The Indiana State Fair

If you haven’t made it to the Indiana State Fair yet this year, there is still time. By the time this posts, there will be five big days yet to go (it ends August 18).

Hear about my visit to the fair on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, HERE.

And if you miss out this year, you can rest assured that each summer brings a new opportunity to take in the fair and all its attractions–the 4-H competitions, music performances, agricultural displays and equipment, the Pioneer Village, the circus, the midway, the food….

Yes, it’s the food that is the main attraction for many fair-goers. Barbecued turkey legs, pork burgers, pork chops, beef rib-eyes, deep-fried pork tenderloin, deep fried (fill-in-the-blank), elephant ears, funnel cakes, ice cream, sweet corn, gyros, kabobs, and on and on… A page on the Indiana State Fair website features all the “new foods” at this year’s fair!

I always try to have an elephant ear at the fair. For those unfamiliar with this staple of the midway (anyone?), it’s a flat disc of yeast dough stretched like a pizza crust, deep fried and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. I missed out this year due to extenuating circumstances. I spent the day judging a barbecue cook-off and thus had no appetite for an elephant ear. Well, it’s something to look forward to next year.

Speaking of the barbecue cook-off, it’s put on at the State Fair every year by Shoup’s Country Foods. This year was the 10th annual competition. Congratulations to the overall champion team Gettin’ Piggy With It! See more on the Shoup’s Country Facebook page.

At this year’s fair, I made a point to spend some time in the Pioneer Village and learn a little about some of the old time cooking techniques. You can hear more about it on the new IHC Podcast episode here. Ever had cracklins? You’ll hear where they come from, plus other pioneer cooking tips and techniques in this episode.

I also met Jeanette Merritt of Indiana Pork, who shared a Tuscan Pork & Bean Salad during a cooking demonstration at the fair. She offered more pork cooking ideas on the podcast episode as well. Jeannette’s salad recipe is below, and more pork recipes are available at the Indiana Pork website.

A note about the man pictured below with no arms and tending the fire. He’s Jeffrey Scott and he’s volunteered at the State Fair Pioneer Village for most of his life. At a very young age he lost his arms in a tragic farm accident. But that didn’t slow him down. He was given the job of stirring the rendering pot when he was a young boy. And he can stir, even with no arms! He also is an accomplished wood crafter and carver.

 

Tuscan Pork & Bean Salad

ForkMorePork.com

  • 6 oz boneless pork loin, cooked, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 10 oz greens (Romaine, spinach, mixture)
  • 15 oz cannellini beans (or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained)
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

In a shallow serving bowl toss together all ingredients, except parmesan cheese, with dressing. Portion onto individual serving plates and top each with 1 T parmesan cheese. Makes 4 dinner-sized salad servings.

Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits

Professor Torbert Rocheford decided he wanted to help the world. Specifically, to help the poor in Africa improve their diets, and thus their nutrition, in order to save lives. That’s what started him on his mission to develop orange corn. The orange color comes from higher levels of carotenoids, like beta-carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A, which is lacking in the diets of many developing countries.

(Hear this podcast episode HERE.)

It’s not sweet corn, like what we eat right off the cob, that we are talking about. It’s field corn or “dent” corn, that grows on millions of acres here in Indiana and throughout the country. It is the corn that is processed into countless products like corn oil, cornflakes and other cereals, tortilla chips and other snack foods, corn syrup, feed for livestock, corn meal, and grits, to name just a few.

In its most basic milled form, as corn meal and grits (sometimes called polenta), it is a staple in the diets of many people in developing countries. Often eaten three times a day. So improving the nutritional value of such a crop can dramatically improve people’s health in these countries. And that is exactly what has happened in many countries of Africa where Dr. Rocheford’s orange corn has been adopted.

