Pete’s Recipes: “Not too much” Chili

The five soups/stews in my rotation for Souper Sundays (the adorable name I use for making a massive amount of food before the work week) are: chicken vegetable, mushroom barley, hambone, roasted vegetable, and chili.  The first four have been covered to varying degrees on this blog, but I’ve never talked much about my chili so I figured it was time to address it.  Also, I didn’t want to do two WCIC posts back to back so this was the only alternative.

I love chili and the best part is that it will be good with pretty much any meat you have in your fridge.  However, over the years I’ve found myself incapable of making a reasonable amount of chili and always end up with a ridiculous amount that I could never finish.

With painstaking precision and effort, I’ve finally figured out how to make enough chili for exactly five large, filling lunch portions.  It’s not traditional, and has a couple odd ingredients, but at least you won’t end up with extra frozen chili in your freezer that nobody would ever willingly eat.

Here’s what you’ll need:
1 medium onion
3 tbsp chopped garlic (about 5-6 cloves)
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5-2 lbs meat
2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tbsp cumin powder
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
2 beef bouillon cubes
12 oz beer
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 can black or pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
salt & black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325F and heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large oven-safe pot with a heavy lid or a medium dutch oven (I use ‘lil blue).  Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onions and garlic.

When you do this you should stir the onions and oil together, not just leave them all piled up on one side, k?  Sometimes I wonder what would happen if you didn’t have me in your life.  Piles of half burned, half raw onions, that’s what!

Once the onions have cooked for 5-10 minutes and become a bit translucent, add in 1.5 to 2 pounds of meat.  It doesn’t really matter what you use for this recipe, I generally use ground turkey or chicken or both, but in this case I used a little leftover cubed pork tenderloin and some freezer burned chuck steak.

Most chili-diehards would say that the ingredients I use aren’t part of a real, traditional Texas chili.  My counterpoint would be that I use a wooden spoon, so it must be pretty traditional

Season with salt and pepper to taste and brown the meat, stirring regularly.  After a few minutes there should be some liquid that has cooked off in the base of the pot and the meat should no longer have any red or pink on it.  Add the cayenne pepper and the onion/garlic/cumin/chili powders, then stir well to completely coat all of the meat.

A good sniff of the contents of the this pot would likely cause some coughing and sneezing, but the spiciness gets well distributed and becomes way more mild than it smells once the other ingredients come in

After a few minutes of cooking the meat, onions, and garlic with the seasoning, pour in 12-16 ounces of beer.  I like to go on the 16 end of the spectrum especially if there is more meat, but it means you will have to drink the rest of the beer.  Cry me a friggin’ river.

Once the beer is in the pot, raise the burner temperature to high and heat until the liquid starts to bubble.  Then throw in those two bouillon cubes that you didn’t understand why they were on the ingredients list.

Dats some good bubblin’.  The wooden spoon stayed in most of the shots just to remind people of my chili street cred

The bouillon cubes mostly came out of a plan to compensate for the lack of meaty flavor when using turkey or chicken in chili.  So I tried a couple bouillon cubes, and when combined with beer it was basically like adding a half carton of beer flavored beef broth.  Certainly not a bad thing.

Once the liquid reduces by about a quarter, add in the can of crushed tomatoes and stir well.

I used to hate chili because I couldn’t stand warm tomatoes; soups, sauces, anything.  Got over that in my late teens.  Sometimes these little stories about overcoming my strong opinions on food make me sound far less like the stubborn jackass that I actually am

Once the tomatoes are well stirred in and heated up a bit, put the lid on and place in the preheated 325F oven for two hours.  I recommend you spend that time closing the doors to ever room that contains clothing in your apartment and putting all of the jackets in the closet, unless you want to smell like the kid who is cooking chili in his pants.

After two hours you can remove from the oven and take the lid off.

I love this part of the oven-cooked chili/bolognese/baked beans process.  Always looks so angry, spicy and thick until you stir together and make sense of it all.  Or at least that’s how I think about it

Add the can of fully rinsed beans and the cup of corn.

