Friday, September 28, 2012

Going for a Touchdown with Chili

Maybe because it’s football season (YAY! The regular refs are back!), or because it’s officially fall and a nip is in the air (well, maybe not here, but the daytime temperatures have started to drop to the high 80s), or because we’ve had a string of rainy days, but lately I’ve had a yen for some chili. 

In order to give into this craving, I turned to our most trusted recipe…

…which comes from The Silver Palate cookbook. As you can tell from the various blotches, we’ve used this a lot and have never been disappointed.
I got the party started by heating about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and roughly chopping up some onions.

The onions cooked away over low heat until they were tender and translucent.

Next up was the meat. Because ground meat is so lean here in Belize, I opted to use only ¾ pound of that and added ¾ pound of ground pork. To make things a bit sassier, I also added some Italian sausage.

All of that was crumbled into the pot. I turned the heat up to medium-high and started the browning process. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be patient and allow the meat to become well browned. That caramelization will pay big dividends to the taste later on.

While the meat was doing its thing, I gathered up the rest of the ingredients. The play list includes red wine, cumin, coriander, oregano, chili powder, Dijon mustard, whole peeled tomatoes, and tomato paste…

…and their very close friends, chopped garlic, salt and pepper, fresh chopped oregano, and fresh basil leaves. 

The recipe doesn’t call for those last two fresh herbs, but I had them and decided to throw them into the mix. I know, I’m such a rebel.

When the meat was all nice and brown, I added all the ingredients mentioned above. 

The whole tomatoes were drained and I smushed them up by hand. You could use a wooden spoon for that, but I find hand smushing works better. But if you're like me, no matter what method you use, tomato juice will squirt someplace other than the pot.

After giving the mixture a good stir, I added some black beans. Now I can hear the cries of outrage now. Either there are those fanatics who don’t believe beans have a place in chili to begin with or those who only believe that kidney beans are the blessed legume to be used. But as I had leftover black beans from a previous meal, I decided to buck the trend and use ‘em. If you don’t like it, sue me.

Anyway, with the black beans making their defiant statement in the pot, I gave everything another stir, tasted for seasoning, then let it all simmer away for a bit. Oh my. What goodness.

Now just like there is the debate about beans in chili, there is also a debate – at least in our house – about how to plate it. While I prefer just to have the chili au natural in a bowl, David loves to have his served over noodles. Specifically, these noodles:

Yeah, I know they’re good for you being 99% fat free. But really? If you’re going to have a starch, then why not go the whole nine yards with regular noodles? But whatever. It’s a moot point, because I can’t find any kind of broad, egg-based noodles here. At some point, I may try making some from scratch (with the fat, I might add), but until then I wanted some alternative.

After some thought, it came to me. What goes better with a great bowl of chili than corn muffins? I recently made a batch of these muffins, courtesy of Ina Garten (check out the butter content…BWWAAAHAAHAAHAAAHAAA! Bless her heart!). Hey, we’ve both lost 10+ pounds since moving here. We can splurge.

But regardless of the way of making or plating the dish, this chili is a winner.

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