Sunday, September 16, 2012

It's been too long.

It's been forever.  Well over a year.  Since I last posted, Scott and I not only got married, but have celebrated our one year anniversary.  Life has been good, and I am thankful and feel incredibly blessed to have my marriage, my health, our pets Henry and Simcoe, and our cozy little home.

I haven't gotten away from cooking at all... but for some reason, I just got away from writing about what I cook.

It took chili to bring me back in... and here is why.  Every single time I make chili, I stress out a bit.  It's Scott's favorite.  He'd be happy if I made it every weekend.  He never wants me to invite anyone over when I make it, and he always looks into the 7 quart pot that is usually quite close to full and asks if that's all I am making.  So I don't want it to just be good.  I want to make a killer chili.  I set off each time by consulting new recipes.  I then throw something together that is inspired by those recipes as well as our own tastes.  But I'm never totally satisfied.  There always feels like something is... slightly off or unbalanced... even though it's usually quite good and well received.  I just always feel it's full potential has not yet been attained. 

Yesterday, boys and girls.  It happened.

I refused to over think it.  I decided just to go with it.  Funny how that same philosophy so often turns out to be the best way to approach many things in life, yet, I usually don't proceed that way. Will I ever learn?

So I must document how following that instinct panned out.  I must write out this recipe now so that I don't forget what happened.  This is the recipe I will build upon.  This is the killer chili I knew I could make.

If you know me or read my posts- when I write them that is, then you know, I'm not big on measuring... but, I'm going to do the best I can so future me can have a chance at recreating one of the best dishes I may have ever made.

Part One.  Sauce.

One issue I've had is the backbone of the chili.  It's never rich enough.  And how can I fix that?  Butter.  I decided to make a thicker version of the homemade enchilada sauce I often make.  Here's what I did:

About 3 TBSP butter, melted, a little bubbly.  About 5 TBSP brown rice flour, cooked for a couple minutes to make the roux.  I then added a 15oz can of tomato sauce, as well as 2 1/2 cups or so of chicken stock, salt, and lots of chili spices... and I have no idea how much... I just added until it seemed a little too seasoned so that it would be enough to later carry through the veggies, meat, and beans.  I used probably even amounts of Penzey's Chili 3000 and their Medium Hot Chili Powder... possibly 2 TBSP each? Total guess, could have been more... or maybe less?  I threw in maybe a TBSP of Penzey's Arizona Dreaming, and probably a couple TBSPs of cumin.  A little of this, a little more of that... I stopped when it tasted right.  I let it all simmer and thicken a bit.

Side note on Penzey's Arizona Dreaming:  It's freaking so good.  If you aren't lucky enough to have a Penzey's near you, place a mail order and be sure to just go ahead and buy at least the 4oz bag, because you will use this spice mix often.  It's basically ancho chili powder, onion, garlic, paprika, lemon peel, chipotle and jalapeno pepper, and cocoa.  I mean, what can I even say about that? 

Part Two.  The base.

2 medium onions, some peppers:  2 large jalapenos, a poblano, a hatch, and 2 habaneros, 5 cloves of garlic all sweated down in a good glug of EVOO and a heavy pinch of salt.  As soon as they got going a bit, I put in a pound of grass fed 85% ground beef, as well as 2 links of pork chorizo.  The 2 links weighed about 3/4 of a pound, and I had the butcher at Whole Foods remove the casings for me.  I let it all cook down happily together until the meat was just cooked through.  I then added:  1 can of Amy's Refried Beans with Green Chilis, a can of black beans, and a can of pinto beans.  In went the prepared sauce and about 3/4 of a 28oz can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes.
I had the seasoning and heat spot on.  The tomatoes gave it the acidic balance it needed, and the backbone you ask?  Totally rich tomatoey heaven.  I was all smiles.  I gave it about 30 minutes to cook on low before we dug in.  We like to top our chili with sharp cheddar, sour cream, and jalapenos.  Scott also add an ingenious idea when consuming his 2nd bowl:  Crushed tortilla chips on the bottom.  I knew I married him for good reason. 

I may experiment a bit more with some of the leftovers by going Cincinnati style... I'm going to cook some tagliatelle gluten free pasta I have in the pantry, toss it with a little of the leftover crushed tomatoes to keep it moist, put it in a casserole dish, top it with the chili and cheddar cheeses and bake it of until it's all bubbly.  I'm pretty excited.   If it's awesome, I'll add a picture in.  As for breakfast today, eggs with chili sounds pretty damn good. 

I've quite enjoyed my culinary writing time today.  I need to get back to this hobby.  It's fun.  No need to wait 18 months before posting again...


  1. That looks delicious. Few things are better than a good chili, and I am lucky because Janet made chili yesterday, but meatless.

    Another good thing I've found that will increase the richness of the chili is a tablespoon or two (usually 2 for me) of good peanut or almond butter in the bowl right before serving. Adds another layer of flavor also. A few raisins or currants gives you a little sweet to balance the heat if you're interested in that.

    I like the Arizona Dreaming, and they have another similar blend called "Forward," which I've been using to season my garbanzos! Going to make hummus and falafel today. Enjoy your chili!

  2. Peanut butter, yes!
    I also have Forward, but I've not used it much... It was a free jar awhile back, and then a small jar came in another free collection. This season's free jar is Raspberry Enlightenment jam. I'm pretty psyched and am heading there this weekend, as I'm out of salt. I just stocked up on everything a couple of months ago, but I'm sure I will come home with more than just those 2 things.
    I haven't made my own hummus in quite some time. I've found a great brand at whole foods called Cava, which is made in MD. Their original has no oil, only tahini, and it's delicious... although I do like to drizzle a bit of high quality evoo on top! :)
    Thanks for commenting, JB... I do love a good food convo with you!

  3. I am enjoying the Whole Foods here. Will look for that brand.

    I like the P's salt-free selection.

    Two tbsp hummus is also delicious in chili!

    When I met you I was eating mostly boxed processed and 50 pounds heavier. You helped get me going in the right direction, and I thank you for inspiring me to do better!