Dr. Torbert Rocheford holds the Patterson Endowed Chair in Purdue University’s Department of Agronomy. On the new episode of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, he discusses his work in breeding orange corn and how that lead to the marketing of Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits here in the U.S. That product is becoming a favorite of chefs and home cooks not only for its nutritional boost, but especially for its creamy corn flavor, and unique orange hue. And the orange corn for the grits is grown and processed here in the Hoosier State. Read more about the grits and the orange corn story here.

Helping him with Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits are his son, and co-founder, Evan Rocheford, and Torbert’s wife Katie, who has come up with some interesting uses for Orange Corn Grits. We hear from both of them in the episode as well. Listen here.

Thanks to all three Rochefords for allowing me to share the story of Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. It’s an important story of reaching out with a helping hand to those in need across the world, from right here in our Indiana Home.

Photo of Torbert & Evan by Rachel Sale.

*****

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Microwave Orange Corn Grits for One

Katie Rocheford

  • 1/3 cup Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits
  • 1 1/3 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp butter

Place all ingredients in a microwave safe cooking dish (about 6 cup capacity). Stir lightly, cover and cook in the microwave on high for 5-6 minutes depending on your microwave’s power. After cooking is complete, leave it covered and let it sit 2 minutes. Then stir thoroughly and serve. Extra butter, salt/pepper, milk or cream, etc. may be added as desired.

*****

Lemon Polenta Cookies

by Carrie Vasios Mullins

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

  • 1/2 cup uncooked polenta (or Orange Corn Grits)
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 T lemon zest
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice

Adjust oven rack to upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together polenta (or grits), flour, and salt, and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together sugar and butter till light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla . Add dry ingredients and beat until just incorporated. Stir in lemon juice and zest.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden, about 18 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on sheet, then transfer cookies to wire rack to finish cooling.

See recipe online here.

*****

Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits & Lemon Biscotti

by Katie Rocheford

  • 3/4 cup Orange Corn Grits
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 T lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Egg wash (one egg beaten with 1T water or half & half)
  • Sugar for sprinkling

Prepare grits: Grind grits in a blender until consistency of corn meal. Stir lemon juice and zest into grits and let sit 15 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350ºF.

Combine flour, salt, and soda in a medium bowl. Whisk together and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together thoroughly. Add eggs and beat well. Add grits mixture and mix well.

Stir flour mixture into butter mixture by hand until just mixed. Shape and roll dough into 2 logs about 12″ long and 3″ to 4″ wide. (If dough is sticky, flour your hands and sprinkle flour on countertop for easier handling. Or dough can be refrigerated until firm enough to handle.)

Transfer logs to prepared baking sheet, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 350º about 30 minutes or until top is cracked and logs are a bit brown. Remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 280ºF.

After logs have cooled for 20 min, cut them diagonally into 1/2″ slices (biscotti). Place biscotti back on baking sheet and bake at 280º for 30 minutes. Option: bake biscotti on cooling rack place on baking sheet so as to dry both sides of biscotti. When biscotti feel dry, turn off oven and leave biscotti in oven until cool.

*****

Pesto Shrimp and Grits

Susan Mintert

  • 1 cup Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits, cooked according to package directions (yields 4 cups cooked grits)
  • 24-32 peeled raw shrimp (more or less, depending on size)
  • Pesto sauce, divided (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 cup fresh diced tomato (optional)

Measure out 2-3 T. pesto sauce and thin it with a bit of olive oil so it can be easily brushed onto shrimp. Keep this portion separate from the rest of the pesto, since it, and the utensils used, will be in contact with raw shrimp.

Skewer shrimp for grilling. Lightly salt and pepper shrimp, then brush with the thinned pesto sauce. Drizzle with additional olive oil, then cover and refrigerate while cooking grits and preparing grill.

While grits are cooking, preheat grill to medium-high heat (about 400ºF). When grits are done cooking, keep covered on the lowest heat setting to keep warm. (When ready to serve, if grits have become too stiff, simply add a bit of water or milk and stir to loosen up.)

When grill is ready, place skewered shrimp on grill over direct heat. Cook about 3 minutes, then turn over. After 5-6 minutes shrimp should be done. They will be pink and slightly firm to the touch. Do not overcook. Remove from grill.

