March 13 2012

March is the cruelest month

They say that April is the cruelest month but we here at Frog Commissary believe that honor should go to March. Nothing wrong with the month per se—we certainly enjoy a good St. Patty’s Day feast—just that by this time every year we’re ready for the ingredients of spring (fiddlehead ferns, artichokes, rhubarb, morels). We’re ready to trade in our Dutch ovens and heavy stews for the sauté pan and simpler, brighter-tasting dishes. The only problem ? Too often, the weather isn’t complying.

This year, we’ve not had much winter weather in the Philadelphia area so maybe—just maybe—we’ll glide seamlessly into springtime and all of its delicate flavors. If so, we highly recommend Steve’s recipe for Asparagus Three Ways from At Home by Steve Poses as a way to welcome the first signs of green. But just in case, we’re giving you one last winter dish to try: At Home’s Chunky Beef Chili. Either way, consider yourself prepared for the meteorologically fickle days of March.


Asparagus Three Ways

Preparing a versatile vegetable multiple ways—in this case, grilled, blanched and thinly shaved asparagus—makes a beautiful first course presentation. If it’s too time-consuming to make all three, simply eliminate one.

Do ahead    Ingredients can be prepared up to six hours ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 ounces Parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 pounds asparagus
1 1/2 tablespoons plus kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream

1  Gently bend each asparagus spear a few inches from the bottom of the stalk until the end snaps off. Then, using a peeler, gently strip the ends to remove the tough outer layer. Divide asparagus into three equal portions.
2  Shave a third of the asparagus: Hold the tip pointing toward you and use a peeler to strip away thin lengths from each spear, avoiding the tip and working until most of the spear has been shaved. Continue with remaining spears and reserve tips for blanching. Prepare a bowl of ice water and set shavings in the water.
3  Blanch the second third of the asparagus: Prepare a bowl of ice water. Fill a pot wide enough to accommodate asparagus with salted water and bring to a boil. Add asparagus plus reserved tips and cook for 2 minutes. It should be firm, but not raw. Transfer to a strainer and immediately run asparagus under cold water. When cooled, drain and cut into thirds. Set aside.
4  Grill the remaining asparagus: Heat a grill pan or backyard grill. Combine garlic and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Dip and coat asparagus in the mixture. Reserve mixture and transfer coated asparagus to grill. Grill until charred, turning to cook all sides, about 5 minutes. Cut into thirds and set aside.
Scrape remaining garlic into a medium bowl. Whisk in honey, mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup olive oil and whisk to combine; then add heavy cream and whisk to combine.
  Drain shaved asparagus well, then blot with a paper towel. Toss shaved asparagus with 1/3 cup of dressing until well coated.
7  Mound shaved asparagus in the center of each plate. Arrange blanched and grilled asparagus on top, with tips pointing in. Drizzle each plate with dressing. Finish with Parmesan and more salt and pepper to taste.



Chunky Beef Chili

In this crowd-pleaser made from unadulterated beef cubes there’s nary a bean to be found. Our Texas chili is layered with smoky dried anchos and chipotles, sharp, fresh green poblanos and jalapeños and earthy notes of cumin. Refreshing cilantro leaves sprinkled on top dress things up.


Do ahead    Chili can be made up to a week ahead and stored in the refrigerator or frozen for up to two months. In fact, it’s better several days after it’s been made.

2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, patted dry
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped green pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/4 cup medium chopped poblano pepper
1 tablespoon chopped jalapeño
1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon chili powder (ancho preferred), divided
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup red wine
2 cups water
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, torn into pieces
1 pint sour cream
12 lime wedges, for garnish


1  Combine flour, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt and1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Toss beef to lightly coat. Shake excess flour from beef.
  In a large, heavy pot, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil until almost smoking. Add beef and brown on all sides. Cook beef in batches to avoid crowding pan. Remove beef, leaving rendered fat behind.
  In the same pot over moderately high heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add onion, green pepper, red pepper, poblano and jalapeño. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add1 teaspoon chili powder, cumin and chipotle and cook for 2 minutes. Return beef to pot and stir in thyme, tomatoes, red wine and water
. Adjust to lowest heat and simmer until beef is tender, about 2 hours. Add more water if it gets too thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper or to taste.
  Ladle chili into bowls and serve with torn cilantro leaves sprinkled on top and pass bowls of sour cream and lime wedges around the table.