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Portuguese White Chili

Because I had the ingredients on hand and that evenings have gotten cooler (finally!), I decided to make a certain kind of white chili. Confession time: It does have two key ingredients you probably have not tried, do not want to try or both. One is collagen rich, which is the protein so important for healthy skin and muscle tone. The other is an excellent source of protein that is high in fiber and rich in calcium. Good stuff. If you do eat meat even once in a while please keep reading! Otherwise, this blog post is probably one to click by. :)

Rich with a blend of curry and spices, the beans add a firmness in contrast to the overall creaminess of this hearty cassoulet-like dish. Calling it that may be glorifying this bean stew just a bit, but I'm really hoping you will give it a chance. It was once described to me as "rib-sticking soul food", and this was from someone who never tried the two key ingredients before. With bits of tender meat lending a subtle, unique flavor, this is a comfort food that "hits the spot" and beckons the satiated to pile on seconds. Also regarded as one of the best hangover foods (so they say), if it happens to be in the fridge, it gets chosen over just about anything else ... for several meals in a row ... if it lasts that long ... in fridges with other wonderful noshing options ... really.

The traditional method for making this recipe calls for preparing the meat in larger, discernible pieces. But if I did that, no one would give it a chance! So the first change is to focus on making it more palatable. I start by pouring a nice glass of wine, pulling out my trusty knife and chopping everything up into very small pieces. Not too much wine because dexterity is important, but a sip here and there takes the edge off while I deal with hocks and sponge. Yes, you heard it right. We're talking trotters and tripe. Hang on if you can ... So I just keep chopping until I'm convinced that all traces of sponge-like pieces have been removed.

Next up: The dish gets renamed "Portuguese white chili". The original name, "Tripas a Moda do Porto" gives away too much because "tripas" is Portuguese for "tripe". With a history dating back to fifteenth century Henry the Navigator and The Battle of Ceuta, changing the name requires a fairly bold move. I try to justify it as best I can: When given the opportunity I do like rolling my r's, but let's face it, the word "tripa" does not sound all that yummy. So I tell myself that after several hundred years, a name change is long overdue. The rest of the ingredients are generally more acceptable, I think, including chouriço (Portuguese sausage), navy beans, homemade roasted tomato sauce, onions, carrots, garlic, cumin and so on. However, I'm concerned its original name may possibly scare away the otherwise happy diner of white chili. No planned deceptions. It's not to trick anyone into eating something they would prefer not to eat. Simply upgrading the name helps it sound enticing, which this dish deserves. Sorry Henry.

Al likes Portuguese White Chili with fresh-from-the-oven sourdough bread. And I think this absolutely "offal chili" gets some umami goodness from freshly grated queijo da ilha along with a dollop of homemade goat yogurt. Queijo da ilha is a wonderful hard, sharp somewhat spicey Portuguese cheese from cows roaming freely on Azorean pastures. Lucky cows.

So if you have the stomach (couldn't resist the pun), consider trying a version of Tripas a Moda do Porto, reworking with some chopping magic. Similar to traditional chili, there are many versions of this dish, but if you would like mine, see below. Remember that all you need to do is pour yourself a good glass of wine while dealing with the tripe and trotters chopping, and then you should be sure-footed and good to go! - Caroline

Portuguese White Chili

This slow-food dish requires at least two days for the cooking steps. It is not complicated, but it does take time. As is, the recipe yields a generous ten cups, but it can be proportionately decreased (or increased) to your liking. I like to double the recipe and then freeze a big batch of single one-cup servings. Like typical chili recipes, this is a great springboard for adjusting any of the ingredients and flavorings to your preferences. Try chicken in place of trotters and bacon or perhaps Portuguese presunto / Italian prosciutto in place of the ham steak. If you don’t like curry, leave it out. Maybe add marjoram and fresh thyme instead. Serve with rice, couscous and/or a good sourdough bread. Top with diced garden-fresh tomatoes and parsley - - or with your favorite cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Serve in a bread bowl or on a potato, and definitely with a salad. So many possibilities!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds pig's (or calves’) feet, cut in chunks by butcher

2 pounds honeycomb tripe

5 oz chouriço, casing removed and coarsely chopped into smaller pieces

7 oz lean ham steak cut in tiny cubes about the size of green peas

1 pound dried navy beans - alternatively use more traditional beans such as haricot, great Northern or chickpeas. Do start with dried beans so they can do their very best in amplifying the overall flavor and in adding the right texture. Canned beans work in a pinch, but it won't be nearly the same.

