Short Rib Chili with Roasted Poblano Peppers

Winner, 2014 Willowsford Chili Cook-Off

For the Short Ribs

  • 4 lbs’ beef short ribs (look for the ones with the most meat)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2+ cans of Corona light
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
  • 2 bay leaves

Brown the beef:  Make sure the meat is dry, and sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Heat 3 Tablespoons canola oil in a dutch oven or stockpot to medium-high.  You may have to use 2 separate pots.  When the oil is heated, add the short ribs and sear them on all sides for 5 minutes per side.

Add flavor and braise:  Remove seared short ribs from pot and add red onion. Reduce heat to low-medium.  Season with Kosher salt and saute for 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Add beer and stir, loosening up any brown bits stuck on the bottom of the pan. Add mexican oregano and bay leaves, and return short ribs to the pot. Make sure the short ribs are almost completely submerged by the beer and add more if you need to.

Bring pot to a boil, then turn down heat to maintain a simmer. Cover with lid and simmer for 3-4 hours, until the meat is fork tender and slides easily off the bone. Remove short ribs from pan and let cool, and then shred the meat with your fingers, removing as much fat as possible.

For the Chili

  • 6 poblano peppers whole
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 3 medium red onions, diced
  • 2 jalapeños, seeds removed, finely chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ lb+ lean ground beef
  • 1 Tablespoon each:  garlic powder, onion powder, ancho chile powder, regular chile powder, Mexican oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 bottle of Corona light
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 x 15 oz  fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 x 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 x 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 3 x 15 oz cans of beans – 1 each of black, pinto and kidney 

 Roast the poblano peppers:  Turn on your oven broiler to low.   Put the peppers  on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle them with canola oil and season with Kosher salt. Place baking sheet on top rack in your oven and let peppers broil, about 7 minutes per side, turning with tongs. Make sure you get them fully black & blistered on all sides. Remove from oven, put them in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.  This will loosen the skin.  Peel off the skin and ditch the seeds (unless you want ridiculously spicy chili).  Chop into 1/2″ pieces.

Saute the veggies and beef:  While poblanos are roasting, heat 3 tablespoons canola oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Once hot, add red bell peppers, red onions, and jalapeños, and season generously with Kosher salt.  Saute until the vegetables are softened, usually 7-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ground beef, stirring and breaking it down into bite-sized pieces as it cooks. Season with Kosher salt.

Bring it all together:  Once the ground beef is browned, add in all the spices (garlic powder, onion powder, chile powders, cocoa powder, Mexican oregano, black pepper, and cumin), stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add beer, chicken stock, fire roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and beans. Stir and season with Kosher salt. Bring chili to almost a boil, then turn down heat to maintain a simmer and let cook for as long as possible, at least 3 hours.  Add in the diced roasted poblano peppers and shredded braised short rib meat once they are done cooking.

Best bet is to cook the chili in the morning, let it simmer for 4-5 hours, then shut off the heat for a couple of hours.  You can even put the pot outside if it’s cold.   Then an hour before it’s time to heat, put it back on the stove and re-heat.


Lobster Burgers

The Lobster Burger

Inspired by Michel Richard Citronelle lobster burgers (as close as I can come to replicating).  Makes 4 burgers.   These are not the mayonnaise-y lobster rolls you might associate with the Northeast U.S.  More like pure lobster bliss on a hamburger bun.  Working with lobster meant can be time-consuming and expensive, but anyone who has ever had these at Citronelle will tell you it’s worth it.

  • 4 1b lobsters (1 lb lobster= ¼ lb lobster meat)
  • 1/4 pound scallops
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, cut into 4 slices
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon peeled and grated ginger
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 brioche buns

Cook the lobster meat
Preferred method:  Using a large, heavy chef’s knife, slice the live lobsters down the middle.  Remove the tails and claws (including knuckles).  Cook the claws first, for 6 minutes in a large pot of boiling salted water.  Transfer to ice bath.  Then boil the tails for 4 minutes and transfer to ice bath.  If you really love working with lobster shells, you can cook the legs, too.  The leg meat is good for binding the burgers, but this adds a lot of time and effort for not a lot of extra meat.

If you aren’t comfortable stabbing a live animal to death, then just boil the lobsters whole, and then transfer to ice bath.  When cool, remove the tails and claws, discarding the bodies.

Extract the meat from the knuckles, claws and tails.  Chop into various-sized pieces, some big chunks as well as some smaller pieces to help with binding.  Set aside and keep cool.

Make the lobster patties
In a food processor, puree the scallops for a few seconds until smooth. Stir in 2 tablespoons of milk. Fold the scallop mixture into the lobster meat. Season with salt and pepper.  Optional – fold in some sliced basil or scallions for color.  Divide the mixture evenly and mold into 4 lightly packed patties.  Keep cold until ready to cook and eat.

