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Chili


munga
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It's fall. Even here in the Deep South.

Fall to me means all manner of game will soon be on the table. It also means that school activities are in full swing and that I need to cook stuff in giant batches that I can freeze and be able to sling onto the table in a matter of minutes when one of us walks in from some drop off or pick up for our extra cirricular prone boys. I make a lot of soup and lots of pasta sauces that can be thawed quickly and served with something green, a salad, and some bread of some sort (most often cornbread here-I have gotten great at making it in my roaster oven-thanks to the kitchen mess that I currently have going on here).

Fall also means chili. Good chili with good ingredients used with care. Now I happen to be what one would call a "chili heretic". I not only tolerate beans in chili, hell, I like them in there. I also don't like what has become "competition chili"-thin red gruel that would be more suited to a bottle and poured over the top of something. I like it meaty, spicy, and full of stuff. Of course, I also like Hormel Chili poured into a bag of Fritos, but only at high school football games. In fact, I love frito pie.

To that end one of my favorite recipes is not even from the Southwest. It's not even from the South. It's from New York. Apparently concocted by a couple of women who had a gournet frocery in New York City, no less. I am talking about the chili in the original Silver Palate Cookbook. Chili for a Crowd. It has, among other heretical ingredients-black olives, red wine, italian sausage, and other things that would send chili judges looking for the Vomitorium. Well, thankfully no chili judges eat with me on a regular basis, although I do dine nightly with some highly educated palates and they like the stuff as much as I do, do there Chili Boy!.

So my question is-how do you like it? Beans or no beans. Chunky or smooth like demented hot sauce? This subject can get pretty testy, so let's keep it friendly. If there needs to be any name calling, I'll do it.

Bring it on, Chili Boys and Girls.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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So my question is-how do you like it? Beans or no beans. Chunky or smooth like demented hot sauce? This subject can get pretty testy, so let's keep it friendly. If there needs to be any name calling, I'll do it.

No beans, lots of stuff, chunky, and spicy.

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Thick and chunky. The only way I like thin chili is when I'm eating it over spaghetti. I love beans in chili so they normally make an appearance. Lots of tomatoes and onions. No funky weird stuff--sorry Mayhaw, I wouldn't ever add black olives to chili--but I do believe that chili improves if you throw a lot of flavorings into it. I usually add a dash of worcestershire, cinnamon, a little unsweetened chocolate, cumin, oregano, lots of Penzey's Medium-Hot Chili Powder, and some other stuff in there.

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This is my husbands favorite chili.

I don't like birds of any kind in my chili. Chunks of beef, a few beans, a variety of ground chilis, super spicy, topped with chopped onion and a good dribble of Tabasco. Beer.

Shelley: Would you like some pie?

Gordon: MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES AND A GLASS OF WATER, SWEETHEART. MY SOCKS ARE ON FIRE.

Twin Peaks

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Ground beef ground fine. More pinto beans than meat. Thick but Soupy...chunks of tomatoes and hot peppers. Smoky hot flavor. Chipotles...little bit a corn meal to thicken...can't wait!

And yes...Tabasco at the table.

I abhor crackers smushed up into the bowl. I don't even like crackers on the side. Just a nice hot bowl of chili, thank you.

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I used to have a superb chili recipe, culled from an old Esquire, ca. 1969. Lost it through too many moves and a basement flood, but I still remember what made it good:

Chunks of chuck or front quarter beef were browned with onions garlic, trinity etc. and then several types of dried and plumped chopped chilis were added: ancho, persilla, chipotle, and a couple of others. The important part was ancho, very pungent, and not too much of anything super hot. I had to go to Sanborns, a Mexican store with a New York branch, to find the dried chilis.

Then it was simmered in beer until ready. Tomatoes and beans were optional, and very good additions, I thought, as I would consume some of the beer while waiting; six packs of Scheaffer's were as little as a dollar in my student days.

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Chunky. BEans. Beef.

I just made a chili recipe from Epicurious.com for Ding Dong 8 Alarm Chili (though I used only 1 serrano chili instead of the 4 it called for for 8 alarm) and it was excellent. Nice blend of peppers (ancho, chipotle, serrano), beef that is slow cooked and then shredded, tomatoes, onions, lots of garlic.

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Chili. Us here in MN are deluding ourselves with thoughts that summer has not yet ended. We are ignoring the leaves that are slowly falling, the lower night time temps.

