A Chili Recipe For When It Gets Chilly

Halloween chili 2022 with Fritos, cheese and onion

Like many other American homes, chili is a Halloween staple here at the house. Since the beginning of time, my mother made her chili recipe every Halloween. The tradition has been continued by the kids since leaving the nest. Friends and neighbors all know there will be a crock of chili at the Halloween party. Even if there wasn’t a gigantic party, chili would still be made. And chili when it’s chilly, is always a good way to start the season.

Disclaimer: This post could have been 3 times longer. There are a lot of variables to chili that can be waxed on about. Even though this post is long winded…it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Chile or chili?

Some have a chili recipe, and others have a secret chili recipe. Some open cans while others roast and de-seed whole chiles of unknown origin. Notice the spelling on the last chile. Being in Southern California, it has always been customary to use the Spanish spelling of the word. So a chile grown from a garden is spelled with an e. While chili in a pot, is spelled with an i. However it’s spelled; hopefully it’s being made every year or two. It’s a fun dish to make with innumerable varieties that are usually satisfying.

All the components for the 2013 chili. Very similar to 2022 chili.

The worst thing that can happen with chili is making it bland. It can’t really be over seasoned, which is part of it’s fun factor. Well…anything can have too much of something, but it’s hard to over do it with chili. One seasoning that shouldn’t be omitted in a tasty chili is an umami heavy flavor.

Umami is a good decision

(Umami ?) Yes, It’s been covered on this blog before. Any memorable chili recipe has some form of earthen savory flavor, or glutamate; whether you’re adding it knowingly or not. This year it was in the broth; 3 cans of Campbell’s Beef Consumé. My wife had randomly bought it a month earlier because it was on sale and seemed like a good pantry item. Since it needed some beef flavored salt, those cans seemed like a win. Last year it was beef bouillon cubes; and the year before that it was a couple packets of Goya seasoning. Every year is different but it always helps the end product.

Spices, onion, garlic and bacon getting browned up.
Chili From 2013 getting transferred to the fridge

Musgo, is the way to go

Chili recipes in my house tend to follow the *musgo* model; which means they’re never the same. One reason for that is; once cooking has started, going back to the store for something is not in the playbook. It’ll get a work around in some fashion, or a trip to the neighbors. In food, there is always another option if you know where to look. Therefore, chili in this house changes year to year. As does mood, the timeframe or goal for the bowl. Last year was hectic so that pot was an experimentally simple version. No extra effort ingredients like fresh onion or garlic, whole chilies or bacon. Just ground beef, canned tomato product, bouillon cubes and dry spices. It was great! But this year was more layered and complex with some fun additives.

Chili is built for fun additives. Hot sauce, unexpected spices, chocolate, alcohol, varied meats and veggies. Then you have the option for toppings and all the complications they can bring. It’s really all beautifully endless.

Magic in the musgo

Musgo this year might be “must use again” next year. There was some frozen browned up beef fat trimmings and homemade hot sauce amalgamation; both of which will be hard to replicate next year. The browned beef fat was ground up in a food processor and added to the bacon to melt away. Another cool secret that is now “The way,” is grilling the meat. Fresh ground beef made into hamburger patties and grilled; just enough to get some grill flavor.

So if you have never made a pot of red. Carve out a day when you have some time, grab a soda and crank some tunes. Go get some chile, preferably when it’s chilly, and have some creative fun making chili.

*Whatever you have in the pantry or fridge that must go, or has been around for awhile.

Barcelona St. Chili 2022

3lbs good ground beef from a butcher (80/20)

2lbs ground pork

5-7 guajillo chilies, tops and seeds removed

5-7 California chiles, tops and seeds removed (use New Mexico for a spicy pot)

1/3c raisins

3/4 lb bacon, chopped up

1/2lb browned beef fat trimmings with a couple tablespoons beef fat, minced

1tsp chile de arbol or cayenne

4-5c diced onion

1/3c minced garlic

1c…maybe more, ground cumin

3 cans Campbell’s beef Bouillon

1/2c smoked paprika

1-2T oregano

2 large dried avocado leaves

1-2″ cinnamon stick

1T sugar

1 tsp salt

1/4c amazing hot sauce

*3/4lb each, dried black beans and pinto beans, soaked overnight* 

*1lb dried kidney beans, soaked overnight*

1qt canned whole tomatoes, roughly chopped (almost 2 large cans worth, strained)

1/4-1/3c cornstarch, mixed with some water to dissolve

Form patties and season the meat with salt and pepper, then grill over flame driven grill, (not in a pan or grill where the flames don’t hit the meat). Also, start and continue with a hot grill. You are looking for lot’s of grilled flavor but not overly charred or burned burgers. You also don’t need it cooked all the way through. Afterward, let it cool and use your hands to break it up into the proper texture.

