August 15, 2011
Well sisters, it’s August and our personal sommelier Erin Sullivan is taking a little break this month. In her absence, we have decided to launch Wine Chat TV Uncorked. Our first sister-in-the-street guerilla video covers one of Napa Valley’s fave food events, the 5th Annual Bocce Chili Cook-Off. You can view our amazing FlipCamera work on our You Tube channel (as well as all the other videos in the Wine Chat series).
Bocce is a beloved Napa Valley tradition, introduced to the valley by the Italian emigrants who helped establish the California wine industry. Bocce in Italian means “ball” and what bowling is to many parts of the country, bocce is to Napa Valley. All summer long teams gather to compete, drink a little wine, eat a little food and socialize with one another. You’ll see famous vintners playing on teams with third generation farmers; guys who drill wells, excavate wine caves,and install irrigation partnering up with wine marketing and PR types. It’s a microcosm of the valley and the goal is fun, friendship and bragging rights to the title of top bocce team at the end of the season.
Although each week teams assemble amazing pot luck picnics and pour their best vintages to to keep members fortified for the games, the annual Chili Cook-Off challenges one and all to bust out their best chili and cornbread creations. Crock pots full of carefully-guarded recipes and baskets brimming with cornbread are set on the picnic tables for all to sample. Everybody receives two beans with which to cast their vote for their favorite chili and their favorite cornbread. After the tasting has commenced, the beans are counted and the winners are announced.
The winners of the Chili contest were Malcolm (Freakin’ Awesome Chili Verde, Second Place) and Kate (Kate’s Curry Cabernet Chili, First Place). Winner of the Cornbread competition was @girlinthevalley’s roomie and Wine Mister Paul A.
Fabulous Wine Sister Jen Amis garnered a special award with her absolutely amazing grits. Please check out Jen’s website–she and her partner, designer Michael Roche, have created a super-fun line of wine accessories and games to enhance YOUR wine-drinking experience! You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter. The Spitbucket recently helped us source our very first, logoed Wine Sisterhood wine openers–just delivered today. We are working on a new retail site and we plan to have these and some other special Wine Sisterhood wine items available for you to purchase very soon!
The Wine Sisterhood entry (check it out in the video–it’s the one in the white dish) was a traditional no-beans chili made in the Oaxacan style with strip steak. You may notice in the video that I mention “Mancha manteles”. This is Spanish for “tablecloth-stainer” and is used to describe recipes which concentrate the chilies in such a way that a drop of the dish on your tablecloth will stain it red.
Our Wine Sisterhood chili recipe for Strip Steak Chili Oaxacan-Style follows below. Be aware that while the recipe is not complicated per se, it is VERY authentic and there are a few steps. It calls for six different dried chilies which are then toasted and reconstituted with hot water. If you don’t have a well-stocked Latin market where you live, there are many sources on-line that sell specialty ingredients for Latin cuisine.
In authentic Latin cooking, preparation technique is essential to build depth of flavor. There are two important things to remember: the pans (preferably cast iron which is a great holder and conductor of heat) should be EXTREMELY hot when you add ingredients and the ingredients (chilies, spices, vegetables, tortillas) are toasted or charred in a cast iron pan BEFORE being added to the chili and simmered. You will also notice there’s chocolate added at the end, as you would in a Mole. Note that it’s a very small amount; the chocolate shouldn’t taste chocolately, but adds a depth of palate on which the other flavors can play off. This chili develops even more flavor as it rests, and it absolutely addictive on its own, or ladeled over eggs and tortillas for the ultimate Mexican breakfast dish.
Chocolate is often something that people notice as a flavor character in many wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. In a similar way the chocolate plays in the chili, a chocolate character adds a dimension and complexity to the overall flavor profile of the wine. This chili is moderately spicy (the red chilies used are all on the medium-heat side), which often is a no-no when pairing with robust, tannic Cabernet Sauvignons. But if you pick a more fruit-forward style, lighter in oak or tannin, such as Middle Sister Mischief Maker Cab, Monogamy Cab or Purple Cowboy Trail Boss Cab, we think you will be pleasantly surprised at how harmonious the pairing will be. A fruity Zinfandel, such as our Deep Purple or Malbec is also a possibility. Of course, we noticed the majority of our Bocce pals were drinking beer, which is understandable. As they say in the valley, to make a great wine, you have to drink a lot of beer.
