Saturday, August 18, 2012

Red Chili

There are probably more recipes for chili con carne out there than there are chiliheads. I have a couple myself, and if I'm representative, that means the number of recipes exceeds the number of chiliheads by a factor of two. There are also any number of theories about the history of the dish, whether it's proper or not to include beans or tomatoes, etc. etc. and of course there's also quite a lot of fighting over these theories.

Personally, I subscribe to the 19-Century San Antonio school where it comes to history, and I add the beans and the tomatoes. Other than that, I don't tend to worry too much about it - unless someone brings up the idea of cinnamon or spaghetti, in which case I start looking for rope. (Cincinnati chili is not chili, and that's more than enough said about that.)

Also: this is red chili (hence the title) and of course there's green chili out there too, and it's a wonderful dish it its own right. I personally don't meddle with it, though, since my housemate has her own recipe and method that's perfectly wonderful, and I just leave that to her.

Anyway, here's the mise en place:

Yes, I did say there'd be beans. I will use pinto beans, kidney beans, or black beans, depending on my mood. This time it's pintos.

What you're not seeing is meat. I use about two pounds per batch; in this case beef and pork, and I'm trying something different - searing it on the grill rather than in the kettle.

By the way, the searing-on-the-grill method worked quite well. I recommend it, and will probably do it that way from now on.

And here it is after the sear, along with the spices measured out. What I don't show is the onion chopped and the garlic minced, but I'm sure you've figured that out already.

That's a teaspoon each of cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, and black pepper; a teaspoon and a half each of ground cumin and oregano, and six tablespoons of chili powder.

Yes, six tablespoons. That's a quarter-cup plus two tablespoons.

I use Penzey's medium-hot.

Six tablespoons.


For this iteration of the dish I used half smoked paprika and half Hungarian sweet. I thought it turned out pretty good - I like smoked foods to a point, but anything other than red meat I try to keep to a minimum as I think the smoke can really overpower the other flavor notes. I won't eat smoked cheese at all, for example.

But I digress. Here's the start of the main sequence of preparation, sweating the onion and garlic in a bit of peanut oil:

Then we add the tomatoes. Note that I use canned tomatoes (and a small can of tomato sauce). Fresh tomatoes are great, but there's certainly nothing wrong with canned, particularly in a dish like this.

Then the beer, and the spices. Yes, that's still six tablespoons of chili powder.

After cooking and stirring for a few minutes, It should look like this:

Then of course the guest of honor: the meat. You can use any kind of red meat, in any proportions, but I tend to stick with beef or beef and pork.

After simmering for a couple of hours, it'll look like this:

For the second stage, we open a can of beans and prepare a slurry of a couple of tablespoons of flour and enough water to make it flow. (Note beer for scale.) The canonical recipe (if there is one, which there isn't) calls for masa harina instead of plain flour, but I don't tend to keep that on hand.

By the way, I really like these European-style can openers. They're a little harder to use, but they take the top of the can off much cleaner - you can even reuse the can lid to store any leftover ingredients in the refrigerator.

And not only that, but there's no sharp edge left on the can at all:

Anyway, after simmering the beans and the flour slurry in the chili for about fifteen minutes, we're ready to plate. I take mine over white rice (another point of bitter contention amongst chiliheads) with some finely-chopped white onion on top.

You can also try grated cheese, green onion, jalapeƱos, whatever you like. I'm not going to kick about it, unless you start talking about cinnamon or pasta.