If you’ve been following my blog you know that I like spicy dishes. I’ve posted a few simple recipes for hot pepper infusions and sauces and here’s another one. This calls for Bird’s Eye Chilis. You can usually get them in Chinese markets. There’re about an inch long and look like little red fire crackers. They’re small but have big heat, somewhere between Jalapenos and Habenaros.
There’re not always available but last winter I came across some in a Manhattan Chinatown sidewalk stand. I asked if they were “Hot,” and the merchant said I should taste one. I did and although it was 22 degrees my face started sweating. They were hot.
I found some in Italy that were the same as the ones I get in Chinatown. I was surprised to see them there since they were typically Asian but they were the same. Different food cultures sometimes come together.
The infusion is simple. Get a handful of peppers, about 20-25. Cut off the stems and tips so the interior of the pepper is accessible to the olive oil. Put them in a liter bottle and fill it with oil. It doesn’t have to be EVOO.
Give it about a week for the oil to pick up the flavor and get a reddish tint. You can use the oil for frying and it’s also very good for drizzling on a sandwich, or pasta or any dish you’d like to give a little kick.
The best part is when the bottle of oil and peppers is just about empty, shake out the remaining peppers and oil into a frying pan and scramble some eggs with it – excellent!
After our visit to Terranova, we went to Sicignano degli Alburni to find someplace for lunch. A local guy recommended a trattoria in nearby Scorzo called Si Ma Quant Sit? Every meal we had in Italy was excellent but that two hour lunch at Si Ma Quant Sit? was the best. And we just found it by a lucky accident.
Dopo la nostra visita a Terranova, siamo andati a Sicignano degli Alburni per trovare un posto per il pranzo. Un ragazzo del luogo ha consigliato una trattoria nel vicino Scorzo chiamato Si Ma Quant Sit? Ogni pasto che abbiamo fatto in Italia è stato eccellente, ma quel pranzo di due ore al Si Ma Quant Sit? era il migliore. E l’abbiamo appena trovato per un fortunato incidente.
The menu was on a board on the table listing antipasti, pasta, and prima piatto. We started with the antipasto – some local cheese, prosciutto, capicola, and soprasade. We thought that would be it, but the owner, Raffale kept coming to our table adding things to our dishes – frittata, eggplant parmigiana, eggplant in vinegar, and on and on.
Il menu era su una tavola sul tavolo che elenca antipasti, pasta e prima piatto. Abbiamo iniziato con l’antipasto – alcuni formaggi e prosciutto locale, capicola e soprasade. Pensavamo che sarebbe stato il proprietario, ma Raffale ha continuato a venire al nostro tavolo aggiungendo cose ai nostri piatti – frittata, parmigiana di melanzane, melanzane in aceto e così via.
We were afraid we wouldn’t be able to eat the pasta course but we did.
We said we were too full for dessert but Lucia gave us some strawberries in wine anyway.
From Lucia’s garden
Raffale’s dogs wanted Bridget’s doggie bag.
Raffele and Simone
Strada Statale 19, 84029 Sicignano degli Alburni
Chili-Olive Oil Infusion
Raffale asked if I wanted some pepper for my pasta. He put a little jar of olive oil infused with dried chili on the table. It wasn’t just spicy, it had a distinct pepper taste. I asked how it was made. He gave me some to take home and got Lucia from the kitchen and she explained.
Raffale mi ha chiesto se volevo del pepe per la mia pasta. Mise sul tavolo un vasetto di olio d’oliva infuso con peperoncino secco. Non era solo piccante, aveva un sapore di pepe distinto. Ho chiesto come è stato fatto. Mi ha dato un po ‘da portare a casa e ha preso Lucia dalla cucina e lei ha spiegato.
Remove the stems and coarsely chop dried red chilis
Heat them in a dry frying pan for a few minutes until you can smell them.
Add some oil and sauté on low until the pepper softens. Put it all in a jar, add some more oil and in a few days, it’s ready.
Where ever you go you’ll get an argument about how chili should be made – with beans/without beans, ground meat/cubes, etc. Here are 2 recipes from both ends of the chili spectrum. Both good but different. Try each and then improvise.
The idea of this one is that a cowboy always had access to some beef that he could fry in its own fat and he could easily carry a few dried peppers in his saddle bag. And maybe he could find a wild onion out on the range.
Boil to rehydrate 6 or 7 anchos in 1 ½ cups water. Strain, saving liquid. Remove stems and chop roughly.
Cut 1 lb. sirloin (cowboys has access to good cuts of beef) into cubes and brown lightly over high heat (add some oil if you need it) with salt and pepper and remove. Lightly brown small chopped onion (optional) and add the chopped peppers. Return meat and juices and simmer 5 minutes on low heat. Add ancho liquid and stir, scraping up brown bits from pan. Simmer another 5 minutes and it’s ready.
North East Chili
I got this recipe from a friend from Massachusetts. Then I made it for someone from Colorado and asked her what she thought of it. She said, “Not bad – tastes like North East chili.”
This recipe can serve a large group – cut it in half if you want. It’s good left over.
In batches, brown 2 lbs chopped beef and 1 lb. of cubed chuck (seasoned) in oil and remove. Brown 1 large chopped onion, 2 cloves chopped garlic and salt and pepper.
Add 1 28 oz. can plum tomatoes and 1 sm. can chili powder. Return meat and juices.
Simmer 2 hours and then add 3 cans of beans (1 each pinto, kidney and black). Simmer another 20 minutes. It’s better made a day in advance and then re-heated and served.