But, chili time is right around the corner.

Chunky. Lots of stuff in it. No "chili powder" here, rather a series of dried peppers, whatever is at the market that looks interesting, plumped and tossed in.

But, Brooks, no black olives here. Green peppers, or roasted red peppers, yes. Beans, yes. Ground meat? Only if very coursely ground.

And accompanied with corn bread, sans sugar, cooked in a cast iron skillet, preheated in the oven with lots o bacon grease.

Oh, and it never hurts to sweat the onions in bacon grease when making the chili.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I love chili of all varities. Red and soupy, white with chicken, everything in the kitchen thrown in, and more.

I have recently become a huge fan of cincinnati style chili, served atop a roasted poblano with tons of sour cream and some sharp cheddar.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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I think this topic has been touched on before -- I believe fifi and the Texas team have some pretty prescriptive ideas on this subject -- but I'd be inclined to say that chili is big enough for many interpretations. And, in an effort to get to the Platonic underpinnings of chili, I think we should move away from recipe discussions and into the fundamental components of chili-ness.

Every poster on this thread has, undoubtedly, a favorite recipe for chili, and they might dismiss others' favorites as "inferior", "inauthentic", or "that lame slop they serve in Cincinatti." But, if served another's recipe, each of us would still recognize the dish as chili and judge it on that basis. The question "what makes it so?" is different from "what makes it good?"

First, I think chili has to have meat. "Vegetarian chili" is deserving of respect in its own right, but as "chili" it is a bastardization and should be respectfully disincluded. Though this is not critical, the meat should ideally be what is close at hand, cheap and plentiful. The alchemy of a good chili lies in its ability to transform cheap cuts of meat into an extraordinary meal, hence Australian Kangaroo chili (I have a recipe, if you need it) and Colorado green chili, made with chicken.

Second, I submit that cumin and heat are the only obligatory spices. I would look askance at anyone who claimed to cook chili without garlic and onions, just as I would look askance at anyone who claimed to play music without rhythm or melody, but I acknowledge the theoretical possibility.

Finally, I think the cooking and eating of chili plays a key role. It must be cooked slowly, preferably in a space that can be filled with the sweet smell of a new batch of red. Some places are better than others: diners, group houses, camp fires. But the flavor achieved only by slow exposure to low heat, and the anticipation stoked in the cook and guests stoked hours sniffing the air and watching the bubbles rise are both necessary ingredients. The time between that first feeling of chili need, and when the waitress actually drops the bowl on the table counts, too. And true chili can never be eaten -- for the first time -- alone. If a camper combines meat, cumin and diced jalopenos in a forest and there is no one there to smell or share it, it is not chili. After the initial blessing, you are free to microwave away; rehated chili in the kitchen at midnight is a true and beautiful thing as well, especially if you've been drinking.

Beyond that, fire away. Beans -- I like 'em, others don't. Tomatoes? Important, but they're like communion is to Christians. Not everybody eats the wafer, but they all still read the New testament. Beer, wine, odd spices, mutiple meats, spaghetti, rice, sweet peppers, corn? If it feels good, throw it in the pot. Like I said: chili is bigger than all of us. Chili can handle it.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Black beans, ground pork, chopped peeled tomatoes. Green peppers, but only if they're Poblano and Jalapeño. Lots of garlic. Guajillo pepper powder. Beer. Leftover coffee. Cocoa powder. Whatever it takes to balance the flavors. It should be a little sweet, fairly acid, quite hot, a little sour, a tad bitter, mildly smoky, plenty salty. If I serve it with enough grated cheddar and sour cream, even the younger, spice-averse Moras will eat it.

Heresy, for sure. Perhaps I should call it something besides chili, but no matter. It's still f****** awesome.

Edited to add some puréed chipotles in adobo. And to say "Hey, Busboy...Quite the prayer!"

Edited by GG Mora (log)
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Chunky tomatoes. Ground beef, chicken, turkey, even tempeh. Dark red kidney beans. Tons of peppers and spices. Masa flour mixture to thicken. YUM. Gotta have it soon. Oh yeah, I love saltines crumbled in it too! Shades of Memphis.

Almost forgot--cheddar shredded on top too!

