Category Archives: Chili
I just got an email from my good friend and dedicated reader, Linder. (Same Linder who went to the Maple Sugar Festival with me a few weekends ago.) She tried out my family’s recipe for Texas chili, and it was a success!
After making it for her husband, the consensus is the beans make the difference–so if you’re not totally against them, they’re a must-have.
Glad to know the recipe turned out well for someone else too!
What a culinary night.
It started out wonderfully—I had a nice, relaxing dinner with my Baby Cousin, her boyfriend, and their adorable little two year old. She is, by far, the most beautiful, brightest, happiest little girl that ever walked the face of this earth. I might be slightly partisan considering she’s my godbaby, but that’s neither here nor there. We went to Sweetwater Tavern, and I had a lovely salmon salad with dried cranberries and new potatoes. I need to figure out what was in that dressing because it was wonderful.
Around 8pm, we parted ways. They drove home for baths and bedtime stories and I headed off for, where else, the grocery store.
Tomorrow is a very auspicious day at the office. One of our tech heavy hitters is moving on to greener pastures. (This is a recurring theme, for some reason. We lost two others last week.) As her send off, the boys and Shelley have organized a Black Tie Rodeo. Participants are invited to wear formal attire or western garb. Yours truly will be snookering out with a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt, but there is a promise of a tuxedo, so I will keep you posted.
However, as the resident food blogger, my main contribution to the war effort will be a kick ass cowboy-style chili for the conference room happy hour tomorrow afternoon. This is a tried and true recipe, courtesy my mama.
I was so excited to make this chili tonight. I practically skipped through a blissfully Ghetto Mama-free Shoppers, gleefully popping this and that into my basket. I envisioned myself producing a fabulous conglomeration of hearty meat, spices, and tomato puree that would forever win my colleagues love, respect, and affection. Promotions and pay raises will be offered and I, shocked and honored, will be unable to resist.
Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?
And so, I submit for your gastronomical approval, my mother’s recipe for chili. This is a special recipe in our family, made during football games and cold winter nights. Usually served with rice and/tortilla chips with cheese and sour cream.
Mama’s Texas Red Chili
3lbs stew meat
1 large onion (I hate onions but Mom says I have to.)
1 schlock of garlic (Note: A ‘schlock’ is my father’s term for ‘however much garlic looks like enough.’)
2 cups tomato puree
1 can kidney beans
2-3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coriander
4 Anaheim chilies, seeded and chopped
4 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
I know it’s unnecessary, but I like to chop and prepare all my ingredients before I actually start cooking. I know that for a lot of dishes, I could probably get away with prepping as I go, but that’s just not me. I put all my spices, veggies, sauces, and other miscellaneous meal requirements into these Pyrex prep bowls I bought on clearance at the William Sonoma outlet out in Leesburg last summer. I work in a small space so sometimes I have to be creative with counterspace, but they make everything look so damn cute.
Plus I like to pretend like I have my own cooking show, and the prep bowls make it just that much more believable.
First, I cut the meat. For convenience, I bought the already cut up beef you can get pre-packaged at the store, but I still cut them even smaller. (To me, bite sized it something you can put in your mouth and not look like a chipmunk). These went to the side while I worked on the veggies. I like to put it back on the foam plates they came in. It’s neater and cleaner—no extra dishes to wash and no icky meat germs hanging out in your kitchen.
Then, it came time to chop The Onion. I have always disliked onions with a passion that bubbles from the depths of my
soul. I don’t know why, I just don’t like them. I’m even ambivalent about the mock news source that everyone in DC is so obsessed with. I’ve tried to like onions. I really have. Unfortunately, I think it’s like trying to put a thong on an elephant. It just won’t work. But, my mother says I have to have an onion, no negotiations. So, look. It’s an onion.
Once that was done and I stopped sobbing, it was time to seed and chop the chilies and jalapenos. If you like an extra bit of oomph to your chili, you can throw some of the seeds in once everything starts to dance in the pot. The seeds hold most of a pepper’s heat. And be careful with the chopping—peppers secrete an oil that doesn’t wash off with soap and water.
