Concord Grape + Red Wine Jam

Hi friends. In lieu of the usual prose, I've got some little bits of fun for you from around the Internets, and a recipe for jam with red wine in it, because I'm a grown up now and you ain't gonna stop me. I also made lavender-orange biscuits as a jam-delivery-vehicle, because stress baking season has begun (I added 1/2 teaspoon of dried lavender and the zest of 1 orange to Smitten Kitchen's buttermilk biscuit recipe). Coming down the pipeline: soba noodles with tahini-sriracha sauce (i.e. today's lunch), red wine-stewed lentils with red kale (are you sensing a theme in my diet lately?), and Finnish cinnamon rolls. Come at me fourth week.


Links on links on links:

This song is life-changing. Seriously. Shouts out to the Usagi-bae (otherwise known as Ariel) for enriching my morning shower butter + jam playlist (get it, it's my jam-out playlist? yes? such witty, wow?).

My friend Addie just started her own cooking blog -- she's only in middle school, and she's wicked talented!! Check it out here.

I read a fabulous analysis of Diego Rivera's mural in the National Palace of Mexico City for my Modern Latin American Art class. If you're a college student with free access to academic journals, I highly suggest that you read Leonard Folgarait's Revolution as Ritual: Diego Rivera's National Palace Mural.

Don't mind me drooling over everything on QUITOKEETO. This shop is just luscious, oh my.

Culinary Bro-Down is one of my favorite food blogs to read, not really because I want to make his food but because his writing is actually fabulous, and never fails to make me laugh. This post in particular is pretty spot-on.

In terms of blogs that make me want to stop whatever I'm doing and cook something, my name is yeh is one of the best. Like, brownies with matcha glaze? OK.


Concord Grape + Red Wine Jam
guided by Grow It Cook It Can It and lots of Google searches

9 c stemmed concord grapes, washed (if you can find seedless ones, thank your lucky stars)
1/2 c maple syrup
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 c pinot noir

Ok, this is the worst part. Send all 9 cups of grapes through a ricer in order to remove the skins and seeds. If you don't have a ricer, you're gonna have a bad time (i.e. you will need to skin each grape by hand, cook them with the wine, then squish them through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the seeds, and proceed with the rest of the instructions). If you want the skins to be in the final product, skin them by hand, then put them through the ricer to remove the seeds. You can add the skins in the pot for cooking.

Once your grapes are nekkid, cook them in a non-reactive pot over medium-high heat with the wine for 10-15 minutes, until things are getting good and syrupy (this is not super technical, I apologize -- just use your good judgment). Add in the maple syrup and cook on high until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, clean your jars, lids, and rings in hot, soapy water. Bring a large pot of water for canning to a boil, making sure you have enough water to cover the jars by 1 inch. Once it's at a boil, sterilize everything (utensils, jars, lids, rings) for at least 5 minutes. You want to have hot jam go into hot jars.

Remove the hot jars and fill with jam, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Place on the lids, tighten the rings, and process in the boiling water for 10 minutes. After they've been processed, let the jars cool to room temperature.

Pastel de Choclo

Feeling both chilly and devilish on the beach in La Serena

Feelings of normalcy are sliding back into place as I return to class, to work, to my what-shall-I-call-other-than home in Chicago. I don't know how I managed to develop homesickness for a place I only lived for a month, but here I am, making borracho beans with rice, empanadas de pino, and pastel de choclo within the span of a week, trying to create a sense of being in a place more than five thousand miles away from here. It helps that I love the people I live with and have an amazingly supportive work environment, but of course it's not the same. How could it be? I've already started planning my travels for next summer -- which will [hopefully] include London, Oaxaca, Mexico City, and several cities in Greece -- and this year's Thanksgiving meal, so I have ample material for daydreams and spreadsheets.


And so, a lesson on corn is in order instead of my musings about being home. First of all, choclo refers to a specific kind of corn. It's a variety that is much starchier than the sweet corn we can find en los Estados Unidos, so that when you cook it, it turns into a wonderfully thick pudding. Pastel de choclo is akin to shepherd's pie, with a bottom layer of pino (a term for the mixture of beef and onions cooked with salt, pepper, cumin, and sometimes paprika, along with golden raisins, slices of hard-boiled egg, and olives: it's a classic Chilean filling for empanadas), covered by chicken, which is then covered by a mixture of cooked choclo, basil, and salt. It's usually baked and served in individual clay bowls, but since I bought a clay pot when I was in Pomaire, a town an hour away from Santiago famous for their clay works, I baked mine into one casserole of sorts. 

After removing the kernels of corn from the cobs, I simmered the cobs with some salt and water to make a corn broth -- which is fabulous to drink if you have a cold by the way (trust me, I've had a gross cold for the past few days) -- that I'll turn into soup later this week. You can also steep the corn silks (after removing the black ends) in hot water to make tea that's supposed to heal all sorts of ailments, and you could dry out the husks for tamales. I didn't manage to do either of those this time around, but if you're feeling ambitious, make use of all that late summer produce has to offer before the midwest becomes a tundra once more. 

Pastel de Choclo
adapted from Viva Chile!

8 large ears of corn, silks and husks removed
8 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
0.5-1 c half-and-half
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons oil
1 pound lean ground beef
Kosher salt
Black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
0.5-1 c black olives, pitted
3 c golden raisins
4 chicken thighs or 2 chicken breasts

Over a large bowl, use the largest holes of a box grater to remove the corn kernels from the cobs. You want to keep both the liquid and the pieces of corn (use the cobs to make stock, trust me, it's delicious). In a medium saucepan, heat the corn with the basil, salt to taste, and butter. Once the butter has melted, add the half-and-half a little at a time until the mixture has thickened and become custard-like.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan with high sides. Sweat the onions for a few minutes until translucent, then push to the side and add in another tablespoon of oil and the ground beef. Season the beef with salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin, and paprika, then cook until browned. Stir the onions into the beef once it's browned, then add in the raisins and olives.

Meanwhile, in another pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and the other teaspoon of cumin, then sear skin-side down. Cook the chicken through, then either remove the meat from the bones, saving the bones for stock, or proceed to the next step.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In individual oven-proof bowls (or in one large vessel), layer the beef mixture with the egg, then the chicken, and lastly the corn mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes if in individual bowls, or 1+ hour for one pan/pot (depending on your oven), until the top is golden brown and the edges are bubbling.