Cover all the seeded chiles and raisins with boiling water for 10-20 minutes, then puree everything in a blender.

Cook, render and brown the bacon. Before it gets too brown, add in the beef fat to toast. Add the cayenne to toast for 20-30 seconds then remove about 1c of fat from the mixture into a large sauté pan. Use that to sauté the onions until they are cooked though and a little browned.

Stir in the garlic for a minute or two then add the cumin. Cook, toss and stir for a minute then remove from the heat.

Put the bacon fat mixture back on the heat. Once hot, add the pureed chile. Cook as much as possible without destroying your stovetop from all the splatter. Any amount is good, but frying that chile a bit is best. Once your patience is gone, add in the onion mixture along with all remaining ingredients, sans the cornstarch. Cover with water by a couple inches and bring to a boil.

Simmer for a few hours and taste for seasoning, then stir in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil again. Stir while boiling to emulsify in the fat.

*Yes, add beans. Get outta here with the no beans in chili bs. Chili with only meat is a meat sauce or “chile con carne,” not a balanced bowl of love with varied texture and flavor.

2022 chili before the fat gets emulsified in. Btw…that pot holds 3 1/2 gallons :-)

Classic and Perfect

Salmon is a rarity on my menus. It’s a Tuesday night dinner item that many people cook for themselves. As a personal Chef in San Diego, it is my mission to give the diner something new. What better way to do something new, than to double or triple down on the classics; or the “assumed” knowns. This first entrée for a group of 8 is just that. Salmon, shrimp, chimichurri and polenta. All known classic items you see on menus everywhere. But if I can make your eyes roll backward with these seemingly pedantic recipes, then we are all winning.

Attention to simplicity

All it takes to make food delicious is to cook it perfectly. A simple to understand rule but not always easily achieved. Lets take a look at polenta. Coarsely ground cornmeal cooked with water (and maybe some milk) with a pinch of salt until the cornmeal has softened. Then hit it with one or multiple dairy fats of your choice. Serve immediately or chill, slice and brown. But this polenta picture above is 90% fresh corn. Using fresh corn kicks up the bright summer vibe and adds diversion from the classic. Cooked, puréed, cooked again and hit with more corn and a solid hit of butter. It’s marvelous.

Salmon follows the same rule as most fish; buy as fresh as possible and don’t overcook. I usually broil most thick pieces of fish. Pan searing stinks up the house and grilled can be dicey in terms of sticking to the grate. Getting color on fish is also not always best for flavor. If I’m eating shrimp cold, I like it poached and chilled. Otherwise, I utilize the grill. Often marinated and usually brined, it’s important to apply some char on marinated shrimp. (Any marinated protein for that matter.) That char is another layer that helps pull this dish into the summer spotlight as the shrimp are tossed into the chimichurri; allowing juices and maillard love to imbue. These attributes also focus regional flavors that can be expected from a San Diego personal Chef.

Not salsa verde

Chimichurri is common in restaurants, and for good reason. Herbs, chile, acidulation, pungent alliums and rich olive oil. But in most restaurants, it’s usually the same green, purée akin to a Mexican verde sauce in terms of look and flavor, and is often underwhelming. My chimi is all done on the board with a knife, allowing layers of flavor to shine instead of muddling together into ambiguity.

Always Grilling, and Photos When I Can

Achiote and orange grilled pork loin with fresh grits, blackened chile and peanut green beans with pickled strawberries

Grilling Is Essential

Most parties get a grilled item or two. The only time I don’t grill something is when I don’t have a working grill. We all have a little caveman in us, so fire charred items on any menu are a must. It allows for a smokey counterpoint that tickles the parietal lobe in the most wonderfully familiar way. It’s also a way for me to Maillard the hell out of things without sending your smoke alarm into a tizzy.

Bringing The Dish Together

Below is a classic dish and photo for Chef Joshua Alkire, (me).The dish is classic and still original, balanced in texture and flavor, and familiar yet peculiar. The dish is part of the menu from my last post. Tikka masala swordfish with banana roasted mashed potatoes and a za’atar grilled carrot. As with all of my food, everything is always from scratch. I start with spices that are toasted and ground; then add in yogurt, lemon, olive oil, garlic and ginger Use this to marinate the sword fish, then grill to perfection.

Grilling swordfish can yield a dry piece of meat if your not careful. Luckily…I’m careful. Fresh fish is pricey so I can’t screw it up. Before you get to grilling the fish, the sauce needs to come together. That starts with caramelized onion, garlic, ginger, spices and tomato paste, added in their appropriate succession. Water to cook for awhile, then hit with some cream and mount it all with a pat of butter before service.