Trust me, it is not fun to rub your eyes in absentminded sleepiness, then suddenly remember you chopped peppers that evening. About a year ago, my parents gave me a box of exam gloves as a gag gift because I make a big stink about touch raw meat. I loved them tonight. I just rubbed my eye and not a single shred of burning!
You know, why don’t I just open up the cans, since I’m prepping everything else. It might make a nice picture for the blog or something, I thought. Can opener. Can…opener. Where the hell is my can opener?
I pawed through my utensil jar. No can opener. I rooted through my one, 6 inch drawer. No can opener.
No. Can. Opener.
HOW THE HELL DO I NOT HAVE A CAN OPENER?!!?
It’s a basic kitchen essential! Even the most inept of bachelor cooks, one whose repetoir consists of ramen and baked beans, owns a can opener. I, however, a family-and-self-taught home cook, do not. I had a can opener. In fact, I had two. But that was at my old apartment. They are either still there or with my former roommate.
I can bone a duck but I can not open a can.
Luckily for me, I live right around the corner from a Safeway. It was 945 at this point, but I will not be foiled by missing kitchen gadgets or late night hours. I had a chili to make a blog to write. Twenty minutes later I was back in the apartment with a new can opener and a box of razors. (Told you I need a list.)
Finally, the cans opened and chili fixins’ fixed, it was time to cook.
My French oven went over high heat with a bit of olive oil. You know it’s hot enough when you can’t hold your hand 3-4
inches above the surface for more than 5 seconds. The meat got seared on all sides, but not cooked all the way through. Don’t worry, it’ll get done during the two hours of simmering later. Depending on how much meat you got going on or the size of your pot, you may need to do this in more than one batch. It’s important that you DO NOT CROWD THE PAN. You won’t get a good sear if you crowd that pan.
I did this in two steps, because I wanted to be the good little foodie and not crowd the pan for that even brown color. Five minutes into searing the first batch, I noticed a funny odor permeating my apartment.
Is something…burning?! I had left the stove momentarily to check my email, so I rushed back to the range. No, nothing burning. The meat had only begun to turn brown on the bottom, actually. The smell was getting stronger. I knew the meat was fresh, so there was no way that I bought bad food. It wasn’t an all out unbearable, horrific smell, like melting plastic or something, but it wasn’t all that pleasant either.
Yeah, I’m not messing around with this, I thought, and switched burners. Leaning down as close as I could get without burning my eyebrows off, I examined the electric coil where my pot had once sat. It was there that I found the culprit. There, far down below the burner, close to where the element meets the stovetop, was one lone kibble of cat food. Well, it wasn’t a kibble anymore. It was mostly ash, but it was still the same size and shape as the special cat food for sensitive kitty tummies I have to buy for those damn barfy cats of mine.
Stuff like this only happens to me.
With the pot now on the back burner (Aw, back burner on the stove, but never in our hearts! Ha!) and the sliding glass door open for ventilation, things were good and right with the world once more.
It took a few minutes to get the heat going again, but once it did, the second batch seared perfectly. Yay! There really is nothing more uplifting that getting that perfect crust on a piece of meat.
I removed the meat and held it to the side. The onions, peppers, and garlic went into the pot to sauté—this time, crowd the
pot all you want. Everybody gets to dance together. Lower the heat a few notches, and after about 5-10 minutes, the onions should be a pretty translucent color. When you can smell the garlic more than you can smell the onion, you’re good. (Of course, that’s always good where I’m concerned, but Mom says I have to have the onion).
At this point, the skill-requiring part is over. Dump in the tomato puree, beans (which are actually options but I enjoy them), and seasonings into the pot and stir.
Ordinarily, you’d simmer this for about two hours, with the occasional stir here or there to keep stuff from burning on the bottom of the pot. However, this is now a make ahead meal for me, as I will be transporting the chili to the office. So instead of simmering, I will be refrigerating it over night, then transferring to a crockpot in the morning. When I get to the office, I’ll plug it in and let it go til about 3 or 4pm.
So. There’s the chili. I’ll definitely let you know how it turns out!