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The Home Cook’s award winning chili.

Featured Article

Recipes and Tips from Stephanie Berghoff

The (Happy) Home Cook

Article by Robin Moyer Chung

Photography by Mindy Briar

Originally published in Westport Lifestyle

As a child, Stephanie Berghoff’s favorite toy was an Easy Bake Oven. I had the oven, too, but she actually baked cakes while I mostly ate the batter. From that diminutive appliance sprang her love of cooking and my realization that sweets are delicious at all points during their creation.

Growing up, the inclinations of our youth manifested themselves in unsurprising ways. For instance, my brain tells me I like the process of cooking, but only if it’s going to be a dessert. So I liked the idea of meal kits. Cold-packed dinner ingredients dropped at my door, all perfectly measured. I simply chop, mix, cook and figure out what to do with the piles of packaging and 3-pound slabs of dry ice.

As I stood in my kitchen each night, forcing my kids to help prep (Family fun! Just like the commercials!) I thought, “This would be a lot easier if they just sent me the *&$% meal already cooked.”

Thank goodness Stephanie’s life didn’t take the same reckless turn mine did. She continued cooking after college and still loves it. “Everyone deserves to eat good food, it’s such a pleasure in life,” Stephanie exclaims. So she started The Home Cook (THC) last July, 2018 (TheHomeCookCT), a “local meal ‘heat & eat’ delivery service.”

Stephanie exudes vitality with a fun personality that draws people to her. This effervescence shines through her cooking, which is abundant and thoughtful, with updated comfort food and delicious healthful meals that are equally as delicious. She made an artichoke dip, just for the heck of it, that was so good I wanted to eat all of it with a spoon.

Her street cred comes from recruiting personnel for large city restaurants. She also created Culintro, a successful “community and job board for career-minded food and beverage professionals.” After moving to Westport she continued to recruit locally and found it “really, really hard” to get quality employees.

One day last year a pastry chef, for whom Stephanie found a great job, never showed up for her first day of work. While not an uncommon occurrence it was the grain of salt that spoiled her sauce. Stephanie tore off whatever it is recruiters wear and threw on her apron, turning to what she loves to do and making hundreds of people happier for it.

Each week she prepares and delivers an average of 135 delicious, made-from-scratch meals (one protein and two sides) to families in Fairfield County. She overhauls the menu every week so customers don’t find themselves staring at the same dinner every few days. She spends 3-5 hours pouring over cookbooks, websites, and back issues of Gourmet magazine for each dish. Typically, she studies 10-12 recipes for each dish, combining them to create her signature fare.

We asked Stephanie to share two of her, and her customers’ favorite recipes. Use the best quality ingredients you can find and share the meals with friends!

“I love cooking soup. You can always improve it.”

The Home Cook’s Award-Winning Chili

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 3-4 t. paprika
  • 2-3 T. chili powder
  • 2-3 t. cumin
  • 1 32 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 2 t. sugar
  • 2 15.5 oz cans black beans (rinsed & drained)
  • 1 15.5 oz can kidney beans (rinsed & drained)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot or cast-iron Dutch oven over medium-high heat, sauté onions till translucent, then add in garlic and sauté for another minute (until it’s fragrant but not burnt) and then add in ground beef, until the meat becomes gray in color; drain off fat and discard.

Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and beef broth to the ground beef. Add cumin, chili powder, chili peppers, sugar, salt and pepper and stir.  

Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, approximately 3 to 4 hours, stirring often.

Note: Additional beef broth or water may be added as needed. If you like more spice, feel free to play around with quantities of chili powder and paprika. I usually add in a few teaspoons more of each as the chili cooks down. The sugar is added to cut down the acidity of the tomatoes, so feel free to add in more if you think it still tastes too acidic.

Add beans and continue to simmer another 30 minutes.  

NOTE: During the last 30 minutes of cooking, do a lot of tasting and adjust seasoning to taste.

For maximum flavor, cool chili and refrigerate overnight so flavors will mellow. Chili is best made one day ahead to allow the flavors time to marry.

When ready to serve, remove top layer of solidified fat (if there is any), reheat chili over low heat and serve in large individual bowls. If the chili seems thick when rewarming add in a bit more beef broth (1/4 cup at a time). If you add in too much, you can always reduce with the cover off.

Set out garnishes for your chili (some chopped green onions, sour cream and shredded sharp cheddar cheese make great topping) along with some warmed cornbread.

“I love hearing that people enjoy the food.”

Stephanie’s Wildly Popular Pesto

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves (no stems)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine basil leaves, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor and process until very finely minced.

With the machine running, slowly dribble in the oil and process until the mixture is smooth.

Add the cheese, salt, and pepper and process just long enough to combine. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Fun Facts About The Home Cook

  1. On Mondays the head chef of a popular restaurant, whose name we want to publish but can’t, helps Stephanie cook.
  2. To reduce packaging waste, Stephanie is developing a “pyrex share” for her customers.
  3. When Stephanie was in middle school, she wrote and sold a cookbook to raise money for WE Charity in Africa.
  4. Local vs. organic: “A former head of the U.S. Food Administration told me, when buying produce choose local over organic.” Local produce doesn’t have to travel as far, so shelf-life is minimal.

Shopping Tip:

“At Stew’s, the turnover is great. I’ll talk to them to determine what’s freshest the day I buy it. They’ll cut it for me before it hits the shelves, so it’s prepped and wrapped when I come in.”

  • Gem salad.
  • Gem salad.
  • The Home Cook’s popular pesto.
  • The Home Cook’s popular pesto.
  • A delicious artichoke dip.
  • A delicious artichoke dip.
  • A delicious artichoke dip.
  • The Home Cook’s award winning chili.
  • Garnish with lime, sour cream, green onion, shredded cheese, and cilantro.
  • The Home Cook’s award winning chili.
  • Stephanie Berghoff in her kitchen.