Next are the banana roasted potatoes: Potatoes, garlic, shallots and herbs are roasted until they are perfectly browned and ready for dinner. But then I top it with sliced bananas and broil until caramelized. While still hot, everything gets transferred to a bowl and mashed with butter and cream. Not mashing totally, as we need to leave some roasted potato texture. I like the combination of banana and potato over the use of plantains. It gives us a layered effect of savory and sweet that is more dynamic than the flavor plantains provide.

Photos Are Hard

The photo is classic because, as per usual it looks unassuming. Often times I am missing a garnish that really makes photography pop. Photos for me are truly difficult. The dish I just walked you through is just another course, and all courses have multiple steps. Then I’m getting these to the table while still hot and doing dishes in between. So leaving time to take pictures is often impossible. Especially good pictures with dynamic angles and perfect lighting.

Something New Is The Norm

French onion soup poaching ribeye sashimi with a sautéed mushroom flauta dipper

Before first bite, nervous doubt can hover in the kitchen. It can feel a little uneasy not choosing your menu, or not knowing what you’re getting for dinner that evening. Especially from a guy you’ve never met. I understand the trepidation, but the method exists for a reason.

Not having a pre-planned menu isn’t based on ego or laziness. It’s about freedom, expression, spontaneity and duty. Freedom to choose foods that are exciting or beautiful. Expression because food is art. Spontaneity to choose new ingredients or switch directions and trust my instincts. Then duty; the duty I have to you, the client. The duty to reward your trust and make sure you’re presented with an amazing product. I guess ego is in there to a point because I don’t want to let you down. Or allow you to feel regretful of not going with a chef that manages things a little more traditionally. Just rest assured: Wherever the party, I’m looking to impress.

Garlic kale and zucchini noodles with roasted tomatoes

Although I reside in La Mesa, the menu listed below was for a La Jolla based client. Because I want people to experience something different. I try to stay playful, for all our benefit.

Gorgonzola wrapped red grapes coated with toasted walnuts and vinaigrette
Seared green tomato and seared mozzarella with balsamic/honey arugula
Swordfish tikka masala with banana roasted mashed potatoes and za’atar grilled carrot
Garlic kale and zucchini salad with roasted tomato, fresh herbs and fried oregano
French onion soup over rib-eye “sashimi” with mushroom flauta and a side of grilled rib-eye
Toasted almond and coconut macaroon with fresh lemon curd, strawberries and rhubarb

Always with a Smile

Excited to get going, about 30 minutes before go time

2022 has been a whirlwind. My small covid era parties of 2-4 guests have returned to the normal 6-12 count. With the larger groups of 15-17 back on the coast renting rad houses for supreme parties. Combining that with my kids in little league, I look back and can’t believe summer is upon us. Not much has changed over the years, I still love cooking for private parties and bringing the highlights of each season to the table. Always focused on inspiration and bringing unexpected creativity to every dinner…with a smile.

For instance: The orange sauce in the metal bowl pictured to the left is a roasted honey nut squash vinaigrette that went underneath a celery root, apple and kohlrabi salad with fresh pickled beets. Shown below is Fresh yellow fin sashimi with almond/Fresno chile chimichurri with aligot potatoes.

Courses like these come from taking what the season, market and weather tell me. Menus are not pre-planned so I am never bound to just my thoughts in front of a screen. I can smell, see and touch what I choose before I commit. More to come soon, stay tuned!

Just Getting Started in 2022

This year is off to a smashing start, and the starters have been smashing.

Classic crab cake with pickled blackberry and cucumber over honey/Dijon/thyme sauce

Fulfilling menu requests is something that keeps me fired up. The need to deliver on someone’s request is my favorite pressure. Food memories are strong, and I want to be a part of that. Producing a perfect version of something is always part of a chefs journey. Especially classics, recipes that (for whatever reason) don’t get much play as time ticks by. But…they’re classics for a reason, so it’s always fun to be reminded of them. Like that crake cake above. A lovely starter, made in the traditional manner, updated with some bright pickles and complimented with a familiar but intriguing little sauce.

The star of this years starters were these rolled tacos…

Fresh Yellowfin tuna with pickled cucumber brunoise, chives, and black caraway stuffed into fried corn tortilla shells and served with a ginger/sesame/chile soy dipping sauce. The combination of sushi/Mexican/crunchy/soft/familiar/new, was a bit of a homerun.

Relaxing Is Autumn-atic

We spent the summer getting sun kissed, eating watermelon and grilling. Now the air is crisp, blankets are back strewn over the family room and a warm bowl of soup is a welcome familiar hug.

Grilled romanesco and yellow cauliflower with smoky achiote aioli.

