I only have 6 jars to survive the winter (let’s forget about the other few dozen types of jam I also have stored up in my pantry). I panick. Will they really last? So I ration myself, allowing myself only a small spoonful of the sweet chunky jam every few weeks, determined to make my inventory last. Fast forward 9 months later, as strawberries start to surface at the greenmarkets and I find myself still left with 4 jars. I’ve rationed too well and find myself pushing jars of jam on everyone I know (thanks for holding the subway door for me; here, have some homemade jam) so I can start fresh in the new season.