To serve, spoon a generous bed of grits into individual serving bowls. Top each with 6-8 shrimp and a small dollop of pesto sauce, a few tomatoes, and a good drizzle of olive oil.  Serves 4-6.

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Katie Rocheford (right) with Susan, in Katie’s kitchen
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My supply of orange corn grits

Summer Happenings

I’m gathering material for a couple of upcoming episodes of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, and I hope you’ll check them out when they are posted. I have some other tasks to complete in the next week, and after that I’ll be in the studio editing and producing like mad to get them ready. I’m working on episodes featuring Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits, based in West Lafayette, and Shoup’s Country Foods in Frankfort.

Shoup’s Country Foods sponsor the Backyard BBQ Cook-Off at the Indiana State Fair each year. The fair is coming up soon, August 2-18, and the cook-off is Saturday, August 10. Catagories include pork ribs, pork loin, chicken, “Build a Hog Burger,” and more. If you are a backyard barbecuer, consider entering! You’ll find all the details HERE. The deadline to enter is July 26, or until space fills up.

(I just found out I’ll be a judge for the BBQ Cook-Off! So sign up or come by and see it all take place August 10 at the Indiana State Fair.)

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The Shoup family of Frankfort, Indiana, started in the custom meat processing business decades ago. Over the years they have expanded into a retail meat store, mail order, and catering business. Catering has lead them to open their own event center and to involvement with the biggest catered tailgate party anywhere–the Super Bowl. Their story will be featured on an upcoming episode of the IHC Podcast.

On my blog and on social media you may have seen pictures of Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. I’ve cooked them several times and liked the results so much I couldn’t help sharing! I met Professor Torbert Rocheford and his son Evan recently and I’ll be sharing their story about how the grits came to be, and where in the world orange corn comes from. (Hint: Professor Torbert invented it.)

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Italian Pot Roast with Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits

 

Look for these stories and more here on the blog and on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast. You can always catch up on your listening by clicking on the episodes listed here on the blog. Or go to indianahomecooks.podbean.com, Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Stitcher, Google, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Subscribe, download, and take IHC on your summer travels. That’s a great time to listen. And thanks!

Indiana Farmers Coliseum photo from Wikipedia.

 

Pesto Love Affair

In the midst of summer as we are, our gardens are catching up after the wet and cool start of the growing season. It will be awhile before my tomatoes are ready so they will get lots of tender loving care in the weeks ahead. But my tiny herb garden is thriving, and my basil is the best I’ve ever grown.

Naturally, I feel pressure to utilize these fragrant, glossy, emerald leaves as soon as possible, and as often as possible. The standard suggestion is “Make pesto!” And I have done that in years past. I like pesto, but I realize I’ve never been ga-ga about it like many folks are. In fact, when I make a large batch and freeze or refrigerate it for later use, I just ignore it. I never use it up.

As I watered the flowers and vegetables this morning, I knew I had to use some of that beautiful basil today, so pesto it would be. But only a small batch to go with pasta and a couple chicken thighs I had pulled from the freezer. They would be delicious grilled, skin-on. I did de-bone them, just to open them up and maybe speed the cooking a bit, and learned it’s not easy to remove the bone from a chicken thigh. If I do it again, I’ll study up on it beforehand.

The pesto recipe I use is from my old stand-by, The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, circa late 1980’s. I had not heard of pesto in the 1980’s. But the BHGC was on the cutting edge of trendiness, I suppose. Although pesto has been made in Italy for centuries, it didn’t catch on here in the states until the 1980’s. BHGC was all over that one.