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Chunky. I use beans, but not a whole mess of them. Just enough to add more chunk. I always, always add red wine to my chili as I do to my spagetti sauce. My husband would divorce me if I didn't add Italian sausage and enough spices and garlic to almost blow the top of your head off.

And yes, served with shredded cheddar cheese on top and a side of nachos for scooping. :smile:

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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My current favorite is Huevo del Toro's "Work in Progress Chili". It is a good mix of cut beef chuck, good seasoning balance and the addition of the chocolate rounds everything out. The one surprise that I had not seen before is the addition of some whole cumin seeds. They cook up tender and you get these little bright bursts of cumin when you are eating it. Now for the bad news... You will have to wait for recipeGullet to come back on-line. But... this is good enough that you need to write to yourself on a sticky note, stick it to your monitor and go there as soon as it is back.

I prefer to use reconstituted dried chiles, heavy on the ancho, as my base seasoning. I gave up using ground beef a long time ago. I have come to dislike the texture of ground beef, especially if too fine. The one exception may be the stuff you put on a hot dog or Frito Pie.

Don't tell Brooks, but the family favorite chili breaks just about every "rule" in the book. I got the recipe out of Southern Living years ago ('96 or so) and I have never modified it because, if I did, there would be a mob with torches and dogs at my door step. It was so weird sounding that I had to try it out of sheer curiosity and it was an instant hit. That being the case, I can't put the recipe in here because of copyright. Perhaps if you can get to an archive for Southern Living, you can find it. Beyond the usual suspects, here are the oddities... green bell pepper, red bell pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes (weird for me at least), cocoa powder, cardamom, tumeric, mollases, red wine, kidney beans and (I can't believe I am typing this) garbanzos. I have been through the Southern Living site and can't find it. My mother got the annual recipe books for years and I will look there.

This recipe for Pedernales Chili was my dad's staple and he tinkered with it from time to time.

Other than the two recipes that I mentioned, I actually rarely use a recipe, wing it, and taste as I go. The two things that I keep coming back to are the addition of Mexican chocolate or cocoa and adding a good beef stock if I have it. Other than the Bodacious Chili aberration, I typically like my beans on the side, pintos cooked with some jalapenos, and corn bread.

When the nephew bags some venison, I am in heaven. If I have venison, I keep it pretty simple to let the sweetness of the venison shine through.

Historically, chili was pretty simple... beef, onion, garlic maybe, chiles and cumin. That is what they had in northern Mexico and Texas way back when. We have certainly diverged from that. But, so what. I think of chili as a concept with infinite possibilities. When you think about it, gumbo is a lot like that. :biggrin:

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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There has been some talk up above about "toppings" (shredded cheese). In our house, the only topping is chopped raw onions (because I love onions and a little crunch).

Where are the rest of you on this topic? Many people I know put out sour cream, shredded cheese, guac (?), etc. ???

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Fifi, could you elaborate more on what you do (or don't do) for venison chili? Did a couple last winter, and I think I over did things.

I have told Paul that if he is leaving me home alone with the kids for 5 days for deer hunting, he damned well better bring home the meat.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I agree with Linda. I have cooked a lot of Chili over the years, and eaten even more, but Huevo del Toro's "Work in Progress Chili" is the best Chili I have had the priviledge of knowing. While I can't help but tinker and riff on any recipe, his would be fine just-as-is forever.

Check it out when the new RecipeGullet is up and running.

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It has been over a year since I made the venison chili but I think this is how it went...

I sauted the typical amount of onion and garlic, light on the garlic, and added the diced venison to brown. I like about a half inch dice. I stemmed and seeded some anchos and rehydrated them in a bit of hot water for about 20 minutes. Those went into the blender and I added the rehydration water as needed to blend into paste. I am guessing that I used about a quarter cup of paste per pound. It may have been more. I would start with that and add more to taste. We actually had some venison stock from leg and shoulder roast bones and scraps so I used that for the liquid. I had some jalapenos so I diced them and added that, maybe one seeded pepper per pound. I was after a little "green" note. I went light on the cumin, I am guessing about 1/4 tsp per pound. I dunno. Taste. I wanted a little "back of the throat" heat so I glugged in some habernero hot sauce. This all went on in my trusty Le Creuset that was put into a 250F oven with the lid on for about two or three hours.