Wine Sisterhood Strip Steak Chili Oaxaca
3 lbs. strip steak
6 each, dried red chilies
3 corn tortillas
2 white onions, sliced ½ inch thick
5 cloves garlic
2 medium cans whole tomatoes
3 whole sticks canela (cinnamon)
2 T whole cumin
2 T dried Mexican oregano
2 oz bittersweet chocolate
Cayenne and salt to taste
To prepare the strip steak:
Slice into ¼ inch slices. Season with salt and pepper. Preheat camal (flat cast iron skillet) or cast iron skillet until it is extremely hot. Sear steak slices about 45 seconds on each side. Let cool completely and chop into rough dice (not too fine). Set aside.
Wipe down camal or skillet and preheat until extremely hot. Remove stems and seeds from chilies. Toast on hot camal until charred and fragrant. Place into stainless steel bowl; barely cover with boiling water. Let soak while preparing other ingredients.
To prepare tortillas, white onions, garlic: preheat camal or skillet until extremely hot. Toast tortillas on camal until they are lightly charred and crisp. Set aside. Toast onions on pan until charred and soft. Toast garlic cloves lightly to bring out the aromatics but do not char; this will make the garlic bitter. Tear tortillas into rough pieces. Chop onions and garlic into rough dice.
To prepare cinnamon, cumin and oregano: toast on preheat camal; watch to make sure they don’t burn. Combine with broken cinnamon sticks in spice or clean coffee grinder and grind to powder.
Preheat dutch oven—cast iron is preferred. Into blender, place chilies and soaking liquid, tortillas, onions, garlic, spices and tomatoes. Blend until smooth. Pour into super-hot dutch oven and let simmer for awhile to thicken and marry the flavors. Add steak and return to simmer briefly (steak is already cooked and you don’t want to overcook it). Check for salt and correct if needed. Add cayenne if you desire more heat.
Right before serving, add chocolate. Serve with Cotija cheese (hard Mexican cheese similar to Parmesan)—chop in food processor using steel blade for a finer texture.
Roberta’s Mahvelous Grits Redux
(Note from Jen: “Roberta is my mom and the Grits Goddess of Nebraska. I added the chilies and pepper to her original recipe”).
2 cups grits
Pinch of salt
2-3 cloves garlic
1-2 Serrano chilies
½ red bell pepper
1 small can diced green chilies
1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ jar queso (such as Trader Joe’s or Tostitos Medium)
½ cup grated Pepper Jack cheese
½ cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
Preheat oven to 375°
Cook grits according to box instructions. Meanwhile, chop and sauté the garlic, Serrano chilies and red pepper. Add the can of green chilies at the end and stir to combine.
When grits are done, mix in the sautéed items, queso, Pepper Jack and Monterey Jack cheeses. Add the egg (best to put a little bit of the warm grits into the egg and then add egg to the rest of the mixture. This avoids cooking the egg).
Pour into a baking dish and sprinkle with parmesan. If you want to make it spicier, add salsa and/; or jalapeños.
Bake for 45 minutes. You may want to cover the dish with aluminum foil for the first 30 minutes if you oven runs hot.
French Toast Jalapeno Corn Bread
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 onion, grated
3 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
2 T. sugar
1 small can or cream corn (or 3 ears of fresh corn cut and scraped)
1/2 cup chopped jalapeno peppers
1 1/2 cups grated cheese
1/4 pound of bacon, fried crisp, and crumbled
1/4 cup chopped canned pimento
1 or 2 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
Mix all ingredients together. Pour into greased baking dish and cook for 35 minutes or until well-set. Let cool and cut into rectangular “fingers”. They will be “eggy” and moist.
Heat a bit of butter in a skillet and brown fingers on all sides until golden. Remove from pan; let cool slightly, sprinkle with granulated sugar and serve warm.