Cooking chili is a ritual. It is all about the process, which for me, a highly goal driven man, is a welcome change of pace. Here’s how it goes:
1) Empty the sink and clear the counters (Must have a clean, wide playing field)
2) Set all the ingredients out on the counters. Admire them. They will soon join to create a force of deliciosity.
3) Place laptop on counter – safely away from the action. Cue up a “The Honeymooners” DVD.
4) Break out the tall fancy beer glass for the imminent black & tans (Guinness and Harp or Sam Adams Cherry Wheat).
5) Get crackin’!
The black and tans are also vital, for much the same rationale. The reason for this particular selection is that one of the ingredients of the chili is Guinness Stout. One for the chili… a couple for the cook… And, not surprisingly, as they go down, the laughs at Ralph and Norton go up.
I probably make a chili about four or five times a year. In February, I enter the Killingworth Lions Chili Cookoff. I won last year with the recipe below (it was the first year I experimented with adding the potatoes). *This year’s contest is on February 4 – the chili’s bubbling away as I type this.
1 1/2 – 2 pounds of ground beef (or turkey)
1 1/2 onion – diced
2 small potatoes (gnocchi works, too – try it!) – cubed
Heaping teaspoon of minced garlic
1 can of black beans
1 can of pinto beans
1 large can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce (sometimes another smaller can is added)
2 cans of tomato paste
1 (4.5 oz) can or chopped green chilies (sometimes 2 cans)
2 tablespoons of chili powder (give or take)
A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of ground cumin (sometimes more, sometimes less)
1 to 2 teaspoons of ground red pepper
1 teaspoon of hot paprika
1 teaspoon of hot sauce
Half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Salt to taste
1 – Lightly sauté the diced potatoes in a teaspoon of chili powder, half an onion, and a little vegetable oil. This sears in the flavor and keeps them from getting mushy from cooking too long.
2 – Cook the meat until it is no longer pink. If you are using turkey, cook it in beef broth (half can – other half goes in the the main mix) and Worcestershire sauce. If I happen to have steak sauce on hand, I’ll add a few dollops. Jack Daniel’s steak sauce is best.
3 – Combine ingredients in a crock pot and cook on low. I tend to go easy on the hot spices in the beginning, adding them in small amounts as the concoction cooks. It’s always easier to add than subtract. Stir when you think about it – but with a wooden spoon (oh, I don’t know – it’s kind of a Mexican Zen thing).
I generally cook it slowly for 2-3 days until it’s pretty thick. I think the cooling process overnight, followed by the next day’s reheating intensifies the flavor. There are some foods that taste better as leftovers – chili’s in that category.
*Postscript (2/4/09) – It won!