It's supposed to be cold this weekend. Like New England cold. That kind of cold.
When it's that cold you learn to adapt, which means you crank up the heat, pour some wine, and cook a whole lot of food to keep you warm. We're talking comfort food staples and thick and hearty soups and stews. For dessert, it's whatever you can grab and a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
To help get your mind going on what to cook, we asked some folks around town for cold-weather recipe favorites—chili con carne, beef stew, red beans and rice, and a little hot cocoa to finish. Consider spending these next frigid few days filling up with these items, classic food and drink from Molina's Cantina, Red Lion British Pub, Treebeards, and Hugo's. And stay warm!
Old-fashioned chili con carne
Recipe by Molina's Cantina
A big batch of chili is perfect for those cold, cold days, evenings, nights, mornings ... whatever. Molina's has been cooking up its famous chili con carne since 1941, so this will connect you in some small way to other direly cold days throughout Houston's history.
- 8-10 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and deveined
- 3 lbs 80/20 beef chuck, coarsely ground (request chili grind)
- 2 cloves fresh garlic (1 oz), minced
- 1 tsp cumin, freshly ground
- 1 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 cup cracker meal
- 3 cups water
- In a heat-proof bowl, soak dried chiles in enough hot water to cover until soft, 30 minutes. Tip: To ensure chiles stay submerged, cover with a heat-proof plate.
- Blend chiles in a food processor, with just enough soaking liquid to form a coarse puree.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot or Dutch oven, brown meat over medium-high heat until cooked through, 10–15 minutes.
- Add chile paste, garlic, and spices to pot; reduce heat to low; and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if it begins to stick.
- Add cracker meal, and mix well. Slowly add water to achieve desired consistency, simmering to allow flavors to combine and body of stew to thicken.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Portion into bowls, and serve with shredded cheese, chopped onions, and Saltine crackers, or ladle over enchiladas and tamales. Or, as was once popular on the Molina’s Cantina menu, it’s good over spaghetti, too.
Guinness beef stew
Recipe by Red Lion British Pub
Yeah, you should get a big heaping pot of beef stew going since you'll be able to enjoy it over several days. Red Lion Pub makes the city's definitive stew, naturally using Guinness to bring out a little malty sweetness. Pub owner Craig Mallinson reminded me that if you don't want to slave over a hot stove, you can always stop in and rest in the pub's fireplace room or enjoy your piping-hot stew at a patio table with its own fire pit. Either way, you'll be cozy and warm.
(Note: You can easily double all the amounts here for more servings.)
- 2 oz vegetable oil
- 1/2 medium white onion, diced
- 6 oz red potatoes, cubed
- 4 1/2 oz carrots, peeled and cubed
- 4 1/2 oz turnips, peeled and cubed
- 3 oz celery, sliced
- 3 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 oz garlic paste
- 2 1/2 lbs beef stew meat
- 1 pint (16 oz) Guinness beer
- 2 qt beef stock
- 3/4 tbsp beef base
- 1/8 oz rosemary, chopped
- 1/8 oz thyme, chopped
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp black pepper
- Start by pouring vegetable oil into a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, potatoes, carrots, turnips, celery, and mushrooms, and sweat them out.
- After about 10 minutes, as vegetables soften a little, incorporate garlic paste, and stir.
- Add stew meat, and cook until it's seared and caramelized.
- Deglaze with the Guinness, and let reduce to half.
- Add the stock and beef base, plus the rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir, close lid, and let cook until meat is tender, 1–2 hours.
Red beans and rice
Recipe by Treebeards
If it's Treebeards, it's red beans and rice. This is serious comfort food that makes for a filling lunch, a perfect dinner side, or a late-night snack. If you like your beans thickened, just remove the cover during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
- 1 lb dried light red kidney beans
- 2 qt water
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
- 1/2 large bell pepper, chopped
- 2 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp ground thyme
- 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 3/4 tsp of cayenne pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lb smoked sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- Wash and drain red beans. In a four-quart saucepan, add two quarts of cold water and red beans. Soak overnight. Do not drain water. Or, in a four-quart saucepan, add two quarts of cold water and red beans. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer two minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand an hour before continuing. Do not drain water.
- Add onion, celery, and bell pepper to red beans, and bring to a boil. Stir in seasonings, cover, reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 hours, or until red beans are almost tender. Add sausage and simmer an additional 30 minutes, or until beans are tender and begin to thicken. (If you are concerned about the amount of salt in this recipe and unsure about the saltiness of the sausage, cut back the amount of salt used and adjust before serving.)
- Serve over hot rice and top with grated Cheddar cheese and chopped green onions, if desired.
Mexican hot chocolate
Recipe by Hugo Ortega
Okay, this isn't so much a recipe as it is a reminder that hot chocolate is wonderful, and this is the time to break it out. Ortega's restaurants have been making Mexican hot chocolate for so long—and he's been shipping the ingredients to customers for so long—that it just feels right to share his recipe.
If you want to booze it up, H-Town Restaurant Group Beverage Director Sean Beck likes green chartreuse. Other possibilities include brandy, tequila, dark rum ... just definitely not clear spirits like gin and vodka.
Oh, and if you want tablets of Mexican chocolate, get them from the chef himself.
- 4 cups whole milk or water
- 2 tablets (3 oz, each) Mexican chocolate, broken into chunks
- Combine milk or water and chocolate in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, about 10 minutes. Stir continuously to completely dissolve chocolate.
- Remove from heat. Using a hand blender, mix liquid until foamy, about two minutes.