Chili: A trip down memory lane.
Like many home-taught cooks, the first recipes I ever made were my mothers. She is a wonderful, kind, truly amazing person. Her cooking? … is not gourmet. Don’t get me wrong. I love this woman with my entire being, but growing up, there was lots of meatloaf, with even more ketchup and corn (from a can), you get the picture. I cannot and do not blame her for this one ounce. For as long as I can remember she worked two jobs so that my parents could afford to send me and my two siblings to college. Her whole mission in cooking was never enjoyment, it was simply, get food on the friggin’ table. She was great at that! And we never starved, even if it meant heating up frozen pizza at least once a week.
She did and still does have some real successes. Her chili was always a favorite: simple, but flavorful and filling. We’d eat it with mountains of tortilla chips (mmm lime flavored are the best), and extra salsa all mixed in. Throughout the years I’ve taken the base of this recipe and tinkered. The thing is, I never seem to have all the “right” ingredients. For example, usually I’ll use crushed tomatoes as the base, but sometimes I only have diced or whole tomatoes. Minor details. I’m what you might call, an improviser. This can sometimes work to my advantage, like with the chili. Other times, it results in horribly curdled cream (read: half and half) sauce.
Here is the current glimpse into my ever evolving chili recipe:
1 lb really good ground chuck
1 onion diced
3 tbsp (at least) chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 bell peppers, any color(s), chopped
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 smallish jar of salsa (I love hot, to add some extra kick)
1/2 cup of frozen corn (fresh is better if its in season)
1-2 cups chicken or beef stock, depending on how chunky you like your chili
For the beans: add 3 tablespoons of salt and the beans to four quarts of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then remove from heat, cover and set aside for an hour or more.
When the hour is up, start browning the meat in a dutch oven or soup pot, breaking it up as you go. Add the onion once the meat starts getting some good caramelized color. This adds so much flavor: don’t over stir, or you want get that delicious brown sear. Starting with a nice hot pan is a must. Add the seasonings directly to the meat with a bit of salt and pepper to taste once the onions start looking translucent. Give the spices some time to infuse the oils from the meat, and add the peppers. Cook the peppers for a minute or so until they start getting some color then add the drained beans, tomatoes, salsa, and stock. After a few minutes, TASTE THE CHILI. This is crucial. Do this now so you can adjust the seasonings as necessary, more salt, more chili powder, etc. Let this all simmer for about an hour on the stove top, mostly covered, or until the beans are your perfect al dente. About 45 minutes in, stir in the corn.
Ok, so I love this chili, but the beauty is you can completely make it your own. If you love black beans, do those instead, if you can’t stand cumin, omit it. I just recently started brine-ing my own beans, which makes the beans super creamy but still have some tooth to them. If you only have canned beans, that’s fine! Just add them toward the middle/end of cooking or with the corn so they don’t turn into mush. Lets be real, soggy beans are T DUBS (the worst).
If only I had a big bowl of chili to show you… sorry peeps, that chili got gobbled up before photography was even possible. #blogfail. You’ll have to be content with this pic of our year aged pumpkin barleywine which we guzzled alongside the chili:And yes, I really mean we aged this beer for an entire year. That means, make it now so you can drink it NEXT OCTOBER. More on that later…
Oh! If you’re feeling really
bored excited, make these amazing bread bowls to go with the chili: http://www.howsweeteats.com/2012/09/easy-homemade-whole-wheat-bread-bowls-for-soup-and-things/ then top it with your favorite toppings. I love avocado, a ‘lil cheese, and sour cream. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!