Tag Archives: cumin


This is my sixth post about chili, although three of those have been about chili competitions. Why, you are probably asking. am I writing another?

First, it is the beginning of chili season. Around our house, the groves of aspen are beginning to color the mountainsides with great patches of golden-yellow. Closer to home, the chamisas (aka rabbit brush) are a matching golden-yellow, and the shrubs fill the country side. Unfortunately, they also elicit a characteristic allergy season. Purple asters fill in the bare spots between the chamisas while spikes of purple gay feather brag in clumps around the yard and the trailsides. Purple and gold are a beautiful combination of color that makes autumn around here so spectacular, never mind the reds and bronzes of the sumacs and the deciduous trees.

Second, the Terlingua chili competitions are only a month or so away. I’m sure my friend, Reggie, has been cooking in contests all summer long so that he has enough points to enter the competition. I hope that he plans to go because he has so many friends and fellow chili cooks who go to the big celebration

Third, there must be an infinite number of chili recipes, and I believe that the home cook can never have too many chili recipes. This, of course, excludes the entire mystique of Cincinnati two-way, three-way, four-way and the ultimate five-way chili. This recipe is particularly simple. Except for the meat and the onions, it is simply a matter of opening cans and dumping them all together. I admit that I made things a little more complicated by buying the best grade of stew meat I could find and cutting it into ¼ inch pieces. That’s what competition cooks did many years ago until someone using ground beef won the Terlingua contest. Since that tectonic event they have almost all switched to ground beef. You can do that, too, and then the recipe becomes even easier. I have used three different beans (definitely NOT a component of competition chili) to make the visual effect of the finished product more interesting. The seasonings are only a guide. In particular, use as much chili powder – 2 or even 5 tablespoons – to suit your taste and your tongue.


Open-a-Can Style Three-Bean Chili


  • 1 pound beef stew meat
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (15 ounces) beef stock + more if needed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) white chili beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (not ground chiles)
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cut the stew neat into ¼ inch cubes. Sauté in the oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pot over high heat, cooking until released water is boiled off and the meat is browned. Remove the meat to a plate and return the pot to the stove over medium heat.
  2. Sweat the onions in the heated oil, covered, until the onions are translucent but not browned. Return the browned meat to the pot.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
  3. Stir in the tomato sauce, beef stock, beans, chili powder, oregano, and cumin.  Bring the mixture to the boil and then reduce heat to the simmer. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add more beef stock if the chili becomes too dry.
  4. Simmer for 1 hour. Serve while still hot.




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We have gone to Colorado to visit my sister-in-law who is recovering from a hospital stay. Since she grew up in Texas, we thought some easy-to-eat Texas comfort food would welcome her back home.

If you have ever lived in Texas, you have probably eaten King Ranch Chicken. If you have never lived in Texas, it’s likely you have not even heard of the dish. King Ranch Chicken is served at Texas weddings, funerals, conferences, and of course women’s luncheons. It has even been suggested that the Texas State Legislature should designate KRC as the official State Casserole. A major function of the legislature seems to be to recognize the official state bird, fish, tree, etc. Some wags would  suggest that that is the most important thing they do.

In spite of all this fame, it is unknown how KRC got its name. One thing seems certain: it was not invented on the legendary King Ranch in Far South Texas. That assertion has been steadfastly denied by the wife of one of the past owners. A more likely explanation seems to me to be that it was invented and named by a home cook in the 1940s or 1950s during the heyday of The Joy of Cooking and Betty Crocker when a can of condensed soup was the key to elegance. Perhaps the inventor developed the recipe for her local Junior League cookbook. Versions of the recipe are certainly legion in all sorts of community cookbooks.

The first time I remember eating KRC was at a noon conference for students at a West Texas university many years ago. I don’t recall the topic of the conference, but I do remember that not a speck of the KRC remained. I also remember that it was tasty, gooey, and a little bit spicy.

There are probably as many recipes for KRC as there are Texas home cooks, but there are six key components: chicken of course, corn tortillas (though recent recipes substitute Doritos – a heresy as far as I’m concerned), cheese (some recipes swear by Velveeta), canned cream of mushroom soup, canned cream of chicken soup, and Ro*Tel. If you absolutely can’t stand the thought of canned soup, you can substitute your own homemade béchamel, but then your KRC would not be completely authentic.

Ro*Tel is another Texas invention. It was created during the 1930s in a small town near the Texas-Mexico border and not far from the King Ranch. It is a secret mix of tomatoes, green chiles, and spices. It is a key ingredient of queso dip and for years was only available in Texas. The tiny company was eventually sold to Con Agra, so now Ro*Tel should be available in every grocery store.

