Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"The Val-Kill Cook Book" (Eleanor Roosevelt's home) - Tony's (Elliot Roosevelt, Jr.) Sunday Night Chili

Date I made this recipe:  September 14, 2014 – The start of Ken Burns' 7-part series, The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History
The Val-Kill Cook Book with Illustrations and Photographs of Eleanor Roosevelt's Life at Val-Kill, compiled and Edited by Eleanor R. Seagraves; Illustrated by Eleanor Roosevelt Wotkyns; Photographs courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Library
Published by:  The Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill, Inc.
© 1984
Purchased at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington D.C.

Recipe:  Tony's Sunday Night Chili, submitted by Elliot (Tony) Roosevelt, Jr., Texas; basic chili recipe derived from the following recipes:  Simple, Perfect Chili, Recipe courtesy of Ree Drummond (Food Network), © 2011 Ree Drummond; 2014 Television Food Network and Chili by Betty Crocker, © 2014 ®/TM General Mills.

Not to brag or anything, but PBS just launched a new Ken Burns documentary series, The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History and of course I have a Roosevelt-related cookbook!  I tell you, just when you think you are never going to be able to use it, life occurs.

First, a bit of a history lesson:  Just like the famous Kennedy family, the Roosevelt family of New York was quite the powerhouse group in their day. Teddy Roosevelt, cousin to Franklin, served as our 26th President from 1901 (taking over after President McKinley was assassinated) until 1909.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our 32nd president, ushered our country through the Great Depression and most of WWII.  And Eleanor Roosevelt, niece of Teddy and wife of Franklin (so she was Eleanor Roosevelt Roosevelt) led a life of service to the world that is unparalleled:  delegate to the newly-formed United Nations, chairman of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and chairwoman of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women under JFK.  All this came after serving as First Lady.  All in all, this is a mighty impressive family.

Andy and I have been excited about this documentary as we're history buffs and have also done our "homework."  Years ago, I read a lot about Eleanor and often re-quote her quote "You must do the thing you think you cannot do."  In fact, I might have used this in my law-school application essay.  And Andy has read up on both FDR and Teddy Roosevelt and so he's good to go for those two.  In fact, as of late, Andy has read a steady stream of books about Teddy, having polished off all the FDR books of interest.  When we were in NYC this July, we also stopped briefly at Teddy's Birthplace at 28th East 20th Street (between Park and Broadway).  Alas, we couldn't spend much time as we had to get back uptown but we will return another day.

The documentary, produced and directed by legendary documentary-maker, Ken Burns (The Civil War; Baseball; New York, among others), takes us through the entire history of the Roosevelt family, starting with Teddy and his childhood.  As always, everything that Ken does is interesting and informative.

One of the things Ken talks about in the documentary is that the entire Roosevelt clan had several homes in NY state, and one of Eleanor's favorite places was a cottage in Val-Kill, NY.  Today's featured cookbook contains recipes from Val-Kill. 

Other notable housing:  Teddy had home called Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, NY.  His birthplace in NYC is now a part of the National Park Service.  (Note:  it's not the original house, which was torn down but a replica rebuilt to look like it would have between 1865-1872.)

And then there's Springwood estate in Hyde Park, NY that was FDR's childhood home.  He and Eleanor and FDR's mother lived in Springwood after they got married, much to Eleanor and her mother-in-law's chagrin as neither really liked the other. The Hyde Park house is a popular tourist attraction, as is the famed Culinary Institute of America.  Hmm—coincidence that I mention that in a cookbook blog?

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's cottage retreat, Val-Kill, located about two miles from Hyde Park, is where Eleanor liked to go to unwind and where she moved to after she left the White House.    Author Eleanor R. Seagraves was Franklin and Eleanor's granddaughter, born to Anna Roosevelt and Curtis Bean Dall.   The book's illustrator is Eleanor Roosevelt Wotkyns, Eleanor Roosevelt's niece.  And to make the family picture complete, today's recipe is from Elliott (Tony) Roosevelt, Jr., grandson of Franklin and Eleanor.  "Tony's" father, Elliot was one of Franklin and Eleanor's six children.  As to the rest of the family connections, watch the series!  (You can also read the history of Val-Kill in the preface to the cookbook.)

The recipes in this cookbook were all submitted by friends and family of "ERVK" – Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill – and it reads very much like any other community cookbook but with the twist of being connected to a famous person/family.  And while many of the dishes were likely more modern than Eleanor enjoyed (Tamale Pie? Taco Salad?), they all looked good.  I was leaning toward one of the soups, and also a couple of chicken recipes until I spied "Tony" Roosevelt's chili recipe and laughed out loud at the directions:  "Prepare any traditional chili recipe, but use pieces of round steak instead of hamburger meat."  Could it get much easier?  I think not!