Coarsely chopped in food processor: 3 yellow onions, 2 carrots, 5 whole garlic cloves, 1 cup fresh parsley

3/4 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon cumin

1 bay leaf

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Method:

--> Cut tripe into manageable pieces approximately three inches square. Clean the tripe. If it is grey or greenish brown in color, a more thorough cleaning beyond these directions will be required. These directions are specifically for white (bleached) tripe. First use a sharp knife to remove any fat that may appear on the smooth side. It will be white in color. Discard. Clean by rubbing thoroughly on both sides with coarse salt. Rinse with cold running water. Repeat at least three times, removing all of the salt. Soak in cold water for 2 - 3 hours.

--> Place tripe and trotters in stock pot. Cover with water above everything by about one inch. Add one teaspoon salt and half of the red wine (1/4 cup). Bring to boil then lower to barely a simmer. Allow to cook this way for three hours or longer. Amount of time depends on how tender you prefer your tripe. I slow cook it for about three hours, sometimes longer so that it is very tender. Caveat: a cooked-tripe aroma will develop in your house. To minimize, maintain a simmering stovetop potpourri of cinnamon sticks, orange slices and cloves. Once cooking is done, allow to cool a bit then refrigerate.

--> Rinse and soak dried navy beans overnight. Do this in the usual manner for cleaning and soaking dried beans prior to cooking. Keep in mind that beans can generally soak for up to 24 hours without any problems. After that, drain and store in fridge for up to four days. Good to know if life gets busy and you need to delay some of the steps here.

--> Next day, drain trotters and tripe from pot, reserving broth for cooking soaked beans. Drain beans from soaking water, rinse then add to pot of reserved broth. Bring to boil then simmer on low for one hour.

--> While beans are cooking in the flavored broth, cut tripe into square pieces, smaller than a dime and larger than a pea so that its sponge-like texture is no longer apparent. This is when you have a glass of wine and use your trusty knife. Actually, you may have implemented the wine suggestion when tripe was first mentioned and that works too. Get the music going and know that you are almost done with the difficult step. Now for the trotters, discard bones and fatty skin. Keep only the lean meat and nutritious marrow. There will be very little. It will mostly be slimy fatty skin and bones. Yes, slimy. Take another sip of wine. Okay, you’re good. Traditional recipes keep everything but the bones, but we will keep only the leaner meat and toss the rest.

--> After an hour of simmering begin checking the beans for texture. Drain, reserving broth when beans reach the al dente stage. Set drained beans aside, combining with the tripe and trotters.

--> In large pot on medium/high heat sauté onions, carrots, garlic cloves and parsley in the olive oil. After a minute add chouriço and cubed ham. Add just enough reserved broth so that sauté does not stick. After another couple of minutes add the curry, paprika and cumin. After another minute or so add the rest of the wine, tomato sauce and bay leaf, followed by a little more broth, if needed. Once everything is blended together, add beans, tripe and trotters. Ladle in additional reserved broth for a stew-like (not soup-like) consistency. It can be slightly thinner than a typical chili because it will thicken when refrigerated. You may be left with quite a bit of unused broth. I save it to make pea soup. Just cool, date and freeze for another time.

--> Allow everything to simmer in the pot for about half an hour and then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy, or for a more developed flavor wait until tomorrow. Then you can make bread and serve this at just the right time when your warm sourdough bread is ready. Al maintains a wonderful sourdough starter for me. Let me know if you would like that recipe!

 
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Using what I think was a turn-of-the-century metal wine label, Al made a mold and then cast a few in recycled sterling silver. Then I asked him to engrave healthy-living reminders. Now is probably a good time to tell you that we have been blogging less, mainly because of focusing more on practicing better health. Moving away from some old habits ended up being a bigger deal. Who knew? The good news is that it has been totally worth it, and we hope the big learning curve part is behind us now so we can blog again more regularly.

Back to these engraved wine labels. I think I'll call them tags. For the personalized messages, I tried to think of reminders to help keep on track. Keep the drive alive as they say, right? 4-7-8 is a breathing technique, and a great way to improve health and soothe the mind. We try to use 4-7-8 for the pesky daily stress things that crop up, and it's something to do while waiting in line, or when in a traffic jam. And doing 4-7-8 before taking the first bite of food slows me down to practice mindful eating. We're finding that it helps make eating more enjoyable, which ends up being a bit paradoxical. Surprisingly, the more Al and I enjoy our food the less we're inclined to overeat. Have you ever noticed that? Are you practicing 4-7-8? When do you find you use it?

"Be Bold" helps my thinking so I stay on track with exercise. Before my six-gym-days/wk commitment (fast approaching the two-year mark - - woo hoo!), I hadn't done any consistent exercise since leg-warmers were a {wince} fitness fashion must. So being bold helps me tell the excuses in my head to take a hike. My head keeps talking though, and I have to give it a little credit because some of the reasons are pretty creative and very convincing. To be bold is something I have to work at every day so that excuses get squashed before they win.