This version of the recipe includes two other ingredients that are not always in the recipe, but in my opinion they are both essential to Tex-Mex cooking: Mexican oregano and ground cumin. If you are not accustomed to their flavors you may find them objectionable. In that case, leave then out. Mexican oregano is different from Mediterranean oregano, and the best comes as leaves, stems, and flowers that you crush between the palms of your hands,

Some folks think KRC is too mushy. If you worry about that, cut back on the liquid. One of the beauties of KRC is that you can make the recipe your own. Then you will enjoy widespread fame throughout your neighborhood.


King Ranch Chicken


  • 1 whole chicken
  • 18 day-old corn tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 crimini mushrooms, torn into pieces
  • 10.5 ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 10.5 ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can Ro*Tel
  • 4 ounces canned chopped green chiles
  • 1 cup chicken stock (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper
  •  4 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • sour cream
  • green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into rounds (optional)
  • red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into rounds (optional)


  1. In a large pot, cover the chicken with salted water and bring to the boil. Cook at a low boil for 45 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked. Cool until it is easy to handle. Then remove the skin, bones, fat, and any gristle. Cut the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces or shred with two forks. Set aside.
  2. Toast the tortillas for 15-20 seconds on both sides in a dry, hot skillet. Cut the heated tortillas in half and set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and stir for a few minutes until translucent. Then stir in the mushroom pieces and continue to cook until the mushrooms are heated through and well-cooked. Stir in the mushroom soup, chicken soup,, Ro*Tel, green chiles, optional chicken stock, oregano, and cumin. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir well and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside for assembly of the casserole.
  4. Prepare a 9″ x 13″ x 4″ glass baking dish by spraying the inside with baking spray. Ladle a scant half cup of the soup mixture into the baking dish and spread across the bottom of the dish. Arrange 12 tortilla halves to completely cover the bottom of the dish.
  5. Arrange about half of the cut-up chicken to cover the tortillas. Then top with a little less than half of the soup mixture. Top with about one-third of the grated cheeses.
  6. Arrange another layer of tortilla halves, topped with the remaining chicken and more soup mixture, reserving about 3/4 cup for the top, and half the remaining cheeses. Dot with teaspoonfuls of sour cream.
  7. Arrange a final layer of tortilla halves. Top with the remaining soup mixture and cheeses.
  8. Decorate if desired with the optional bell pepper rings.
  9. Bake for one hour in the middle of an oven preheated to 350ºF, until the top is well-browned and bubbling. Remove from the oven, cool for 5 minutes, and serve immediately.


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Posole (po-so-lay) is decidedly Southwestern and maybe even uniquely Northern New Mexican, although it undoubtedly has some kinship to hominy from the American South. The word refers to at least wo different things.

First, it is one of the names used for nixtamalized corn. That’s dry corn treated with lye or an alkaline solution to remove the hard outer husk. It is a process that was developed by the peoples of the New World. You can read more about the process in one of my earlier posts about the history of corn. In other places, posole is called hominy.

Second, the word refers to a soup made with posole. In New Mexico the soup is popular during the Christmas-New Year holidays, but it is really a favorite during all the colder months of winter. For that matter, lots of people eat it all year long, sometimes instead of beans and rice. The soup has as many versions as there are cooks, but some things are constant: (1) posole, (2) chile (either red or green – you could probably even use both, (3) onions, (4) protein (chicken, pork, turkey – maybe even tofu and vegetarian), and (5) herbs and spices (cumin, cilantro, and Mexican oregano). Optional items include grated asadero or Monterrey jack cheese, sliced radishes, and diced avocado.

You can buy posole canned, frozen, partly cooked, and dry. For me the best version of the soup uses dry posole, but if you choose to use it you should be prepared for a long cooking time, much longer than described in most recipes.

Whatever version you choose, it is well worth the effort. For our family, it is a universal favorite that is required some time during a visit to Santa Fe.  So here’s the recipe for pork green-chile posole.