Roasted Tomato slices
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Set the tomato slices on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with garlic and sugar, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil (Basil oil if you like). Cook for 10-15 minutes and cool.

Ginger mayonnaise
In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, soy sauce, and ginger.  Keep cool until ready to eat.

Cook the burgers
In a pan over medium heat, sautee the patties in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until golden, about 5 minutes on each side.

Split the buns and sprinkle with the remaining olive oil. Lightly toast. Serve the burgers with a slice of tomato and the ginger mayonnaise.

No-Ricotta Lasagna

This is an evolution of an old family recipe for lasagna.  The key twist is that it skips the typical ricotta-based cheese mixture, and instead uses a bechamel sauce coupled with Fontina and Mozzarella cheeses. The result is a creamier lasagna with nice  sausage slices to add some zing.

This recipe makes 2 large pans of lasagna, enough for many people…

Red Sauce

  • 2 large yellow Onions, diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 T salt
  • 1 T cracked pepper
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 28 oz cans Crushed tomatoes (San Marzano)
  • 2 lbs Spicy Italian sausage (Turkey or pork)
  • Dried herbs – Oregano, Basil, Parsley

Brown the sausage, remove and drain, but leave bits on pan bottom.  Saute the onions and garlic in the same pan.  Add tomatoes and herbs, salt, pepper, and sugar.  When sausages have cooled, slice thinly and add to sauce.  Simmer to incorporate flavors for 2 hours or more.

Bechamel Sauce

  • 2 cups Butter
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1-2 quarts lowfat Milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Make a light roux by melting butter then gradually adding in flour.  After whisking for a few minutes, begin adding milk, continuing to whisk until it is a consistent texture.  Add nutmeg at end to season.

Other components

  • 2 lbs Fontina cheese, grated
  • 1.5 lbs Mozzarella Cheese, grated
  • 2/3 lb Parmesagn-Reggiano, freshly grated
  • Good lasagna noodles – I prefer the square delverde no boil type


Spray bottom and sides of pan with Pam to make cleanup easier.  Put a little sauce on bottom, then noodles, then red sauce, a little bechamel, and fontina and mozzarella cheeses. Repeat with noodles, red sauce, béchamel and cheese.  Continue to layer, finishing with cheeses on top.  Sprinkle a little bit of the grated parmesagn to finish.

Cover with aluminum foil sprayed with Pam to keep it from sticking.  It takes a good 45-60 minutes at 375 degrees.  Let sit 15 minutes before serving.

Oven Fries with Bacon and Scallion Dressing

These may be oven fries, but they get a nice boost from the bacon and bacon dressing. Use your judgment when cooking the dressing – if it seems too thick, you can add some water; or if it’s a bit runny, add in some olive oil. This serves 4+ people family style.

  • 3 lbs large Russet potatoes
  • ½ lb thick bacon, like Whole Foods dry slab bacon
  • 1 bunch of scallions (green onions), both white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar

Peel potatoes, and cut lengthwise into spears, approximately ½ inch wide, or to taste.  Soak in cold water for 10 minutes, then drain and pat dry.

While potatoes are soaking, cook bacon until crispy, and remove from pan. Crumble when bacon is cooled.

Reserve 1/3 cup of bacon fat for dressing (leave in pan), and toss the remainder with the fries.  Toss in a little salt and pepper, and arrange fries in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, turning once or twice to prevent burning.  They are done when they have a little crispness on the outside. 

When fries are almost finished, re-heat the pan with the bacon fat, add shallots and sauté lightly, 3-4 minutes. Add salt, pepper, sherry vinegar, and crumbled bacon. Cook for 2 minutes longer, and then stir in all of the white scallion slices and 75% of the green scallion slices. Remove from heat.

Place cooked fries in serving bowl, and toss with dressing from the pan. Sprinkle remaining scallion slices on top and serve family style.

Sausage and Apple Turkey Stuffing

This is a modernized version of a classic turkey stuffing.  The sweetness of the caramelized apples coupled with spicy sausage is a nice combo, and goes great with turkey.  As far as serving goes, some people like to stuff it in the bird and bake, others prefer to just put it in a pan and cook separately — up to you.  This makes enough for 8 people, with leftovers.

  • 4 Apples, cubed
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 cup Bourbon (Jack works fine)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 lbs Spicy Italian Sausage
  • 2 white onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 t Salt
  • 2 t Pepper
  • 1 loaf of stale French bread, cut into cubes
  • 4-6 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Caramelize the apples: Melt butter on low heat, then add apples. After 10 minutes add brown sugar and Bourbon. Continue to cook on low heat for 20-30 minutes, until caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cook Sausage and vegetables: In a Dutch oven or large pan over medium heat, brown the sausage and break up with a wooden spoon as it is cooking, allowing juices to spill out. When sausage is thoroughly cooked, remove sausage and keep warm, but leave juices in pan. Add onions, garlic, and bell pepper to pan, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until wilted, about 6-8 minutes.

