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A Recipe: Dark Chocolate Brownies with Cayenne, Milk Chocolate Icing and Sea Salt

We made these brownies yesterday for a friend's barbecue, and we were asked for the recipe from several people. Here is is!

Techniques: make the brownie base a day before, so they have time to cool completely and set up properly. We let the brownies come to room temp and then chill them in the refridgerator. Before you ice them, take them out and let them sit, covered, at room temp for a couple of hours. This will be the end result:

And a close-up:

Okay, start by making this recipe a day ahead, with a few tweaks:

Out tweaks: When making that recipe, we always add 2T extra flour. It makes the brownies a little "cake-ier" but they hold togeter better when slicing. Also, after you've melted the chocolate and butter mixture, when you remove it from the heat to cool. stir in 1t cayenne pepper. Doing that at this point gives the cayenne time to bloom a little in the warm chocolate. Also, just on principle, we always double the amount of baking soda so the brownies puff-up more. Don't worry, they settle back down when they're cooling.

So, make those brownies, let them cool and set up overnight, then proceed. 

The next day: Make a milk chocolate ganache: simply melt 1 bag of high-qality milk chocolate chips plus 3T heavy cream in a bowl over a small pot of simmering water (double-boiler). If the chocolate looks like it needs it, add a little more cream. The gamache should be fully melted, shiny and glossy when it is ready. Let the ganache cool slightly, maybe a half-hour to an hour. Before piping on the ganache, whip it up with a hand-mixer. It will lighten in color and become pipe-able when you do this. 

Slice the brownies into thin little "fingers" and place them on a cutting board. Pipe the gamache into the brownies in a thin strip. When they're all iced, sprinkle them with sea salt flakes. Then chill to set the ganache.

The brownies have a lot of flavor: sweet, savory, salty, heat. We call it umami. These brownies have all that in spades! 

Make 'em. Enjoy.

John Needham

September 22, 2013

Aurora, IL




A Recipe: Chicken & Corn Chili

We made this today for the Bears game. Chicago Bears footbal often means the start of fall cooking, and that means stews and other long-cooking dishes. And it means chili. 

We had some requests for the recipe, so here's how we did it.

This version was smoked chicken chili. So yesterday we smoked some chicken thighs, sprinkled with dry rub, for about two hours on the smoker. But this would work just as well with roasted chicken too: just rub the thighs with olive oil, salt and pepper on both sides and roast for an hour at 350. 

10 chicken thighs, cooked, skin removed after, deboned, meat chunked up

2 medium yellow onions, finely diced

1 large (or two medium) red peppers, finely diced

1 jalapeno, finely diced

5-6 cloves garlic, finely diced

3-4 tsp cumin

1-2 tsp cayenne

5 ears of corn, cooked (we wrap in foil and grill high for 30 minutes)

(slice the kernels off the corn cobs; press out the liquid and save)

2 15oz cans diced tomatoes (with the juice)

5-6 C chicken stock (low sodium)

2 bunches scallions, bottoms removed, just the white and light green parts, sliced

2-3 chipotle chiles in adobo, plus 3T adobo sauce

A big handful of parsley (since we hate cilantro, but if you like it, use that instead)

Saute the onion, pepper and jalapeno in 2T oil until well wilted, maybe 10 minutes. Season pretty heavily here with salt and pepper. Except for the cumin, we won't be reasoning until the end. When most of the liquid is gone, sprinkle on the cumin and mix for about 60 seconds, then add the garlic and mix for another 60 seconds. Add the chipotles and adobo sauce and simmer until the liquid evaporates. Add both cans of tomatoes and mix, then simmer until most of the liquid is again evaporated.

Add one cup of stock and scrape up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Then add the rest of the stock. Simmer for 30 minutes. Then add the cooked corn that had been cut from the cob. 

While all that is happening, you can cook the chicken thighs. They should be bone-in, skin on. Once cooked, let them cool, remove the skins, debone them and chunk up the meat. Add the chicken to the chili base. Add the scallions at this point. Chop up a big handful of parsley and add that. Stir. Taste. Re-season w/ salt and pepper.

We added homemade corn tortilla chips: take a bunch of corn tortillas, stack them up, then cut them in half (across) then cut each half into three pieces. (Six chips per tortilla.) Add oil to a skillet and heat. Fry the chips in batches, until they are crisp, seasoning each batch when it comes out, while it drains on paper towels. Use more seasoning that you think you should for the first batch, and adjust accordingly in subsequent batches. If you do this, you might never buy tortilla chips at the store again. Trust me on that. 


John P. Needham

September 8, 2013

3:30 p.m. CST