So with that selected, I then had to go about obtaining a "traditional chili recipe."  The book has a few recipes, including a Tailgate Chili which would have been appropriate given that it was Sunday and that means NFL football, specifically, Packers football, but nothing hit me so I looked to the internet. (Note, I am just not a big fan of green pepper so that recipe was out as was one that contained corn.)   Most chili recipes are a lot alike and so I mainly used Ree Drummond's from the Food Network  (online) but also added onion as per the Betty Crocker recipe, also available online.  I like cooked onions in my chili although not raw and on top as some recipes suggest.  I also intended to use a can of diced tomatoes per the Betty Crocker recipe but forgot to buy it.  Let's just say I got distracted in my grocery story by the vast selection of beans.  Who knew there were so many brands? (There are also too damned many canned tomatoes which is irksome when I am just trying to find plain tomatoes, with nothing else added.)

So---as directed by Tony, I purchased and then diced about 1.5 pounds of round steak to use in my cobbled recipes.  Note that you may need to cook the round steak a bit longer than directed as it won't cook as easily as ground beef. As to the spices, just about any combination of chili powder, oregano and cayenne pepper will do.  Although this chili was good, I'm hoping that the flavors developed a bit more overnight when I reheat the leftovers.  Not that I want throat-searing heat, you understand, but I expected more of a bite than I got.

Tony advises us to top our chili with chopped onion (pass), chopped avocados (loved) and grated cheese (yum).  His directions also call for the chili to be served over rice and I love rice so that was easy.  The thing I liked the best though, was the round steak.  Sure, ground beef is fine and it is standard and it is slightly cheaper but I like to change things up a bit so there you go.

By the way, one of the last recipes in the book was for FDR's martinis but it calls for 1 part dry vermouth and that is just wrong in my cocktail playbook though I appreciated the inclusion of the recipe in this book.  I think I'm more like Winston Churchill who was rumored to have poured the gin and looked across the room at the vermouth.  Luckily for us all, these world leaders managed to overcome their martini differences – whew - and worked very well together during WWII.

Oh—almost forgot to mention that I was about halfway through making the chili when I realized that the New York Jets were playing my Packers in Lambeau Field and wouldn't you know, Val-Kill is in NY state. ("When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dyin' day...." – West Side Story; lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.)  And the recipe was called "Tony's Sunday Night Chili" and Sundays are all about football, am I right?  So quite inadvertently, I nearly jinxed the game by cooking from a NY cookbook and sure enough, the Jets were way out in front until a miracle occurred and we pulled a "W" out of it all.  Luckily, this game ended just before Andy and I tuned in to watch the first episode of The Roosevelts or all might have been lost all because of a chili recipe! 

So—watch the series, make the chili, get the cookbook, eat well and be prepared to learn something.

Tony's Sunday Night Chili  - serving size not given but typically chili serves 6-8

Ingredients (select from below for your own personal preference)
1-2 pounds round steak, diced into small cubes – or 1 pound ground beef (Betty Crocker) or 2 pounds ground beef (Ree Drummond)
1 large onion (Crocker)
2 cloves garlic, chopped (Drummond) or ¼ teaspoon garlic powder (Crocker)
One 8-oz can tomato sauce (Drummond) or 1 can (14.5) diced tomatoes, undrained (Crocker) or both!
2 tablespoon chili powder (Drummond) or 1 tablespoon chili powder (Crocker)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (Drummond)(Crocker)
1 teaspoon ground oregano (Drummond) or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves (Ann's Note:  I used and liked the ground oregano)
1 teaspoon salt (Drummond) or ½ teaspoon salt (Crocker)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (Drummond) or ½ teaspoon red pepper sauce
¼ cup masa harina (corn flour) (Drummond only) (Ann's Note:  check out a local coop as they usually sell it in bulk and you don't need that much.  I found mine at the Seward Coop).
One 15-ounce can kidney beans (Drummond says rinse and drain, Crocker says undrained)
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (Drummond only)

For Tony's chili, top with chopped onion, chopped avocado and cheese.  (Drummond used cheese, onions, tortilla chips and lime wedges; Crocker didn't use toppings)

Instructions: (combination of Drummond and Crocker)

Peel and chop the onion and/or garlic.  Place the ground beef/round steak in a large pot and throw in the garlic/onion, cooking over medium heat until browned (Drummond) or thoroughly cooked (Crocker), approximately 8-10 minutes.  Ann's Note:  you'll need to go a bit longer if using round steak like I did.  Drain the grease and add back to the pot.

In the same pot, add your spices and your tomato sauce, diced tomatoes or both (but not beans).  Simmer, covered, for 1 hour.  If the mixture becomes overly dry, add ½ cup water at a time as needed (Drummond). 

(Drummond only) After an hour, place the masa harina in a small bowl.  Add ½ cup water and stir together with a fork.  Dump the masa mixture into the chili.  Stir together well, and then taste and adjust the seasonings.  Add more masa paste and/or water to get the chili to your preferred consistency, or to add more corn flavor.

Add the beans and simmer for 10 minutes (Drummond) or 20 minutes (Crocker).  Serve with toppings.  Ann's Note:  remember, Crocker uses the beans undrained while Drummond uses two types of beans, both of which need to be drained and rinsed.  I've made chili before using either direction and don't find a discernable difference with the choice.  Your call.

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