January 14, 2010

The accidental 5-alarm

Frantic to waste as little food as possible before we depart, I decided on a big batch of chili!

Preface: For me, chili is one of those dishes I make when I need to use up some ingredients. What follows isn't so much a recipe, as a recap.

I started by dicing:
  • One medium sweet yellow onion
  • Half a bulb of garlic
  • 2 or 3 chili peppers we bought this summer and dried
 Notice I got rid of that sepia. Getting more camera-savvy all the time!

WARNING: This is too much dried chili!! The pile looked about right, based on my usual amount of fresh hot peppers. But, hello! Dried spices have a more concentrated flavor. I should know this. Sometimes I am such a dimwit.

Once the chopping was done, I browned a pound of ground beef with a bit of salt and pepper in my chili pot. Doug helpfully drained off most of the grease (as always -- I'm so spoiled), and then I put the beef aside in a shallow, paper-towel lined dish.

Next, I dumped in the onion and garlic, with a touch of salt and pepper, of course. The small amount of oil left is perfect for sweating. Stir occasionally until the onion starts to turn transparent.

Notice I've apparently NOT mastered holding the camera still. Dammit.

At this point I dumped the ground beef back into the pot. Here's the grease stain it left behind. Eww...

Glad that's not in my chili!

(Note: That gross-looking black shit on the right is where the paint is chipped off my stove. I'm a sanitary cook, I swear.)

In the summertime, this is where I would add about 6-10 diced tomatoes (depending on size) with their juice. Unfortunately, winter tomatoes are both expensive and flavor-impaired. Instead I added a big can of whole cooked tomatoes, also with their juice, and cut into quarters.

This is where I added the beans too. Sometimes I use beans from a can, but last night I got ambitious and used dry ones. Granted, these had to soak overnight and then cook for like an hour and a half before I even started the chili. But I like their flavor and texture better. Canned or dried, I dump them in liquid and all.

Now begins the seasoning, all to taste.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Cumin (be generous with this; it's what makes chili taste like chili)
  • Chili powder or finely chopped chili peppers (remember, dried peppers are hotter!)
  • Parsley
Most times I also add some green Tabasco, but not tonight. Mercifully I tasted the chili and it nearly lit me on fire. Oops... Good thing we like it spicy 'round here. I put in a spoonful of honey to try and cut down the heat. Which, if I'm honest, didn't really help much.

Add a little water if the chili looks too dry. Then turn the heat way down, stick a lid on the pot, and walk away for at least a half-hour. The longer it simmers the better it tastes. Also important, the longer you plan to simmer the more liquid you need to add. I tend to barely cover the ingredients with water and let the whole mess go for at least two or three hours, stirring occasionally.

This batch is so hot, Satan is sweatin'.

Simmer and stir, simmer and stir, until the liquid is reduced and it's as thick as you like it. Some folks swear by a roux for thickening, but I tend to screw those up something awful. Patience and time will get you the thickness, without the flour (which I swear hurts the taste).

Taste the chili periodically to adjust the seasoning. After about 2 hours I tasted my accidental 5-alarm and found it needed more salt and parsley. Also, I couldn't resist adding the green Tobasco anyway. Since all I had put in were chili peppers, the spiciness was only hitting the back of my throat. Green Tobasco stimulates the tip of the tongue, and I missed that sensation. It really didn't add that much heat, considering.

There's a secret step at the end that I ain't posting on the interwebs. But if you ask me real nice I might share it privately!

For full-on "Misty" style, put some fresh cornbread in a bowl, add a ladle of chili, and top with cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Taking this picture before digging in = impressive restraint

(Also delicious with crackers, tortilla chips, hot dogs, pasta, etc.)

NOTE: Those dairy items actually go a long way toward toning down a too-hot chili. Mine was damn-near con queso, but it was gooooood...

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