Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been amazed by the dishes that come out of my grandma’s kitchen– homemade pizza every Friday night, deliciously sweet barbeque ribs, rich and milky potato soup, and, of course, melt-on-your-tongue chocolate chip cookies that the men in my family demolish the day they are made. Everything always looks so…professional.
Chelsea’s Cooking Education with Grandma Judy Sonksen (image by Marshall Sonksen)
I suppose that is because my cooking skills are limited to reheating leftovers (but trust me, I have skills with that microwave). And reheating leftovers has served me well thus far in my life. My parents make some pretty yummy dinners, and in turn, I have the same thing for lunch the next day. And at college, my 21-meals-a-week meal plan still keeps me sheltered from the culinary world. But, the moment has finally come when I am going to have to cook real food for myself. Next fall I will be studying at University College Cork in Ireland, and instead of a meal plan, I’ll have a kitchen. Yikes.
So I’ve called in my reinforcements, and decided to learn to cook from the best chef I know— my grandma. Every Tuesday this summer, my grandma and I will create a menu that I will learn to cook that night. I want to learn exotic things like sushi and pad thai, but my grandma keeps reminding me that I need to be practical. I don’t think I’ve ever been practical in my whole life. But she is right.
Last week was my very first cooking class, and I learned how to make baked chicken, green beans with bacon and potatoes, squash, and cornbread. Holy Toledo. We were running all over that kitchen, dicing and boiling and baking. Whoever knew cooking took such intense multi-tasking skills? Not me, that’s for sure. But we pulled it off, and my grandpa gave me an A on presentation and flavor. (I’m pretty sure he would have given me an A if I burnt the chicken to a crisp.)
Last night we made a dish that has always been a staple in my house—chili with popovers. Not only was it a particularly yummy menu, but it was also especially practical, as I can freeze some of the chili for a day when I don’t want to stand in front of the oven for an hour. Although it was a bit more complicated than the chicken, after lots of simmering, mixing, and tasting, it too was a success (and judging by Dad’s second and third helpings, my family agreed).
So, for all the other cooking-impaired college students like me, here is the recipe. It really isn’t hard, I promise. And it just so happens to be delicious.
image of Chelsea’s Chili by Marshall Sonksen
Chili – makes enough for 10 servings (but don’t forget you can freeze it for later)
3 onions- chopped
2 pounds hamburger meat- 85% lean
2 big cans of hot chili beans
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons and 1½ teaspoons chili powder
3 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1. Coat the bottom of a large saucepan with olive oil and put it on medium-high heat.
2. Add chopped onions to oil.
3. Squeeze hamburger in with onions- adding it in small pieces.
4. Cook until the hamburger is no longer pink.
5. Pour the whole mixture into a colander and drain the grease down the sink.
(Run hot water while you drain the grease so your pipes don’t clog.)
6. Put hamburger and onions back in saucepan on stove.
7. Add chili beans, salt, pepper, Tabasco, chili powder and all the cans of tomatoes.
(As I said, it makes a lot.)
8. Simmer on low, stirring occasionally for an hour.
This post was written by Chelsea Sonksen, a junior at Colby College who is interning with Maine Food & Lifestyle this summer.