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Spicy Chili Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

I’m a film editor and several times over the span of my career, I’ve thought about moving from New York City where I was born, to Los Angeles. Many of my friends and colleagues have done it, and most of them love it there.

It’s so beautiful, they say. True, I’ve been and it’s very pretty. There’s a lot more work and for the price of a Brooklyn studio, you can buy a three bedroom house with an avocado tree in the back! All true and, yes, this makes me jealous. And the best part? It’s warm all the time and it never rains! Aaaaaand you’ve lost me. 

For me, one of the great joys of life is feeling the crisp, cool air of Fall. When the weather turns it feels like a shock, every time. Even better if that cool air comes with a blustery rain storm. The type of weather that practically forces you to cook something warm and comforting. To stay home and watch movies or play video games all day. (Nerd note: Matt and I are re-playing “The Last of Us” and, oh my god, it’s so good).

When I heard it was going to turn cold and rainy last weekend, I knew right away what I wanted to make; spicy chili with all sorts of yummy toppings stuffed inside a baked sweet potato.

Chili Spices

The chili is flavored with cumin, two types of chili powder, jalapeños, garlic and dark chocolate. Also maple syrup and beer, not shown.

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Xi’an-style Smashed Cumin Lamb Burgers with Creamy Herb SauceI’m aware that there’s a very good chance you’re thinking, ‘Okay, fine. That’s a decent looking burger but what the bloody hell is this ‘Xi’an-style-smashed-cumin’ business all about? Can’t anything just be normal anymore? And I want to drink out of a GLASS, not a damn jelly jar, dangit!’

I’m not sure why I’m imagining you as a crotchety old man but let’s just roll with it, Grampa. I know this burger might sound a little … fancy-pants but honestly, it’s really just plain, old tasty.

For a little background, Xi’an is the capital city of Shaanxi province in northwestern China and dishes called ‘Xi’an-style’ are usually lamb-based and heavily seasoned with cumin and other spices. A few years ago, one of the most popular dishes in New York City was the Cumin Lamb with Noodles from a  restaurant called Xi’an Famous Foods in Flushing, Queens. I never had a chance to try it so when I saw this recipe by Peter Meehan from Lucky Peach in the New York Times, I knew I wanted to make a version of it.

I changed the recipe just a little, adding a bit of mustard and brown sugar to give a bit of extra savoriness and added a fresh, bright herb sauce to go on top. In the burger, the main flavor components are what you’ll find in just about all Xi’an-style recipes, whether it’s a stir fry, noodle dish or burger: ground cumin, Sichuan peppercorns and dried chili.

Sichuan peppercorns, Cumin and Red Chili Flakes

Sichuan Peppercorns, cumin and red chili flakes add tons of flavor and a little heat.

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It’s a shame about toffee apples, it really is. In theory, I ought to love them.

There’s the toffee, which, as our Ultimate English Toffee recipe proves, we’re all about. I have no problem with the toffee.

There are the apples – and who doesn’t like apples? Your basic apple is basically the perfect snack – you can eat it on the go without getting your hands covered in crumbs, it’s got plenty of natural fiber, vitamins and that, they’re available pretty much all year round no matter where you live.

And there’s the stick, to hold it with. (Don’t eat the stick.)

Toffee apples – those of a more American persuasion might be more familiar with them as “candy apples” – are a mainstay of Autumn, and the first hints of autumnal flavors in our cooking always give me a frisson of delight (no, Pumpkin Spice Latte, I am definitely NOT looking at you). But a toffee apple just leaves me cold.

So why am I banging on about toffee apples if I don’t even like them that much? And what’s that picture of a cake doing at the top of this post?

Toffee-Apple Sour Cream Cake

These Honeycrisp apples (the large ones) are tart and hold their shape when cooked.

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Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and BasilEven though we are now fully immersed in September, in our neck of the woods yesterday was actually the hottest day of the year so far. The thermometer that we keep by the chicken coop was up to 99ºF (37ºC) by noon, and stayed there until way past dark. Not to sound like a whiner, but that meant that our kitchen was hotter than a three dollar pistol and it was seriously messing with my plans. See, I had been dreaming about making this chicken all summer, and I had already bought all the ingredients that I couldn’t pick from the garden so I just decided to make it anyway, inferno be damned.

This chicken is kind of a variation on one of my favorite dishes of all time, Chicken with Lime, Garlic and Cilantro. It has the same incredible combination of crispy skin and tender meat that is just so damn good. But instead of the latin influence, this version is like a summer vacation in Italy, with the flavors of lemon, garlic and fresh basil.

Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Basil Read More →

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Dear reader, or indeed, readers: You may, singularly or en masse, have become increasingly concerned at the startling lack of chicken-related news in this blog. It is possible, but admittedly not likely, that you are of a nervous disposition, and have been unable to reconcile the existence of a “Chickens” menu with the non-existence of any news or updates regarding them. Well, my anxious friend, this post is for you.

We started out almost exactly two years ago with four red sex-link pullets. Since then, we have gained two Ameraucanas – one of which turned out to be a rooster and had to be “returned to the farm”. I don’t know why I put that phrase in quotes, he literally was returned to the farm. To, you know, “live out his life in the paddock”. What? It’s the quotes, they make everything look suspicious. Anyway, the farmer promised to “take care of him”, so I’m sure everything’s fine. Just fine.

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Shrimp and Corn Coconut Curry with NoodlesWhile I love hot dogs and hamburgers and all those great American summer favorites, I find that by August I’m actually kind of bored of them. That’s when I crave something completely different, something that will wake my tastebuds right up.

Something like this fiery red curry, made silky by coconut milk and topped with lots of bright herbs like mint, basil and cilantro. We made it with wild-caught North Carolina white shrimp because they looked amazing at the market but you could easily swap them out for chicken thighs or breasts (cut into large bite-sized chunks), tofu, even chickpeas would be a delicious vegan option.

Sweet corn is in peak season right now and while it lasts I add it to just about everything, but it really does work incredibly well here. Corn and shrimp are a classic pairing but with the curry sauce, it’s crazy good. If fresh corn is not in season, frozen works perfectly well, too.Shrimp and Corn Coconut Curry with Noodles Read More →

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