When it gets chilly December 9, 2010Posted by Toy Lady in random stuff.
. . . make chili – that’s what I always say.
Well, maybe not always, but still. A good chili warms the soul, while a bad chili, well, that just causes gas, doesn’t it?
I’ve never been very good at making chili – I envy those people who can just throw together an amazing pot of, well, anything, really, but especially chili. there are so many variables.
- Beans – what kind? Canned or dried? Or even any beans at all?
- Meat – ground or chunk or vegetarian? (I prefer chunks of meat in my chili, though I’m fine with ground, too.)
- Spices – should it be hot or not? Do you really have to grind your own chile peppers?
- Vegetables – corn? green peppers? tomatoes? You know, I’ve even seen people put elbow macaroni in chili!
Now you’ll remember that I made a pumpkin chili a while back, and honestly, it was quite good – and I’d definitely make it again, for sure. But if I’m being honest (and I’m nothing if not honest!), I’ve got to say that it was not really what I think of when I think of chili.
You know, a Bowl of Red.
And wouldn’t you know, I was poking around the Cook’s Illustrated website a while back, and what did I find but their recipe for “Our Favorite Chili.” And if it’s The Test Kitchen’s favorite, well, I am ALL OVER THAT.
(Keeping in mind, of course, that Cook’s Illustrated does seem to go out of its way to make things a little more complicated than they strictly need to be.)
Adaptation of Cook’s Illustrated, here I come!
So the first thing I did was make a chili paste.
The FIRST thing I did was soak about a pound of small red beans the night before. You can use whatever beans you like in chili – pintos, black beans, kidney beans – just soak them overnight, that’s all, then drain and rinse them the next morning.
The NEXT thing I did was make the chili paste – the next day. In the bowl of a food processor combine, then process until finely ground:
- 1/2 cup chili powder (this makes a LOT of chili)
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (you can leave that, or some of it, out if you want)
- 3 Tbsp. cornmeal (to thicken)
- 2 tsp. dried oregano (bonus points if it came from your own garden!)
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 2 tsp. cocoa powder (trust me!)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
With the processor running, slowly add 1/2 cup of chicken broth, processing just until a paste forms, about 45 seconds.
Transfer the paste to a small bowl, and, to the (unwashed) processor bowl, add 2 medium onions, rough-cut, about a half dozen or so jarred jalapeno pepper slices and about a tablespoon or so of canned chipotle, (pureed with the adobo sauce) (again, if you’re not a fan of the heat, just leave them out) . Pulse until the whole mess is the consistency of a chunky salsa – you’ll know it when you see it – then set it aside.
Now you’re going to want to heat your oven to about 300 degrees and pull out your Dutch oven. In a couple of tablespoons of oil, you’ll brown the meat, which has been trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces. I used about 2 and a half pounds of blade steak and a pound of pork shoulder – you could go with beef chuck, certainly. And you could definitely go with all beef and leave the pork out.
Be sure to brown the meat in batches – we want a good sear on all sides before removing the meat from the pan.
Yes, it’s a pain.
Yes, it’s worth it.
Once all the meat has been browned and removed from the pan, deglaze the pan with beer.
That’s right, beer. Cook’s specifically said to use a lager, and, since I don’t know enough about beer to disagree, I got a Mexican lager. I ended up using about half the bottle to deglaze, and the rest, well, let’s just say browning all that meat is thirsty work, and leave it at that.
Scrape as much stuff from the bottom of the pot as you can, and just dump the whole mess, beer and all, into the bowl with the meat.
And back to the pot – a little more oil (1 Tbsp.), and take the onion mixture (remember those chopped onions languishing away in the food processor) and cook over medium-ish, stirring occasionally, until they’re softened – about 8-10 minutes.
Add 4 cloves of garlic, minced, and cook another minute or so. Add the spice paste (again, remember that?),a quart (or a 28-ounce can) of tomatoes (ideally, diced, but whatever’s on hand) and 2 teaspoons of molasses. Then stir until everything’s thoroughly combined.
Add your beans and 2 cups (say, a pint) of chicken broth, bring to a boil, and let simmer for 10 minutes or so, then add the meat – and the beer! – to the pot, too.
Did I mention that this makes a HUGE pot of chili? Good for a crowd. Give it a good stir, and bring it back to a low boil, before turning the heat off.
Now it’s a simple matter of covering the pot, and shoving it in the oven. Cook, covered, until the beans are completely tender and the meat is fall-apart done – Cook’s recommended an hour and a half to two – I found it took closer to three hours.
Check after a couple of hours, giving everything a stir (and, I guess, a taste) (though be careful if you’re using kidney beans, because if they’re not completely cooked, they’re evidently less than pleasant)
Once you determine the chili is cooked to your liking – beans are nicely soft and meat is spoon-tender, you’re done!
We served with a bit of cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and a few tortilla chips. The beef was firm, but tender, while the pork shoulder kind of melted into the chili. The sauce was a little spicy, though not too much.
And actually, we had this chili for dinner (and lunch) two days in a row.
Then we slept with the windows open.