Add stock, bread and combine: Add chicken stock to pan, along with 2/3 of bread cubes, parsley and salt/pepper to taste, mix to absorb and simmer to reduce to a thick, almost gooey consistency, or whatever you like. Cut sausage into bite-size pieces and return to pan. Mix in egg. When stock is absorbed, remove from heat, and mix in apples and remaining bread cubes.

Bake: Place remaining stuffing in ovenproof pan to be baked for 30-45 minutes at 350.

Pear Souffle

Pear Souffle

Souffles can be intimidating, but if you just break them down into a few simple components and steps, they are a breeze. Most dessert soufflés really just have two main parts – the base (flavoring component), and the meringue (whipped egg whites and sugar that make it puff up).

The pear soufflé is a good one because pears make an elegant dessert in any fashion, and there’s a very good chance that none of your guests will have ever had it before. It’s great with a crème anglaise, or you could do a cheese plate (think gorgonzola…). Or do it straight up with a nice dessert wine.

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar + 1 T per souffle
  • 2-3 ripe sweet pears, peeled, pitted, chopped—must be ripe
  • 1/2 cup sparkling wine
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (I like Mexican vanilla)
  • 1 shot of Poire William liqueur (optional, b/c it’s so hard to find)
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 4 egg whites

Prep: Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Prep four eight-ounce ramekins by lightly rubbing butter along the insides. Sprinkle with sugar to coat.

The Base: Saute the chopped pear in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the sparkling wine, honey, and vanilla.  Bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, or until the pear chunks are cooked down to a thick purée.  Remove from heat.

Put the puree in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour the purée through a wire mesh sieve over a bowl.  You will have to work it through the sieve with the back of a spoon or spatula. Whisk in the egg yolks.  You can add the Poire William if you have it. Set this aside. (This can be done in advance, and refrigerated).

The Meringue: Whisk the egg whites in a mixer until they begin to stiffen.  Add the sugar, continue whipping until you get just stiff peaks. Don’t over whip.

Fold ¼ or so of the meringue into the purée mixture to lighten it.  Then fold in the rest of the egg whites.  Spoon some into each of the ramekin, but DO NOT overfill. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven.  Bake for 10-14 minutes until the soufflés have risen and are slightly brown on top. Give them time to really rise up high.

Serve immediately.

Optional variation: Slice a pear ¼ inch thick, poach lightly in champagne and butter, then place one slice of pear on the bottom of each ramekin before pouring in the mixture.

Tuna Burgers Citronelle-Style

Tuna Burgers Citronelle-Style

One of (if not the) top restaurants in D.C. is Michel Richard Citronelle. On the bar menu is the well-known tuna burger – easily the best I’ve ever had. It’s kind of like a seared tuna tartare on a bun with some wasabi mayo and a basil-infused tomato. This is inspired by that, but with a few little tweaks of my own. The one thing I haven’t figured out is how to do the paper thin potato crisps, but otherwise, it’s pretty close. If you know somewhere to buy fresh brioche rolls, get them for this. Otherwise, try a potato roll or other soft roll. For the true Citronelle experience, make French fries by cooking them 3 times in clarified butter! This recipe makes four good-sized burgers.

Tuna Burger:

  • 1.5 lbs Sushi-grade tuna, trimmed to remove any sinew
  • 3 Tablespoons finely chopped scallions
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • Pinch of cayenne, to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper Vegetable oil
  • 4 soft buns or dinner rolls, lightly toasted

Dice the tuna, making some of it very small dice, and leaving some coarser and uneven. In a chilled bowl, mix the tuna with scallions, ginger, mustard, soy, cayenne, and salt/pepper. Divide the mixture into four parts, and form into balls. Then pat them flat, about 1-inch thick. Chill for 30 minutes.

Heat a dry large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Pour enough oil into pan to just cover the surface but not too much. Gently place the patties in the pan, and cook for 1-2 minutes on the first side, then flip and cook for 1-2 minutes on the second side. Remove immediately from the pan.

Wasabi Mayonnaise:

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 T wasabi powder
  • 1 T fresh lime juice

Mix the powder with water to form a paste, then blend into the mayonnaise and lime juice. Can be made ahead.

Basil Oil (if you don’t have it store-bought)

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Large handful of basil leaves

Pour the olive oil and basil leaves into blender, puree until smooth. Transfer to small bowl, or ideally, an empty diner-style ketchup dispenser.

Basil-infused tomatoes

  • 1 beefsteak tomato
  • ¼ cup basil oil

Slice the tomato very thinly. Lay slice on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil, and cover with basil oil. Bake at 275 for 5 minutes. Let cool.


Put wasabi mayonnaise on both sides of the bun. Place a tomato slice on the bottom bun, and place the tuna burger on top of the tomato. Drizzle a little basil oil on top of the tuna burger and cover with the bun top.