Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chili: Not a baking thing, but so good...

We made chili for the game yesterday. It's a recipe that we have developed, and I wanted to share it here. Here is the current revision of the recipe.

Here are the main "seasoning" ingredients.

These are the "add-ins"

And here are my secret ingredients:

My Chili Today
(because we keep tweaking it)


4 slices raw bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 - 2 1/2 lb ground beef
Chili-O mix pack
1 tsp ground cumin, very fresh*
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 bottle beer (Corona is good)
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can beef broth
1 can tomato sauce
4 corn tortillas
1 can sweet corn
3 cans beans; I like one each of red, black, and great northern**
1 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
balsamic vinegar
1 lemon
maple syrup

shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream

Strain and rinse the beans and corn. Save a can for putting beef fat in later.

Brown the bacon in a large pot. Saute onions in the bacon and bacon fat. If you have time, caramelize the onions (cook slowly until they turn caramel-colored). Add the garlic, cook a another minute or two, then empty the pot into a bowl for later.

Get the pot hot again, and put in chunks of ground beef (don't crumble it yet), so that they sizzle and sear on the bottom, turning brown. If they stick some, that's good. Sprinkle the top with salt and pepper. A few minutes later, flip the beef to sear on the other side, salting and peppering again. Remove pan juices as necessary (use a baster to suck it up, and empty it into your bean can) to keep the beef sizzling. Once the beef is browned on the sides, crumble it with your spatula and cook until pink is gone. Remove any unwanted fat now, before adding the spices.

The pot should still be hot. Add the onion mixture to the beef. Sprinkle the Chili-O, cumin, paprika, and chili powder on top. Stir and cook until the pot is dry and the meat is coated. Pour in the can of beef broth, deglazing the pot (the broth should sizzle and un-stick everything from the pan). Stir until very thick. Add the beer, stir, return to a simmer, and allow the fizz to come out. Mix in the cans of tomatoes and tomato sauce.

Bring the pot to a simmer, then crumble the corn tortillas and stir them in. Simmer briskly about 20 minutes, until tortillas disappear, and the pot thickens. Use more or less tortillas to thicken to taste.

Stir in beans and corn. Return to a simmer. Add the juice of the lemon, and stir in the chocolate. Taste the chili. Add salt as desired. Add maple syrup to sweeten, and balsamic vinegar to "brighten", usually around two teaspoons of each. Adjusting the salt, balsamic (sour), and maple (sweet) is the key to a good balanced flavor, and takes multiple tasting and adjustment cycles.

Serve over torn lettuce. Top with shredded cheddar, sour cream, and Fritos.

*Fresh cumin makes a huge difference. It's worth the trouble to toast seed in a dry skillet and grind it yourself, or to buy some at a specialty store (like Fresh Market) every few months. When fresh, it has a very strong, wild sort of a smell, which I've never gotten from a bottle at the grocery store.

**I'd like to try some more bean varieties that I read about online. The problem is finding them, preferably canned. I'd want to know it was worth it before I cooked beans especially to use in chili. Here are some I've heard of: anasazi, pink chili, Mexican red, cranberry.

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