We need a chili recipe for this PR, they said. We promised a different chili recipe in each issue.
Ahem, well, I do have chili recipes, I replied. I can put one of mine in.
They looked at me askance. I grew up in Oklahoma, you see, and only recently became a Texan by marriage. Texans seem to have a hard time believing that anyone not born a native can cook chili.
Well, okay, they replied, not having a better offer at the moment, and wanting to get the PR published and into the hands of eagerly awaiting fans.
However you serve it, enjoy,
and dont be afraid to experiment!
I looked through my recipes. One listed half a dozen different kinds of fresh and dried peppers, instead of premixed chili powder and included chocolate and beer. Another listed rattlesnake meat, but I have never had the nerve or the rattlesnake to make it. So I dug out my basic chili recipe that has been with me since college and this is what I found.
- 2 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 med. onions
- 1 med. bell pepper
- 2 15 oz. cans tomatoes
- 2 4 oz. cans tomato sauce
- 2 cans tomato paste
- 4 c. water
- 3 tsp. chili powder
- 2 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 1/4 tsp. allspice (optional)
- 2 lg. cans red kidney beans (optional)
- [Hey, put away that noose. I said the beans were optional]
I turned over the card - nothing. All I had written down was a list of ingredients. It was then that I realized I had probably not made my chili the same way twice in over 20 years. After all, a recipe is just a guideline and can be adjusted to accommodate the taste of those to whom it will be served as well as the whim of the cook. Making the recipe and watching how I made it seemed the best way to write down the instructions.
I went to the grocery to buy my ingredients, and right off the bat the whim of the cook sabotaged my recipe. Instead of ground beef, I came home with 2 pounds of lovely lean stew meat cut in 1-inch chunks. (I usually use ground round so I dont have to skim any fat.)
In a large Dutch oven I heated a tablespoon or so of olive oil (I prefer olive oil, but any good cooking oil will do.) and browned two finely chopped cloves of garlic before adding the meat. Uh-oh, not in the recipe. Ive put the garlic in for years and never bothered to write it down. The chunks of meat browned nicely and gave the added bonus of a rich brown stock that I dont get with the ground beef.
After the meat was browned on all sides, I added the tomato paste, tomato sauce, tomatoes (quartered), water and spices. While this mixture was coming to a boil, I chopped the onions and green pepper (I like the pieces about 1/4 to 1/2 inch) and sauted them in another tablespoon or so of olive oil. After the onions have turned transparent, I usually let them sit undisturbed for a while until the sugar in them just starts to caramelize. This adds a nice dimension to the flavor without adding the sugar which I have found listed in other recipes.
Stir the onions and peppers into the meat mixture and all thats left is the waiting. (Oh, darn. I left out the salt again. I havent added extra salt to anything in years if I could help it. If you want to use the salt, its best to sprinkle it over the meat as it is browning.) Now, at this point there is a significant difference between using ground beef and using the chunks of stew meat.
Oh yes. If your audience doesnt threaten to string you up,
you can add the beans to the ground beef version
If you use the stew meat, the chili needs to simmer gently for at least 2 to 3 hours or until the chunks of meat separate easily into fibers when mashed against the side of the pan with a spoon. Mash all the chunks. At this point the sauce should be reduced to a thick, rich consistency. If not, let it cook a little longer until it is where you want it, but keep an eye on it so that it doesnt burn.
Oh yes. If your audience doesnt threaten to string you up, you can add the beans to the ground beef version after the chili has cooked for about an hour and continue cooking just until they are heated through before serving. If you are cooking for a Texas crowd, I suggest cooking the beans of your choice separately and serving them on the side so each person can add them at their own risk. This is the best way to serve beans with the stew meat version. However you serve it, enjoy, and dont be afraid to experiment!
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