I’m not gonna wax on but gosh darn…I love me some chill in the air. As a chef that fly’s by the seat of the seasons. There is a big exhale at the end of each one as the new seasons ingredients come into play. Away with the cucumbers and zucchini while welcoming large squashes and sweet root veggies. Stone fruits are now only in jams and fresh pears are sparkling with personality. And of course we can’t forget chili. An October staple in many an American household, ours is no different. I make chili every year for Halloween (just as my mom did), and I have never not made it. It’s never the same and always an usually obscene amount. If it doesn’t get torched that first week using it for breakfast lunch and dinners, then we’re always happy freezing it and revisiting bowl in January.

Thanksgiving-Super bowl is usually a whirlwind for me, there are parties to work and parties to attend. When I’m not doing that I’ll be snuggling down with a righteous bowl of soup and a fire. I hope everyone has a safe, fulfilling and memorable holiday season.

Summer, Summer, Summertime

“Time to sit back and unwind”

Maybe not for me…but the Fresh Prince had it right for you. San Diego is a great city for fun and relaxation. Double down on that with a personal chef preparing a summer dinner. Then you’ll bring everyone to another level of contentedness. I find time for myself in the summer as well; but I always strive to cook a memorable dinner with no hassle for you, from introduction to dessert.

About a month ago I cooked for a couple celebrating their anniversary. While 99% of my parties are fun, every now and then there are people who stand out with just a little more sparkle. The vibrancy of two people in love after 10 plus years is always fulfilling to witness. I am luckily in that category, but it’s still always fun to be around.

The pictures show courses 2 and 5 of 8. The first is brassica and spring onions: Butter roasted brussels sprouts and spring onion with poached kohlrabi and kohlrabi leaf nage. Using all components of a vegetable like the kohlrabi is a lot like using the whole chicken instead of just the breast. The course pictured below is righteously grilled prime ribeye with grilled maitake mushroom, fresh parmesan heavy gnocchi and porcini and white wine broth lifted with a little butter. Some courses tend to want another component to bring it all together. Or something added as a garnish for optimal photography. But not having redundancy in flavor from course to course is crucial. So, while this steak dish could have been garnished with herb fried, julienned carrots. Those flavors were already purposed in the salad course. It’s all a fun balancing act.

April 2021 Is Bringing the Love

April in San Diego tends to produce spectacular weather. This year is no different; with people consciously getting back to life out of the house, April is shining even brighter than normal and making our ability to love easier than ever.

Although some kids have been in classrooms for awhile, mine are just getting back. Which is a gigantic breath of fresh air. Just like it’s nice to get away from home, it’s nice for the daily separation of kids and parents to resume. It frees our minds to concentrate on other things. So when we come back together, our love and attention is free flowing.

Recently my family ordered in sushi for dinner, (Narumi). It was on point as usual, but it also led me to a fun and unexpected inspiration. For my dinner party the next evening, I landed on a sushi-esque preparation for salad.

Over the years, there has always been an element of pride I take in veggie preparations and salads. My belief is that a positive food memory contains balance. Overlooking those herbivorous courses will take you right out of flavor town and lost down fail sauce river. Veggie rolls of varying concepts have been created over the years, with good success. Not something I do for large parties because it is time consuming. But this one is just fire. Texturally and gustatorily, it weaves in new interest with every bite. Carrot, celeriac and zucchini make up the wrapper, while the filling is turnip, apple, avocado and mixed herbs. Everything comes together with a rich but restrained almond/ginger dressing.

So cheers to Spring and getting back into life. While you’ll most likely only see this salad on this blog page. There are other culinary creations to be conjured for your pleasure…and conjure them, I will.

The Best Meal of 2020 Is A Sandwich

It started from a Saveur magazine article that blipped through my news feed. I’m a sucker for an epic sandwich, especially one with a cultural anchor somewhere; so I read on. This French/Caribbean masterpiece that found it’s way to Guadalupe is called Bokit. The bread base is nothing new to our culinary world, yeast leavened fry bread has been done before in various parts of the world. I’ve been making different versions of loukamades for a couple decades, but I guess those are closer to doughnuts. Now that I think about it…most fry breads are soda leavened and most places don’t fry naan. Regardless…I never made it into a sandwich, and I definitely never made this sandwich. Another magical creation stemming from random ingredient leftovers; a *Musgo if you will. Rutabaga, mint, un-ripened strawberries, peppers, lettuce, carrot…

Slicing the fresh Bokit bread
Carnitas to get this train rolling

Topping the carnitas with fresh rutabaga/mint slaw

A layer of chipotle lime baja sauce.
Not tossing it into the slaw adds a layer of depth and keeps the slaw texture.

Ending it with pickled peppers and strawberries

My wife was skeptical about the strawberries, but they were essential to the moan inducing creation; as were all the ingredients. This sandwich is a microcosm of my food. Lot’s of unexpected flavors and textures bludgeoning you with pleasure until you have no choice but to close your eyes, let out a moan of ecstasy and try to comprehend the feeling you have been enlightened to. Wondering if what you just experienced was legal.

*anything in the fridge that “Must Go”