I titled this blogpost “Pesto Love Affair” and then proceeded to explain I’ve never been crazy about pesto. And until today, I wasn’t. But putting the ingredients in the food processor, starting with the cubed parmesan cheese and processing to a nice granular consistency, then adding the walnuts, garlic cloves, basil leaves–barely 2 cups, eyeballing it–processing it into that luscious consistency, then drizzling in the olive oil, it came together magically. I didn’t season with salt and pepper until I tasted it. Then a generous grind of pepper and just a pinch of salt and another teaspoon of olive oil and…whizzzzz…whizzzzz…it was done and delicious, and I was falling in love.

My husband and son both agreed it was the best pesto I’d ever made. What else would they say? But it was true. The best ever. And I’m not sure why. To me pesto is usually a bit over the top, too much of something, but I don’t know what. It’s a concoction of several strong-flavored ingredients. Perfumey basil, sharp parmesan, and pungent garlic each deliver a heavy blow, and add in the traditional pine nuts and it’s flavor overload in my opinion. Perhaps replacing the “piney-ness” of the pine nuts with the mellow nuttiness of walnuts helps balance the other ingredients.

Or maybe it was just the right day to make pesto, from my own home-grown basil, at the peak of its hypnotic aromatic powers. Cooking with the seasons brings the utmost flavor and satisfaction to the table.

So I’ll stick with the BHGC for pesto, and keep it fresh and spontaneous. And maybe my love for pesto will endure.

———-

The Indiana Home Cooks Podcast has been on a short hiatus. I’m working on several show ideas for the remaining weeks of summer. If you have a topic or a person you’d like to hear more about on the podcast, drop me a line. You can contact me by clicking “Contact” at the top of the screen or on the website menu. I would love to hear from you!

And thank you to all who have signed up to receive this blog via email. I’m pleased you are interested in Indiana Home Cooks, and honored to be an occasional guest in your inbox.

You can catch up on past episodes of the IHC Podcast directly from this blog, or on your favorite podcast app–Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, Google, Spotify, etc. On any of those apps, simply search for “Indiana Home Cooks” and all the episodes will be right there at your fingertips. Thank you for listening, and for reading this far. The pesto recipe is below.


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Fresh Basil Pesto

Adapted from The Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook

  • Parmesan cheese, block (or 1/2 cup grated)*
  • 1/2 cup toasted (and cooled) walnuts, rough chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, sort of firmly packed, but don’t go crazy
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*You can buy grated parmesan cheese, but the kind in the shaker can is not recommended. Fresh grated is available in tubs in the “fancy cheese” section of the grocery. If you use block parm cheese, then follow the steps below…

Cut the block parm cheese into half-inch size cubes, up to about 1/2 to 2/3 cup, cubed. Put the cubes into the food processor bowl, close the lid and process until the consistency of very coarse cornmeal. You should end up with about 1/2 cup grated cheese.

To the grated cheese add walnuts, garlic, and basil leaves. Process this mixture until well combined. Next, drizzle in the olive oil while processing the mixture until everything comes together. Stop processing and taste for seasoning. Add salt/pepper as desired and process again for a few seconds. Add more olive oil or a bit of water if pesto seems too stiff. But don’t over process the mixture.

Use immediately or store in the fridge in a glass jar covered with a layer of olive oil, or in a plastic container or dish covered with plastic wrap directly in contact with the pesto. Both these storing methods will keep the pesto bright green. Use within one week. It may also be frozen in portion sizes if desired. Makes about 3/4 cup.

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Spaghetti with fresh pesto, tomatoes and grilled chicken

For this dish simply stir pesto (the amount is up to you) into hot cooked spaghetti, along with a bit of pasta cooking water to create a thin sauce to coat the noodles. Top with fresh diced tomatoes, sliced chicken, and a dollop of pesto. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Vegetable Tian–BONUS TRACK

Hear this Bonus Track of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast HERE.

All our Indiana crops are suffering from late planting, soggy, if not out-right flooded soils, and cool temperatures so far this spring and summer. We will see the effects throughout the season in farm fields, in the garden, and at the farmers markets. Lower than normal yields and a decrease in quality are no doubt in store this summer and fall.

