Friday, October 8, 2010

Rainy Day Chili by Tom

Rainy Day Chili by Tom

Although the title of this blog entry is "Rainy Day Chili", as I am writing this, it is one of those perfect fall afternoons.  Warm, bright and sunny!  A little incongruous with my titled recipe.  But with that said, I actually did make this during the major rainfalls we had last week associated with Hurricane Nicole, which made herself felt in our region by dumping many inches of rain.

As with many of the recipes that I make, I almost never make them the same way twice.  This is especially true with chili.  Chili falls into the category of whatever is in the cupboard and the refrigerator can probably be used as an ingredient in chili.  This was especially true with this version.  But like my other versions, this chili turned out to be delicious and perfectly suited to the weather we were experiencing.

 The Ingredients:  this will make about 8-10 servings

   1 lb lean ground beef
   1 lb lean pork, veal and beef mixture - actually any meat will do
   1 tablespoon cooking oil
   1 red onion, chopped
   1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
   1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
   2-3 jalapeno or other hot peppers, seeded and chopped (adjust this based on the degree of heat you  like)
   2 tablespoons chopped garlic
   Handful (about a dozen) baby carrots, coarsely chopped
   1 jar of prepared pasta sauce - I used Paul Newman's Tomato & Basil (this is a good example of not having what I would normally use, which is a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes.  So I improvised!  Whatever is in the pantry.)
   1 bottle of beer - a secret ingredient
   3 tablespoons chili powder (I actually used a Turkish seasoning that we bought at Penzey's.  It smelled good to me, so I thought I would try it.  It worked!)
   1 tablespoon cumin powder
   1 teaspoon salt
   1 teaspoon black pepper
   2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa - a secret ingredient, a la Mexican mole
   1 can of low-salt chicken broth
   ~2 cups water
   1 can dark kidney beans
   1 can butter beans
   1 can black beans
   2 tablespoons corn starch and enough water to make a paste for thickening (optional)

You can literally add any other vegetable that you like or have on hand.  That is the beauty of chili.  Virtually anything can go into the pot.

 Cut up the red onion into large chunks.

 Do the same with the red pepper after removing the seeds.

Here you can see how I chopped the carrots.  I kept the pieces rather large ~1/2 inch.  Believe it or not, after cooking for about 3 hours, they were still a bit crunchy.

Brown the meat in a large skillet with a little cooking oil.

 When there is still a little pink left, it is done.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the browned meat to a large cooking pot.  Keep as much of the liquid in the pan as possible, as that will be used to saute the vegetables.

 Add all of the vegetables except the garlic to the large skillet, and cook them for about 10 minutes stirring frequently.  If you find that there is too much liquid in the pan, carefully pour some of the excess liquid out of the pan.  You are trying to saute the vegetables versus steaming them.  With one minute to go, add the chopped garlic.

With the slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to the large pot where you had previously transferred the browned meat.

Here are my two "secret ingredients" that add to the overall taste of the chili.  Beer brings out the full flavor of the chili powder and cumin powder.  I used a dark beer and that adds a bit of flavor itself.  Cocoa adds a deeper taste dimension to the chili.  Think Mexican mole, which relies on chocolate, to add flavors to many traditional Mexican dishes - not found at Taco Bell!

 Here was my substitute for crushed tomatoes.  I had never used a pasta sauce in chili before, but I will now.  I found this was a great substitute in place of the crushed tomatoes.  Maybe it was the basil that added a new dimension to the taste of this chili.

 Once all of the meat and vegetables are in the pot, it is time to start adding everything else.  Start with the tomato sauce.  Then add the beer and chicken stock.  Hold off on adding the water for a little while.

Now add all of the dry ingredients.

Stir it all up and add water to get to a desired consistency.  If you like really thick chili, then you do not need to add any water at all.   Taste the chili at this point to determine if you need to adjust any of the spices. For example, I found the Turkisk seasoning was not as strong as the regular chili powder that I use, so I added a another teaspoon or so of regular chili powder. Bring to a boil, and then turn the mixture way down to just a simmer.  Cover the pot and walk away for at least an hour.

When there is about an hour before you are going to eat, add the beans and stir them in.  You really do not need to cook them.  You are just warming them up.  Because the mixture was on a very low heat, I added the beans with an hour to go.

 This is an optional thickening step:  place two tablespoons of corn starch in a small bowl.  Add water to dissolve the corn starch.  You can also use flour.

Pour the corn starch mixture into the chili and stir it in completely.  You will notice the color gets a little lighter with the addition of the corn starch.  Cook this for at least another 20 minutes.

Ladle the chili into a festive bowl, and dig in!  This chili tastes good with a beer to drink as well.  Store leftover chili in the refrigerator.  This is a recipe which tastes as good the next day.  Enjoy!


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