Bam! The world knows Emeril Lagasse for his trademark exuberance and empire of cooking shows, cookbooks and gourmet products. But did you know he nearly entered an entirely different field? Though he established his love of food and cooking at an early age (first at his mother Hilda’s side, then at the Portuguese bakery where he worked as a teen), Emeril Lagasse was offered a full scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music. Instead, he pursued a career as a professional chef, going from the culinary program of Johnson & Wales to the restaurants of Paris and Lyon. But his career really “kicked it up a notch” at the legendary Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. His work there earned him rave critical reviews, and he went on to open an impressive roster of restaurants, from Emeril’s in 1990 to Emeril’s Miami Beach in 2003. For most of us, though, Emeril Lagasse’s recipes and the cookbooks and cooking shows that showcase them are what make his name recognizable. He was one of the Food Network’s first superstars, and his cookbooks—from Farm to Fork and Emeril 20-40-60 to Emeril’s There’s a Chef in My Soup! (for kids)—are, like the chef himself, full of fun and good times.
Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders
Emeril’s Chuck Wagon Chili for the Slow Cooker
¼ cup chili powder 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds 1 teaspoon cayenne ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 teaspoons dried Mexican or regular oregano, crumbled between your fingers 3 bay leaves 2 teaspoons light or dark brown sugar 4 pounds boneless beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 1 ½ - to 2- inch cubes 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 ½ tablespoons kosher salt 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 3 medium onions, coarsely chopped (about 4 cups) 1 ½ cups chopped celery, including leaves 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped 2 jalapeno chiles, roughly chopped One 12- ounce bottle dark Mexican beer, such as Negro Modelo 2 tablespoons tomato paste One 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes 1 ounce semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped 3 tablespoons masa harina (corn flour, not cornstarch) ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves ½ cup chopped fresh parley leaves Grated cheddar cheese, for garnish Chopped green onion, for garnish Sour cream, for garnish
1. Combine the chili powder, cumin seeds, cayenne, cinnamon, oregano, bay leaves, and brown sugar in a small bowl; set the spice mixture aside.
2. Add the beef to a medium bowl and season with the pepper and 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a 12-inch or larger skillet over high heat. Add enough beef to fill the pan and cook until nicely browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn the pieces over and cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer the browned beef to the crock of a 6- quart slow cooker. Repeat with the remaining beef, adding the remaining vegetable oil between batches as necessary.
4. Add the onions, celery, and 1 tablespoon of the remaining salt to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapenos, and spice mixture and cook for 1 minute longer. Pour in the beer, tomato paste, and crushed tomatoes and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in the chocolate, masa harina, and remaining 11⁄2 teaspoons salt and cook for 1 minute longer. Transfer this mixture to the slow cooker. Cover and cook the chili on high, undisturbed or stirring only once during cooking, for 6 hours, or until the beef is very tender. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the cilantro and parsley. Serve the chili hot in bowls, topped with grated cheddar, chopped green onion, and sour cream.
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