Saturday, November 5, 2022

Chili Season

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It's that season, at long last! Don't get me wrong, I find something to love in all the seasons, but I really do love fall the best.

The cool, the crispness of the late afternoons and early mornings. The hoodies, the snuggly blankets. All of it. Just delightful! And of course, the food is pretty awesome, too! Casseroles, soups, stews, fresh bread if you can swing it.

A couple of days ago, for the first time since I left Folsom, I felt like making chili! I asked online for a couple of recipes, because I thought my cookbook with the recipe I liked was still in storage, and well, I have stacks of boxes filled with books, even after a major book purge before I left! I did have a couple of kind responses, and I plan to try those out, but my old recipe wouldn't leave my head. So I checked around the house, and sure enough, I had unpacked that book!

Black bean chili. Yum!

So the book is Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook.

I had the original edition (as such, I can't comment on the new one), and it has some good recipes! My complaint (if it is a complaint) with the book is that I felt like I needed more specifics. I'm 100% not an instinctive cook. 

I'm a good baker. I can make a meringue without it weeping. I can make decent cakes and icing from scratch. I love making pie crusts - or I did when I wasn't worried about being fat and stopped making them. But meals? I really need specifics to feel comfortable with my potential outcome. 

So, the book says tomatoes, but what kind? Beer, but light? medium? dark? AAAARRGH!

So here's the recipe. I'll give you my thoughts, afterwards...

  • 1/2 lb ground chuck
  • 1/2 lb chorizo sausage
  • 1 cup black beans, soaked overnight
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 small red bell pepper or 1/2 a medium, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ground chiles or to taste
  • chopped scallions (some people call them green onions, but they're really scallions) for garnish
  • sour cream
  • I add extra sharp cheddar cheese for a garnish, too
Brown the ground chuck and chorizo in a skillet. Drain. Rinse and drain the soaked beans. Combine the beans and water in a large pot, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add: red pepper, onion, celery tomatoes, carrot, garlic, vinegar, beer, cayenne pepper, and chiles to the beans. Simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender. Add the ground chuck and chorizo and simmer, covered, for one more hour. Garnish with scallions and sour cream (and cheese!) Serve with rice, corn bread, or tortilla chips.

Alright, since I'm an insecure cook, I started with just this recipe and followed it slavishly. As is, it's good! Not super duper great if chili is your chosen religion, but it's a good, solid, stick-to-your-ribs kind of chili. It's some good comfort food.

But I started to have some questions. Like, how do you have a "soup starter" grouping of onion, carrot, garlic and celery, and not caramelize them, first? Like, just gently brown those little buggers together before you start the rest of the process, so you can release all the yummy goodness they were meant to give?

And the tomatoes? Dude. I am no expert, but you can't just use any old tomatoes, willy-nilly. You need some good sauce tomatoes. So I got myself a can of those Cento peeled San Marzano tomatoes. These kinds of tomatoes are what the Italians use for their tomato sauce base. You can't have good tomato sauce without them, really.

I'd suggest a Mexican beer like Corona Extra for this recipe. Less bitterness!

I am told by my Mexican friends that American chorizo isn't the best (kind of like people swear you can't get good bagels outside of New York because of the water), but I gotta work with what I can get, right? Pork chorizo is super easy to get ahold of here in L.A., and I've used it, but I feel like a good beef chorizo would work, too. (Hmm, I gotta try that...)

I want to note here that nowhere in the recipe do you see salt or black pepper. I personally don't like my food salty, but you do need a certain amount of salt to bring out the best flavor of the beef. Try the recipe as originally written, first, then decide if you need to add salt and how much. I originally thought the chorizo would have enough on its own, but I found that for my taste, it needed a little more umph. I would add some while browning the meat. A pinch or two of kosher salt or sea salt will do nicely. And fresh ground black pepper is pretty awesome as another layer in this recipe.

I'd be happy to drop the beef/chorizo in a crock pot with the beans, etc. and let it cook on low for the day after the bean mix has cooked for that initial 1 1/2 hours. See how that goes. It can't be bad, right?

I'd be interested to see if anyone has any thoughts on this as fellow cooks!

Enjoy the chili!

P.S. Sorry I don't have any pictures of the chili all plated up, I ATE IT!

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