For those who like to cook with the seasons, it might be “slim pickin’s” of fresh local produce this summer, but we’ll manage and make do with the choices available. If the quality of produces is not picture perfect, I have a suggestion. Try a vegetable tian. It’s pronounced “tee ANN” or “tee OHN,” depending on how French you want to sound. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle–“tee AHN.” However you say it, it’s a delicious and easy way to prepare summer vegetables in a flavorful, colorful side dish.

There are many versions of tian, but it’s all the same idea. Google it and you’ll find recipes from Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, and about every chef out there. In my version, it starts on the stove in a cast iron skillet, then we move out to the grill for most of the cooking. I usually cook this dish on the gas grill, but live fire will work also, as long as you can monitor and regulate your cooking temp. With a small amount of seasoning, this combination comes out bursting with flavor and freshness.

Vegetable Tian On The Grill

  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper (plus thyme or oregano, if desired)
  • One large yellow sweet onion, sliced in 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 Yukon Gold or red skin potatoes, depending on size, sliced 1/4-in thick
  • 2-3 ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/4-in thick
  • 2-3 small zucchini, sliced 1/4-in thick
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

On the stove, heat a 10-inch cast iron skillet, or other pan suitable for the grill, to medium low. Get the outdoor grill preheated to 375º. Drizzle in the skillet about 2 T olive oil, then put in onion slices and begin to cook, no higher than medium low. You are not cooking them completely, just getting them started. After a couple minutes, add the garlic, stir, and continue cooking gently for another minute. Then remove from heat and turn off stove. Season the onions and garlic with just a pinch of salt and pepper, and add another drizzle of olive oil.

To the skillet, on top of the onions, add the potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini in layers. Either potato/tomato/zucchini, in a fan arrangement, or a potato layer, followed by tomato layer, followed by zucchini layer. Whatever makes you happy. Season lightly as you add layers. Top with the parmesan cheese and another generous drizzle of olive oil.

Using oven mitts (it may still be hot from the stove) take the skillet out to the preheated grill (375º). Place it on the grill over direct heat. After 10-15 minutes, move to indirect heat and finish cooking, about 30 more minutes. At that point, cover the pan with aluminum foil and continue cooking 15 more minutes, for a total cooking time of 60 minutes on the grill.  Test potatoes for doneness before removing from grill.

When done, set the skillet aside while you finish preparing the rest of the meal. The tian can sit for up to 30 minutes before serving. It’s also good served at room temperature. Serve it right out of the skillet.

If you don’t want to cook the tian on the grill, simply bake in a 375º oven following the same instructions.

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Onions & garlic just start to soften.
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Tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes (I didn’t use all 5 potatoes!)
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1/4-inch sliced
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Onto the grill
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End of cooking, golden brown

Italian Pot Roast BONUS TRACK

Hear this podcast episode HERE.

I enjoy playing around with different flavors in traditional recipes and giving them a fresh spin. For instance, from-scratch chicken noodle soup can be brightened up with the addition of fresh ginger, lime, and cilantro, and maybe a dash of fresh diced jalapeño or other hot pepper for a slight kick.

One day a few years ago I was preparing pot roast ingredients to load into the Crock Pot, when it dawned on me that I could take this standard family fare in another direction. Instead of the usual pot roast seasoning of salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, etc., and onions, carrots, and potatoes with gravy, what about an Italian twist? Instead of the carrots and potatoes, how about diced tomatoes and red bell pepper, along with the onions, and thyme, oregano, basil, and parsley for seasoning? Oh, and a splash of red wine couldn’t hurt. When the roast is cooked to fork-tenderness, pull it apart in chunks, and serve it over creamy polenta with a drizzle of olive oil, some chopped fresh parsley, and, of course, grated Parmesan cheese.

The whole scenario ran through my mind in an instant. So I followed my inspiration, and my Italian Pot Roast turned out fabulous!

