Thursday, October 21, 2010

ˈtʃɪli Weekend!

Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the astonishing rescue of the miners after 68 days underground, I can't really say, but it was on my mind last weekend.  Chili.  I need some.  Want some. Gotta have some.

So I made some.

Now chili doesn't really have a recipe, it's more of a loose affiliation of companionable ingredients. Sure, you can find a recipe online somewhere, but honestly, it's just not that kind of dish!  I cannot begin to even estimate the amounts of the spices I used, because chili is an All-Day Taste-And-Season Meal.  The honest truth is that (unless you're using dried beans) the ingredients in chili really take about an 30 minutes to cook, and you could dish it up and eat it then.  But for it to really have The Soul of Chili, you gotta cook it all day.  If you're making chili for a party, I highly recommend making it the day before and it will be *bangin* on the following day.

So.....if we were to have a "recipe" for chili, it would consist of:
Some meat
Some beans (purists may be shocked, but it's my blog so make yer own if you disagree!)
Some spices (the spicey, peppery kind)
Some veg (specifically tomatoes, peppers, onions)
A Whole Lotta Time

So here's how I make it...

Team Spicey consists of:
Ground Red Cayenne Pepper
Smoked Paprika - the flavor of smoked paprika is really an excellent addition to chili, but if you don't have it, sweet paprika is fine as well.
Garlic Salt - you can use fresh garlic if you prefer
Ground Cumin - an oft overlooked spice, invite it to the party, it has a lot to say (but in an interesting way, not in an "omg who invited him, he never stops talking" kinda way).
Chili Powder
But yanno, you mix and match, make it your own!  If you want fresh hot peppers, use them instead! (Me? I'm afraid of capsaicin in my eyeballs!)

Team Veggie:
Sweet Spanish Onion - or vidalia, or whatever.  I recommend a sweet onion though, because you're already going to have a lot of heat in this dish (well, you will if you add a lot of spices!)
Ripe Tomatoes - you're gonna be cookin' tha bajeebers outta this, your tomatoes don't need to be beautiful and easy to slice, they need to be sweet and full of flavor! Don't get a beefsteak or a sandwich tomato, get plums, romas or some other juicy tomato.
Red Bell Pepper - my mom would say, "Use green peppers, too much red in this dish already".  I'd say, "Use what you like best, and I like the red bells".

Okay "meat" isn't really a team, but it is a critical component in chili.  Many people use ground beef, or ground pork, or a mixture of ground meats.   There are even some fabulous recipes for white chili made with chicken, so use whatever you'd like (though fish chili sounds really disturbing, I'm sure it exists somewhere *shudder*) ((holy smokes, why on earth did I google "fish chili"?!?!?))
At any rate.....I usually use stewing beef, since it's going to cook all the live long day, you can use a less expensive cut.  On this particular occasion, some big-ol honkin' steaks were on sale (like, a really good sale) so I got those instead and cut them up.
By cutting against the grain of the meet, and by cooking it all day at a low temperature, you can almost guarantee that the meat will be falling-apart-tender by the time you serve it.

Now if you're anything like me, about the time you start dicing up the meat (slightly larger than bite sized, against the grain of the meat), a little Helper VonHelpington will show up.  This ones name is Major Tom.  He and his brother Randy adopted us from a shelter, and we thought the name was pretty awesome so we kept it.  He's pretty awesome too, he can leap tall buildings in a single bound (okay, maybe not tall buildings, but he can jump unbelievably high).  Randy was busy napping.  He's got no truck with people-food unless it is cooked roast beef.  Yep, he's a snob.

Now where were we? Oh yeah, the meat.  What I do is put a little olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed stew pan.  I put it on a medium-low heat and I start adding all my spices above.  Again, can't tell you how much to add, just....well, a lot.  If your chili turns out too hot (for some people there is such a thing, don't be a spice-snob) you can always add a little sour cream at the end to cool it down a bit, or add a little granulated sugar.  Add your diced meat to the pan and commence to cookin'.

Now start chopping up your veggies and adding them to the mixture.  For this pot of chili I used 4.66 pounds of meat, 1.3 pounds of tomatoes, 1 medium onion, one medium red pepper and two cans of dark red kidney beans, and I added them in that order, cooking at a low temperature the entire time.  Once the meat has cooked all the way through you can begin to taste and adjust your spices.  I actually wait until the chili has been cooking about 3 or 4 hours before I add the beans, because otherwise they can turn super mushy. (Yes, my stove top is messy.  If you're not making a mess you're not really cooking, you're just heating up!)

Because I live in a really small apartment with someone with asthma and multiple allergies whose condition is aggravated by raw onions, I have a little trick.  I use my small, $15 counter-top chopper doohicky.  I turn on the vent, quickly peel the onions and dispose of the peels, do a rough chop of the onions, toss them in the chopper-whatsis, put on the lid, then rinse the cutting board and knife and wash my hands.  Then I activate the chopper-thingamabob, dump the onions in the pan and put the lid on the pan.  Done and dusted with minimal fuss.

Soooooo, let that chili simmer for a looooooooong time.  Take a nap (but don't forget to stir!)

About a half hour before you just can't stand the deliciousness wafting from your kitchen any more and have to dive in to a big old bowl, make yourself some cornbread muffins!


This meal was cooked under the influence of Grandmaster Flash, Talking Heads, Parliament Funkadelic and David Bowie.  Food tastes better when it's made with joy, and music is joy so crank it up.