Friday, February 18, 2011

A little black book of recipes: Chili with beer, guacamole with bacon

The Mad Men-esque idea of a little black book in these days of smart phones and IPads is quaint and charming, but seemingly out of touch. Not so with “Recipes Every Man Should Know,” by Susan Russo and Brett Cohen, (Quirk Books, 2010) part of Cohen’s “Things Every Man Should Know” series. Men no longer need little books full of phone numbers, but they can certainly use a little book to guide them through the kitchen and basics of cooking meals for themselves and others.

This book is slightly larger than a Blackberry, smaller than an IPad and it fits in a coat pocket or backpack. Its compact design is ideal for flipping through for quick mealtime ideas, discreetly pulling out while grocery shopping, and propping on the counter while preparing the dishes.

Author Susan Russo says the idea of a cookbook for men came to her when she lived in a condo in downtown San Diego, where there are lots of single, professional men. “I got tired of seeing them carrying take-out on the elevator, so I started asking them why they didn't cook. Almost invariably, they responded, "I don't know how to cook." I thought, "Well, I can help teach them. It's easy." Teaching comes naturally to Russo; she is a recipe developer and writer who blogs at FoodBlogga (Rhode Island-ese for "blogger.")

For research, Russo “Talked with a lot of guys everywhere -- at the supermarket, the airport, bookstores, restaurants and bars, Twitter and Facebook, you name it. Guys of all ages were more than happy to share their thoughts with me and offer their favorite dishes. Plus, having grown up in a male-dominant household, I was pretty confident that I knew what guys would like.”

Guy-friendly recipes include Foolproof French Toast, Baja-Style Fish Tacos, and entire chapters devoted to Meat & Potato Dinners, and Beer, Bacon & Bar Food. And for that extra something that shows a guy really knows how to cook, the book concludes with cookies, cheesecake, strawberry zabaglione, milkshakes and cocktails.

Here are two excellent recipes that go well together or separately. The recipes are guy-friendly, to cook and to eat. The chili will become your go-to recipe - it's beefed up with beer and beans. The guacamole gets a shot of bacon to lift it into the "ultimate guacamole" territory.

Beef and Beer Chili

1 tablespoon canola or olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 large green or red bell pepper, chopped

1 to 1 ¼ pound ground beef

1 ½ to 2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Several shakes of salt

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 (14.5 ounce) cans pinto or red kidney beans, drained

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juices

1 (12 ounce) bottle dark beer, such as stout

1 tablespoon cornmeal, optional

1. Warm oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers and sauté 5 minutes. Add meat. Cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in spices, salt and brown sugar. Add beans, tomatoes, and beer. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 to 25 minutes, or until thick and soupy. Stir in cornmeal in you want a thicker chili.

2. Serve chili hot, topped with any of the following: shredded Cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced avocado, sliced scallions, or fresh cilantro.

(Takes 30 to 45 minutes start to finish, 6 to 8 servings)

Bacon Guacamole

6 slices bacon

Flesh of two ripe avocados

1 medium tomato, chopped

4 scallions (white parts only) finely chopped

Juice of one lime

A couple pinches salt

A couple dashes hot sauce

Small handful fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1. Place bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook until crisp. Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. Let cool and chop into small pieces.

2. Combine remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until chunky. I used a fork with excellent results and one less dish to clean. (Takes 15 minutes to prep, yields 6-8 servings).

The wonderful folks at Quirk Books have offered a copy of "Recipes Every Man Should Know" to a reader of A Cook and Her Books. This book is $9.95 in stores and is absolutely charming and useful. It makes a great gift for a young man just starting out on his own - college students, new graduates, bachelors, really anyone who needs a road map to the kitchen. Please leave a comment below before midnight on February 28 and I will draw one name at random to receive the book. Please be sure to leave an email address or a way for me to find you (i.e., are you the Melissa I know from church or the Kim I know from high school?). Thanks for reading!


Michelle, the 4th commenter, is the winner of this cookbook. Michelle, please contact me by Thursday, March 3, at so that I can get the cookbook to you. There's still a copy of the cookbook to be given away - leave a comment on the Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf story by March 8 for a chance to win.

Text & images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer,
with the exception of the book cover image and the recipe.
Recipes excerpted from "Recipes Every Man Should Know" by Susan Russo and Brett Cohen
 (Quirk Books, 2010)


Joan Haskins said...

bacon guacamole? I'm there...

Susan from Food Blogga said...

As many times as I have eaten that bacon guacamole, I just see it and want it again! Thanks for the fabulous highlight, Lucy! I really appreciate it. :)

petersonjenna said...

So handy, love how you can discreetly pull it out at the grocery store. haha

Michelle said...

Great looking food! I'll have to put that on my menu. :)

Unknown said...

That Chili looks so delicious and I would love to have the little black book of receipes as I am always on the lookout for something new and tasty for dinner. Thanks Lucy! Your pal, Tammie Starks

Kim Buhl said...

I love guacomole and this one looks and sounds delicious! I will have to try it out!

Linda said...

Yummy, Lucy! I know just who I'd give that LBB to...

Maggie Hewes Adams said...

Now bacon in guacamole. THAT I can do. Thanks for the idea!

Rita said...

I love the idea of this book.

OMG bacon AND avocado could it be any better?

Rita215 at

Lynn Coulter said...

oh such yummy looking pix. must have guacamole soon! and chili.