Pork Green-Chile Posole


  • 12 ounces dry posole
  • water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1½ pounds boneless pork shoulder, cubed (If you’re feeling festive, you can substitute chops)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 7 ounces fresh-roasted, frozen, or canned New Mexico green chiles
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 pints chicken stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled in your hand
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups grated asadero or Monterrey jack cheese (optional but highly recommended garnish)
  • 2 cups chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional but highly recommended garnish)
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and diced (optional garnish)
  • ½ cup thinly sliced radishes (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)


  1. Soak the dry posole over night in a large pot of water. Add more water if the posole absorbs it all.
  2. At least 6 hours before you plan to serve the soup, heat the oil over a medium-high flame in a large frying pan. Cast iron works well. Add the pork to the hot oil, being careful not to crowd it so you can get a good brown crust on the meat. Remove the browned meat to a plate with a slotted spoon.  Lower the flame to medium-low. Then add the chopped onion. Add more oil if needed. Cover and let the onions sweat for about 5 minutes, stirring them occasionally. Do not let them brown. Add the green chiles and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Stir in the browned meat and pressed garlic. Add the flour and stir to completely coat the meat and vegetables. Cook for an additional 5 minutes to lose the flavor of uncooked flour.
  3. Drain the soaked posole into a large bowl, reserving some of the soaking liquid. Transfer the meat and vegetable mixture to the soaking pot, add the chicken stock and enough of the soaking water to cover.  Bring the mixture to a boil, add the soaked posole, and adjust the liquid so that everything is completely covered.
  4. Add the cumin and crumbled Mexican oregano and reduce to the simmer. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add water if necessary.
  5. Cook until the individual posole kernels are soft and “exploded” to resemble (a little bit) popcorn. They should have the consistency of al dente pasta.
  6. When the posole is done, serve it in large bowls. Pass bowls of cheese, cilantro, avocado, radishes, and sour cream for each guest to add to taste.


  • This recipe should serve 6 to 8 people
  • If you think the soup is finished before you are ready to serve it, just turn down the heat or even re-heat it. Posole is one of those things that gets better with time.
  • Some people prefer chicken. Use that instead if you wish. It is every bit as tasty.
  • Piquancy is controlled by the heat of the chile. Food sensitivities in our family dictate mild, but you can always add your own hot sauce if you want your bowl to be spicier.
  • Asadero is a Mexican cheese made with a process similar to that of mozzarella. If you can’t find it, mozzarella or Monterey jack will substitute perfectly.
  • Mexican oregano often comes in a package of leaves, twigs, and flowers. That’s the kind you want. You should crumble the dried pieces between your hands to get the full flavor.


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I’m still working on emptying the freezer. I found more shrimp. I also had some leftover corn on the cob from a cookout the day before. With a can of black beans from the pantry, all of that seemed like the makings of a spring salad. For this recipe, you need to boil the shrimp in their shells, along with some crab boil. My choice is Zatarain’s liquid boil, because it is easy to use, but any brand will work.  Don’t cook the shrimp too long or they will become tough. Chill them in ice water before you peel them, and then refrigerate  until you are ready to use them.  Prepare the corn by cutting the kernels off the cobs. A sharp knife is just fine for the job, but if you are a gadgeteer, you might have fun using a special device for removing the kernels while leaving a beautiful, symmetric cob.

Dress the salad with the accompanying chili-lime vinaigrette to complete the Southwestern slant of the salad. This should serve two to four.



Shrimp, Corn, and Black Bean Salad


  • 10  16-20/pound frozen shrimp with shells, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons liquid Zatarain’s crab boil
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 cooked ears of corn
  • 1 can (14 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 ribs, celery, diced
  • ½ medium red onion, diced
  • ¼ cup pecan halves, chopped coarsely
  • ¼ cup sliced black olives
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Add the thawed shrimp to 4 quarts of boiling water to which has been added the salt and crab boil. Return to the boil and boil for 5 minutes. Drain and chill the shrimp in water and ice. When cool, peel the shrimp. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. With a sharp knife or circular corn cutter, cut the kernels off the corn cobs. Set aside until ready to assemble the salad.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the corn kernels, black beans, bell pepper, celery, onion, pecan pieces, and olives. Add the feta cheese crumbles and toss lightly.
  4. Dress with the chile-lime vinaigrette, toss lightly, and top with shrimp and tomato halves.
  5. Serve. Makes 2 to 4 servings

Chile-Lime Vinaigrette


  • 1 large lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground red chiles (your choice of heat)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon  turbinado sugar
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the lime juice and mustard together untill well combined.
  2. Whisk in the dry ingredients until completely incorporated.
  3. Slowly, one tablespoon at a time, whisk in the olive oil. Make sure that each tablespoonful is completely incorporated before adding the next.
  4. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Then use the entire recipe to dress the shrimp and vegetable salad. Serve immediately.


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