This weekend I made my first Chili of the 2010 season. Despite the fact it was what I call “civilian” chili, it was pretty rad. (rad? What is it the 1980s?) I consider chili that isn’t spicy to be civilian. Now, it may be that the average Yankee still might consider my civilian chili to be spicy, at some point chili devoid of spices is more akin to spaghetti sauce than chili. It has to have some chilies in it or, dangit, it just isn’t chili!
So, I’d like to give you a recipe but, I can’t really because I don’t really have one. I play it by ear every time…or really I guess I play it by nose and by tongue…I mean I can hear it cooking but I don’t get much inspiration from the sound…you know what I mean.
I’ll give you my general rules of thumb for making what I like to call competition style chili. Now I should point out that my recipe isn’t necessarily valid for a stationed chili competition. My chili attempt to pay homage to a
“Traditional Red Chili is defined by the International Chili Society as any kind of meat or combination of meats, cooked with red chili peppers, various spices and other ingredients, with the exception of BEANS and PASTA which are strictly forbidden.”
Now down to it. Here is what I do, not so much a recipe as it is my general steps.
- Meat is cooked slowly – I cook my meat, be it finely cubed steak or ground beef or whatever, at a low enough heat so that it browns but simmers in its own liquid.
- No chili powder! – Seriously chili powder? I can’t vouch for that stuff. I use high quality chipotle powder, smoked/regular paprika, cumin, and some kind of crazy ground green chili that my parents got in New Mexico. The point here is don’t be a slack a….don’t be a slacker. Know what you are putting in your chili.
- All veg is roasted in the broiler - I place all prepped vegetables (red onion, 2 red bell peppers, a few cloves of garlic, and whatever chili pepper I use) in a roasting pan with olive oil and place in the broiler. *exception, if and when I had a habanero, I add that separately so that it floats around in the chili…
- No filler no chunks! – I do not want to see any of the vegetables. While I could cook my chili long enough that they dissolve, I like to help things along with a blender. To do this I add a bit of beef broth and tomato sauce (and any canned tomato I plan to use) into the blender along with my roasted veg.
- Blender continued – I also like to put a majority of the dried spices that I will use in the blinder at this time. With the spices fully incorporated into blended mix I get a real good idea of what the final product will taste like.
- Don’t forget salt
- Cocoa powder - yeah that’s right. I had about 2 tbls of cocoa powder. Hey, the Aztecs knew a thing or two about both chili peppers and chocolate and they added the two together. I think we can follow their lead in this regard while at the same time rejecting the whole human-sacrifice-by-cutting-the-heart-out-of-a-live-person thing…I’m just saying that good ideas are where you find them…the choco-chili combination…not the killing…
- Simmer, watch, wait – Once I add all the components together, kick it down to low and slow temperature and watch TV or play Halo Reach for a few hours. If I’m really patient, I’ll do all this the night before so the chili has time to work some of kind of crazy magic in the fridge overnight. The next day, with another hour or so of simmering, and then you are good to go.
Let me put this another way. Chili isn’t some cold calculated dish with specific steps and rules. It is said that 19th century Spanish priests dubbed chili as the “Soup of the Devil” based on the notion that eating chili peppers stirred up too much passion. And that is what Chili is, a dish of passion! Who knows what the heart wants until it wants it? Add what you want, make it how you want to make it! Make it as spicy as you want, or as mild as you want, don’t let jerks like me tell you can’t put beans in it! (Although you really shouldn’t put beans in chili!) If you want beans then dangit, throw caution to the wind and add beans. Let the International Chili Society and those groups like it worry about the purity of this dish. You just make what tastes good to you! It’s Chili Season so get to cookin’!