Part of my thought process involved how I could use polenta. I had known about this creamy cornmeal dish for some time, seeing it on TV cooking shows, in magazines, and elsewhere. Along with pasta, it is a staple of Italian cuisine. To us Hoosiers, it’s known as grits.

I thought I should be authentic and use “polenta” so I found a quick-cooking Italian polenta that I used the first few times I made it. It was perfect with the Italian Pot Roast, serving as a creamy bed on which to ladle the tender beef chunks and sauce. But lately, when I make polenta, I pull out the Quaker Yellow Corn Meal and cook it according to the directions for Corn Meal Mush on the box. I add a little butter, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, and maybe a splash of milk to keep it creamy. It’s delicious and comforting.

A recent discovery I’ve made is another grits product that makes a fine polenta–Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. It’s a bit pricey, but delicious, and the orange corn is a brighter color on the plate if you are serving it with the Italian Pot Roast or Shrimp & Grits. Professor Torbert is a real professor of agronomy at Purdue University, who developed a special line of corn that is higher in beta-carotene, giving it a more orange hue. He has turned his orange corn into a specialty food product. I hope to share his story on a future episode of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast.

In the meantime, give the Italian Pot Roast a try. You can cook it in your slow cooker,  roasting pan or Dutch oven. All three methods are explained below, and you can hear me cooking it here. Enjoy!

Italian Pot Roast (Serves 4-6)

  • One 2 to 2.5 lb. chuck roast
  • Olive oil
  • One medium to large onion, roughly chopped
  • One bell pepper, any color, roughly chopped
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup beef broth*
  • 1/2 cup red wine*
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • Italian flat-leaf parsley, one handful chopped fresh, or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 T sugar
  • Kosher salt & pepper

For serving:

  • More parsley
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Cooked polenta (directions below) or bite-size pasta, such as ziti

If cooking in a slow cooker (Crock Pot), reduce amount of wine/broth by half. Use a 1/2-cup of EITHER broth or wine, or reduce to 1/4-cup each.

Slow cooker instructions:

Put roast, veggies, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, broth/wine, herbs, sugar, and salt & pepper to taste in cooker. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. Or cook on high for 5-6 hours.

For conventional oven, preheat to 325º. Combine all ingredients in a large roasting pan as instructed for slow cooker above. Cover pan with foil or a lid, and bake 2.5 to 3 hours, till fork tender. When done, remove from oven, and let sit, covered, up to 30 minutes. 

Conventional oven, plus extra flavor step for braising:

Season roast on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat an oven safe pot, like a dutch oven, on the stove on medium setting. Drizzle about 1 T. olive oil in hot pan and place roast in to sear. About 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove roast from pot and set aside. 

Lower heat to med-low and pour in broth and wine. Allow it to boil and scrape up bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot, 2-3 minutes. Carefully add roast back to the pot, season with thyme, oregano, and basil. Add onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, and sugar. 

Cover pot and place in preheated oven, and allow to braise for 2.5 to 3 hours, till fork tender. When done, remove from oven and let the roast sit, covered, for up to 30 minutes. 

To serve, pull roast apart into chunks and stir it into the sauce. Ladle over cooked polenta or pasta in bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with parsley and parmesan cheese. Makes great leftovers. 

To make polenta:

You don’t have to buy “polenta.” Use Quaker Yellow Corn Meal and follow the instructions for cooking “Corn Meal Mush” on the box. When it has finished cooking and is thick and creamy it is ready to serve. If it thickens up too much before you are ready to serve, add a bit of milk and whisk. It’s also tasty to stir in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese.

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Slow-braised to fork-tenderness
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Served over polenta, and topped with fresh parsley, olive oil, and grated Parm.

Cincinnati-Style Chili

The Evolution of a Recipe

Over the recent holidays I took the opportunity to trot out an old family favorite recipe.  My “Cincinnati-Style Chili” is great when the kids are home or when friends are over, as it makes a large batch that will feed a crowd. And it offers the opportunity to work with spices you might not think of using in chili. My kitchen demo explaining the steps can be heard below, in this BONUS TRACK of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast.  

