If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen this hashtag: #privatechefmonday.
My best friend, a chef, created it to capture our Monday nights — her only night off from her Scottsdale restaurant. Most Mondays, she comes to my house and we cook together.
It’s very low key. The only other person allowed to attend this private gathering is my husband. As you can imagine, he is the most enthusiastic supporter of our weekly event. She would like me to point out that it was my husband who coined the term “Private Chef Monday,” but she posted it as a hashtag, so I give them both credit.
Sometimes I cook everything, sometimes she cooks everything, and sometimes we both cook. We might cook out of cookbooks we own — both of us have a serious cookbook habit — or we might just cook by the seat of our pants.
Last night’s #privatechefmonday was so simple and delicious, so easy to pull together, I thought I’d share the recipes.
Charleen is a vegetarian, so usually we plan a menu around vegetables. I found a potato and green chile stew recipe on the Food52 cooking site from Deborah Madison. Deborah is a friend of Charleen’s, and even came to her restaurant for a lunch to celebrate her “Vegetable Literacy” book launch. I knew this recipe would be a) simple, b) something my friend would love, and c) quick and easy, save roasting the chiles.
By the way, roasting chiles is a breeze on a pepper grate. I bought my pepper grate from the Santa Fe School of Cooking. You can use canned chiles in this stew recipe, but nothing beats the flavor of fresh roasted chiles.
To me, stew and cornbread go hand in hand, plus my husband is a serious cornbread fan. I chose Sean Brock’s Cracklin’ Cornbread recipe from his book “Heritage,” but made a major adjustment — I dropped the “cracklin,” aka bacon, and replaced it with butter so it would fit the vegetarian theme.
Here is the link to the Potato and Green Chile Stew recipe by Deborah Madison on Food52. I made a couple adjustments you might want to consider:
- First, I doubled the recipe. And I roasted the chiles the day before to save time.
- I started with whole cumin and coriander seeds, toasted them on the stovetop and then ground them in a coffee grinder I have dedicated as my spice grinder. I also used a bit more of each spice than what she calls for, and I added an extra garlic clove, even after doubling the recipe.
- I used Yukon gold potatoes instead of russets.
- I used Savory Choice vegetable stock concentrate instead of chicken stock or plain water.
- I squeezed about a tablespoon or so of lime juice into the soup just before serving, and I garnished it with another lime wedge for each person. It really needs a bit of acid to brighten it up.
- I crumbled a couple chiltepins (small dried chiles) into the soup for a little spice since my poblanos were so mild.
Now for the cornbread, here is Sean’s recipe, adapted to make it vegetarian and husband friendly — my husband likes his cornbread on the sweet side, oddly, considering he is a true Southerner, and it’s usually Yankees who put sugar in cornbread, but we aim to please here on #privatechefmonday. I encourage you to develop a similar tradition, your own version of #privatechefmonday — cooking with your best friend — and sharing the fruits of your labor on social media.
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 2 cups cornmeal, preferably medium to coarse grind
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1-1/2 cups low fat or whole buttermilk
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Heat the oven to 450 degrees (425 if convection).
- Place the vegetable oil in a 9-inch cast iron skillet and put the skillet in the oven to heat while you mix the batter.
- Whisk the dry ingredients -- cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder -- together in a medium bowl.
- Whisk the buttermilk and egg together until blended. Stir in the melted butter.
- Pour the buttermilk mixture over the cornmeal mixture and stir just until the mixture is fully incorporated and smooth.
- Remove the hot skillet from the oven and pour the batter into the hot pan (it will sizzle).
- Put the skillet back into the oven and bake until the cornbread pulls away from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.