The eating part of healthy living encompasses so much, and right now that includes making ready for a small garden, which we have fun planning together. But for the tag where Al engraved "hara hachi bu" - - that focuses on the eating, not the gardening. This Okinawan phrase reminds me about striving for balance, which includes practicing portion control and listening to my body so I stop at 80% full instead of Thanksgiving full. I feel so much better when I do this. Light, focused, serene, and balanced.

These engraved tags might look nice in a bracelet - - or maybe individual pendants...

...What do you think? It's great to be back. Hello!

 
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Email or call for Al's hours: beyondtherockz@gmail.com 860-394-7231
Have you seen our new sign?
It glows so bright that it's impossible to miss!
If you're in the Connecticut area, you cannot miss it on Route 5 in Enfield at 546 Enfield Street.  Why not stop by and say "hello"! 
 

It is such an honor to be included in the Spring/Summer edition of The Connecticut Bride Magazine! This comprehensive wedding guide always features wonderful photos, fresh and modern inspiration, and of course a fabulous article right now on green & sustainable weddings! We went to Barnes & Noble in Enfield to pick up two copies (one his and hers set), and their website tells you where copies are currently being stocked throughout Connecticut.

 
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On the Mohawk Trail in Charlemont, Massachusetts, we discovered this beautiful field of sunflowers in full bloom. 
Sunny bright yellows to chase away those end-of-summer blues!
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Back at the bench, I made recycled gold settings for these custom earrings, and now they are ready for the opals to be set.
 
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Here are some rings I recently completed. I made the sapphire ring (top row, middle) from the owner's family jewelry. The rest are made from recycled unwanted pieces. The process is compelling, and in a somewhat similar light, I recently came across more on John D’Agostino's fascinating work. He photographs the beauty of light meeting a rescued shard of Tiffany glass. "Luminous Moods in Shards of Tiffany" is best viewed in full screen. If you have a minute, please take a look and then share your thoughts here if you like.

 
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Translation: The Lord is my light
I love the physicality of fabrication:
the hiss of quenching precious metal,
the smell of the materials,
the sound of my hammer ...

Tonight I made this pendant, starting with molten recycled sterling silver and old world hand methods.    One sparkling vintage diamond is bead-set on top.  Embellishing the personalized message is a cross on the bail, as well as detailed leaves and shell.   Offering a glimpse into the past, the designs in this pendant were all handmade by a 19th century English craftsman, which I carefully embossed and then oxidized.
 
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Click the photo for how to make this sweet cookie house on a mug ...
Ah, the spicy aroma of baking gingerbread!  Making a gingerbread house from scratch is one of our favorite yearly traditions.  Isn't this sweet little house perched on a mug wonderful?  
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Click the photo for detailed steps ...
This house looks exactly like ours.  Well almost!
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Many happy hands built our gingerbread house, which as you can see is piled with candy!  Maybe one year we'll get serious and make one for show.   Enjoy these festive days!
 
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Cuff links of Great Grandmother Aurora, her 22K gold chain and tablecloth
Long before she came to America, Great Grandmother Aurora owned a steamer trunk with beautiful hand-embroidered tablecloths passed down from family, including a few she made herself.  Some sections are so elaborate that the supporting linen appears to be hidden.  She's gone now, but the tablecloths are kept safe in the same steamer trunk with one or two brought out on special family occasions.  Reminders of the importance of time, care and attention to detail.
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When Great Grandfather Antonio married Aurora, he gave her a very long 22K gold chain.  A traditional gift for the bride that took Antonio years of saving.  With much of that from working the farm, there are a few family stories having to do with hard work, ingenuity and making do with what one has.  Before she passed on, Great Grandmother Aurora asked me to divide the chain in three.  One for each grandchild.  (One is shown in the very first photo above.)   Around the time I worked on the chain, I came to realize something that family was telling me all along: 
What changes isn't as important as what never changes. 
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A favorite suit of mine. One day I hope to own one made by Lorenzo.
Cousin Lorenzo is a tailor who specializes in custom suits.  He lived in New Jersey for a while but has moved back home to Italy.  Passed down to him from his father are old world hand methods that he carefully applies even to the layers that will never see the light of day.   Without any real discussion he managed to teach:   Value without compromize. 
Affordable luxury. 
Quality without cutting corners.  
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Family strengthens one's identity and connects us to what is important.  And so my work is an alchemy of traditional techniques and sensibilities as I strive to create an aesthetic that forges an emotional connection.
 
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Near the Main Street Bridge in Fairhaven.
A Sunday drive, enjoying the foliage, followed by a visit with friends at a nearby car show.   
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My friend Jon made a template for me so I could present the photos as shown here. To see some of his other creative work, click the photo.

Then another picturesque drive, this time stopping at a big old barn. 
Inside streaming light revealed a DeLorian underneath a plastic covering thick with dust.  What a find!
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Discovering this DeLorean in an old barn was the hightlight of the day.

A refreshing break away, and then back to finishing a custom project.
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