I was after focusing on the venison and didn't want it very hot. I was trying to capture the origins of chili and keep it simple enough not to cover up the venison. It was REALLY good. I think the venison stock helped a lot.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Oh, for venison stock. I think that if there is a deer in our future this fall, I better get Klink over here to help me butcher it (this is probably better suited to the Hunting thread.)

Is there some sort of reason that if one "has it done at a place," they won't give you the bones?

Anyway, thanks for the tips.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I'm not sure I'm really qualified to comment, being british and all, but here goes!

I've experimented with a lot of variations and have made the following observations.

  • More Cumin is good. Most recipes don't have enough for me. Whole cumin seeds as mentioned are a good addition.
  • With tomatoes is good. So is without. They are different beasts, each worthy in their own right.
  • I like beans. If I'm using big hunks 'o' meat rather than ground, and no tomatoes I leave them out. Every other variation has them in though.
  • Chocolate definitely adds something, and gives the sauce a great colour and sheen. You do get odd looks while cooking though.
  • A bit of vinegar can help lift the flavours
  • Last minute addition of fresh chillies can really lift the chilli. They get lost if you add them at the start.
  • I like it HOT. If it is something you can eat plain, from a bowl, with a spoon, it isn't hot enough!
  • Something crunchy on top is a great contrast. Tortilla chips scrunched up or chopped onion for example.
  • On Spaghetti? Not in my house.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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:wub:

It just depends on my mood, and what I might have in the pantry.

Sometimes its with red beans, sometimes black, sometimes no beans at all.

Must be thick. Very thick. Must be a very very very coarse grind of beef, or even centimeter cubes. I use a whole mess of onions, and cumin, freshly ground chiles of whatever variety I happen to have. Oh, well chipotle is always on hand, so it always goes in. Tomatos, tomato paste, garlic, lime, cayenne..... maybe some fresh mexican oregano.

Hatch chiles if they are on hand, jalepenos, sometimes a dash of cinnamon, I am not sure that I've ever made it the exact same way twice. Its always morphing and evolving. Tomatillos can add a nice zing.

Its gotta be cooked forever and a day!

As for toppings, My SO likes saltines and cheddar cheese, I like raw onions, jalepenos and some queso fresco.

If its not hot enough to make your nose run, eyes water, and dread tomorrow, keep working on it. :raz:

Edited by nessa (log)
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There has been some talk up above about "toppings" (shredded cheese).  In our house, the only topping is chopped raw onions (because I love onions and a little crunch).

Where are the rest of you on this topic?  Many people I know put out sour cream, shredded cheese, guac (?), etc. ???

I like really busy chili, so I will put anything and everything with it. A bowl might be topped with any or all of: sour cream (this one is almost always there, chili just doesn't seem right without it), shredded cheeses, pickled jalepeno slices, fresh pepper slices, diced onion, hot sauce, guacemole, extra chile powders, pickled okra, pickles, or whatever else looks good. I am normally a 'throw everything in the kitchen in' kind of cook, and chili really brings out the worst aspect of that in me ;).

In my favorite chile recipe the spice blend includes: cayenne pepper, ancho chile powder, chipotle powder, chipotles in adobo, chopped fresh halepenos, chopped habeneros, cumin, ground birds eye chiles, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, cocoa, ginger, mace, nutmeg, allspice, garlic, cilantro, coriander seeds, bay leaf, oregano, black pepper, white pepper, and I'm sure some other things I am forgetting.

No thickening masa or flour is needed because it slow simmers all day with the meats, tons of cut up veggies, and tons of spice, and it all just reduces/thickens on its own.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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. That being the case, I can't put the recipe in here because of copyright.

I think the eGullet copyright police will let you post the list of ingredients without fear of a violation. Once you get into the desciption of how you put it together, you are on somewhat softer ground. But I think the folks who frequent eGullet will know what to do with a list of ingredients if it is for chili.

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It's not chili as such but I like to do:

Lamb shoulder braised with Guiness, then chopped loosely and added to onions, tomatoes, chipotle and ancho and guajillo, garlic, cumin seeds, much salt and cracked black and white pepper.

Served with champs or colcannon, a spritz of lime.

Preceeded by a grated jicama and red onion salad with grilled shrimp or perhaps smoked salmon or a bit of bluefish, followed by crostini with Stilton and other bleu cheeses with a roasted shallot "chutney".

edit:

Pardner, ol' chap.

Edited by Jinmyo (log)

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

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Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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