At some point in my younger days, my family became acquainted with a fast food eatery called Skyline Chili.  It was started in Cincinnati by a Greek immigrant who opened his dining establishment within site of the downtown Cincy skyline.  He served authentic Greek dishes, and his chili was a big hit with customers. Today dozens of Skyline Chili restaurants dot the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and beyond.  With a unique seasoning blend, added toppings of beans, onions, shredded cheese (chili three-way), all nestled in a bed of spaghetti, what’s not to love?  (Hoosiers know Steak N Shake has its own version of this dish as well.)

Not long after getting our first taste of Skyline Chili, my mom happened upon a recipe for “Cincinnati Chili.”  She made it and we judged it as good as Skyline’s.  It became one of our family’s favorite wintertime meals.  

Many years later, newly married and contemplating the eternal question “What’s for dinner?” I remembered the Cincinnati Chili recipe and thought how good that sounded, and I knew my husband would love it.  I called my mom and asked her to read the recipe to me over the phone.  What I transcribed is shown below.  “June 15—Stacy” referred to  the upcoming wedding date of my cousin, which my mom had recently learned and informed me of on the same phone call. Our recipe files sometimes contain vital information that has nothing to do with food.

Now this recipe transcription may leave you scratching your head. I failed to record the second ingredient correctly, and it took several attempts to determine that it is indeed tomato sauce, and not paste. Too bad I didn’t use a pencil. And I didn’t even write the title of the recipe at the top until several years later. The sheet was always folded and filed under “C,” and when I came to the recipe headed with “June 15–Stacy,” I knew I’d found Cincinnati Chili. 

Rather than forcing you to decipher my quirky recipe notations, I’ll share what I hope are clearer instructions below. They have evolved over the years. Give it a try this winter for a hearty, family-pleasing dinner. And hear the demo HERE.

Subscribe to the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast wherever you get your podcasts–iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, etc. Links are to your right and at the top of this page.

Cincinnati Style Chili

Makes 8-10 servings

  • 2 lb. ground beef
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 T canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1tsp dried chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp dried ancho chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 T vinegar, any kind
  • 1 T Worchestershire sauce
  • 3 cups water, divided
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp dried chili pepper, if more heat is desired

For serving, you will need:

  • Cooked spaghetti
  • 1 or 2 14-oz cans red beans or chili beans, rinsed and drained
  • Shredded cheese (Colby, Colby-jack, pepper jack, cheddar, any of those)
  • Diced sweet (raw) onion, optional

Measure all dry spices and set aside.

In a large pot or dutch oven, brown ground beef, then remove from pot, drain, and set aside. Into pot (med to med-low heat), drizzle oil, then add chopped onions. Sauté for about a minute, then put in all the pre-measured dried spices. Stir them into the onions and cook another minute. You should begin to smell the fragrance of the spices.  Return the ground beef to the pot, then add garlic, salt, vinegar, Worchestershire sauce and one cup water. Turn up heat to med or med-high, and allow mixture to come up to a boil. Stir and scrape up any bits that are stuck on the bottom of the pot. Add the tomato sauce, chocolate, bay leaf and 2 more cups of water. (Go ahead and add the dried chili powder if desired, or add later if you feel chili needs more heat. Or serve it at the table and let everyone decide for themselves!) Also, you can add the beans right to the pot at this point, or reserve and heat them up later to serve with the chili.

The chili at this point is very watery. That’s ok, it will cook down. Allow pot to come back up to boil, then turn down heat to low and let it simmer 2-3 hours, with the lid on, but slightly vented. Stir occasionally making sure chili is not sticking or burning on the bottom. If it cooks down and seems too thick, add more water. 

Serve over cooked spaghetti, topped with beans (if serving separately), cheese, and onions if desired.

Version 2
Measure spices and seasonings ahead of time.
img_5942
Chili has cooked down and thickened nicely.
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What else can I say about this artifact…