There I was, mid-pedicure, lost in a world of texting and emailing, when the door opened and Rock & Roll personified breezed in…skinny jeans, faded black v-neck t-shirt, tattoos, long dark auburn hair and aviators. On her heels, also in all black with a chic blonde bob and stylish round tortoise-shell glasses looking oh-so-glamourous was someone who would turn out to be her mom. The two women floated in, gave cheery hellos and hugs to the staff and sat down to tell everyone that they were back. I couldn’t help it. I bit. “Sooooo, do you live near here?” I was looking very suburban that day in tailored shorts, Tori Burch sandals and a designer peasant shirt. I thought to myself, “Hey! I’ve danced on the bar at Coyote Ugly! I’ve got some Rock N Roll in me TOO!” I assumed she’d look at me, answer briefly and go back her life of seedy bars, late nights and backstage passes. Instead she was cheery and talkative. Super talkative. Within the hour we had determined that we both loved food, missed New York and sometimes, just sometimes, weren’t that crazy about our kids. I would later learn that her name was Gabrielle, her mom was LucyAnn, she had a gorgeous two-year-old son and had just moved back to New Orleans after a few years her native California. The trio was living across the street and she was trying her best to navigate their return.
Well the food conversation turned serious quickly. See it turns out she doesn’t just love food — she is a die-hard foodie. She learned to cook curry during a year in India. Learned Cajun dishes from a grandmother who she attached herself to until the octogenarian divulged all of her secrets. She cooks like a demon! And cooks a lot! As soon as we started talking about ingredients the conversation exploded. A few days later the food parcels started appearing. “Texas” chili, Roast with rice and gravy, Indian curry, Mexican wedding cookies… It kept coming and coming and coming.
Last week, after surviving 9 months of pregnancy and 4 weeks of post delivery mayhem with a 6-year-old and 4-year-old already on site, juuuuust as I was starting to emerge from the darkness, juuuuuust as I was making lunch and dinner dates with friends and starting to think about our cookbook project again, juuuuuust as I thought I was finally caught up on sleep….
Nick ended up in the hospital with a back injury. Bad. Bad like EMS and the Fire department had to come and load him up onto a back board to get him into an ambulance and to ER. He spent two pretty awful nights in the hospital and for a moment we thought it was something more dramatic and awful than what it turned out to be: A ruptured disc. The stress of Nick’s injury knocked me out. Finally. This is what did it. I spent three days in the hospital with him, taxing between home for nursing and school runs and back to him at the hospital trying not to let on to the older kids that something was wrong and trying to keep him as comfortable as possible in his first experience with the American health care system. By the time he was released on Thursday I was a shell of my former self. I was exhausted, sad, hormonal and angry. All wrapped up into one very hungry package.
And, like a gift from a rock and roll angel, a parcel appeared on my doorstep.
- 1/8 cup (30 ml) rendered bacon grease or vegetable oil
- 2 pound (1 kilo) tri-tip or boneless sirloin or chuck roast, cubed into 1-inch pieces
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 2-3 Red or Green (I usually do two red one green) bell peppers fire roasted.
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 3 Serrano chili peppers, stemmed, deseeded, fire-roasted and chopped (leave skins on)
- 6 tablespoons (48 g) chili powder
- 2 teaspoons (5 g) of smoky paprika
- 1 tablespoon (6 g) ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons (4 g) Mexican oregano
- 2 teaspoons (12 g) Tony Cachere's Cajun Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) freshly ground black pepper
- A bag or half a bag of fire roasted corn.
- 1 large can (400 g) of diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 (12-ounce/33ml) bottle Abita amber or Shiner Bock beer (both brown beers)
- 2 cans (850 g) of black beans, drained
- 1 can (425 g) of "baked beans"
- 2 chipotle chiles from a can, with the adobo sauce, chopped
- 4 to 5 cups (960-1200 ml) beef stock
- In a large heavy pot (such as a cast iron Dutch oven), heat the bacon grease or oil over high heat. Add the diced meat and sear, stirring frequently, until no longer pink. Lower the heat to medium-high.
- Add the onion, bell peppers, garlic, chiles, and chili powder, and smoky paprika and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are wilted and start to color, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the cumin, oregano, Tony's, salt, and pepper, and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the beer and cook, stirring, to deglaze the pan. Add the beans, chipotles and adobo sauce and 4 cups (960 ml) of the stock, stir well, and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender, 2 to 3 hours, adding the remaining cup of stock as needed if the chili becomes too dry or thick.
- Gabrielle says, "Please note I add brown sugar and apple cider vinegar to taste...."
- Tony Cachere's is a creole seasoning available in most spice sections of grocery stores in the US. Other options are Bay Seasoning which is more popular in the Northeast or "cajun seasoning" with salt. If you absolutely can't find anything you can replace this with equal parts red pepper, black pepper, white pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and salt.