The biggest issue with every insistent traditional chili advocate (frigginjerkBrotherTim included) is that if you’ve ever had chili with corn in it you would never ever go back.  It’s just better

After a good stir, the lid goes back on and the pot heads back into the oven for another hour.  Which will leave you with this:

Thick chili is the only kind of chili worth eating, no one wants chili soup.  Type that up in a word document and save it on your desktop with the file name, “important stuff from pete.doc”.  Thx

Once it comes out of the oven, you can take the lid off and put the pot over medium heat for few minutes if there is excess liquid you’d like to cook off.  You can also taste and make any last minute seasoning adjustments you see fit.  I occasionally add a couple spoonfuls of brown sugar to give a hint of contrasting sweetness, which is a nice touch in chili I think.

That recipe should make about 7-8 cups of thick and hearty chili, great as a lunch or even better as a nacho topping.  The best part of chili is that you could add any of the leftovers in your fridge and likely make it even better.  And, as always, just remember that I have no idea what I am talking about and what I am doing so the last thing you should do is follow a recipe I made up.

Cleanin’ out my Cabinets: Kitchen Sink Bolognese

Growing up I wasn’t that big a fan of tomatoes, and strongly disliked red sauce with my pasta.  I preferred my pasta tossed with butter and garlic, then sprinkled with a couple spoonfuls of parmesan cheese.  Correction: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, garlic and cheese.  Look, these love handles weren’t going to build themselves.

I’d always assumed bolognese and meat sauce were the same thing; ground meat and tomato sauce cooked together.  Only recently as I’ve come around to tomato based sauces have I realized how different (and friggin’ genius) a good bolognese can be.  I’ve been blown away by the bolognese at Ten Tables in JP and Stella in the South End; not so much sauce, but rather a sauce-like combination of tender vegetables, meat, and tomatoes.  Almost like an Italian chili served over pasta and, like chili, you can make a delicious one with pretty much whatever meat and vegetables are in your fridge.

Been awhile since I've had a Janet pic on the blog, but she is the bawmb even when she is a little terrified on a swingset. The link to Kristi's blog about Janet is on the right if you want a more regular dose of her

I started out by thawing 3/4 pound of beef chuck and picking up a pound of ground pork at the grocery store.  Once the beef had thawed, a couple chopped carrots, cloves of garlic, ribs of celery, an onion and some olive oil headed into ‘lil blue to saute for a bit.

Between soups, braises, and roasts, we go through a lot of carrots, celery, and onions in the Ryan household. Five years ago, I rarely cooked with those items, took me awhile to appreciate their importance

I was hoping the meat would have a balance of consistent bits of ground pork and the occasional meaty thread of beef.  I tried to slice the beef somewhat thin perpendicular to the grain so that it would break down into bite sized pieces during cooking.  Once the onions started to look a translucent, I seasoned the meat with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg before adding to the pot.

Having two types of meat was good, three would be even better, and I honestly don't know where we'd start to see diminishing returns. I look forward to figuring that out for myself, assuming I don't burst into flames first from the rapidly increasing friction between my thighs when I walk

After letting the beef and pork brown for a few minutes, I added a half pound of quartered baby bella mushrooms.  Questionable whether they would hold up over the course of a long, slow roasting, but I really like mushrooms and they were in the fridge.

At this point, I felt like I was going to need to accidentally drop one of Janet's diapers in this pot in order to make this anything less than delicious. Decided not to do that

After cooking together for five more minutes, I added a cup of milk.  Never would have thought to do this on my own, but that’s why I always do a little research before diving in.  It was in every reputable recipe I saw.

Weird stuff boiling meat in milk. Went against many of my better instincts despite clearly being the way every bolognese I have ever enjoyed is cooked

While that cooked for 10 minutes to reduce the milk down, I popped open a couple cans of whole tomatoes, drained them, and reserved the liquid.

Trying to figure out the difference between "whole peeled" and "whole plum shaped peeled" canned tomatoes at the store makes you want to punch a grocer. From what I can tell, it's a size and shape thing, which might seem obvious from the name of the can but also seems completely illogical to differentiate. Explain to me why I am wrong about that, my jerk Italian friends

I chopped the tomatoes by hand (could have easily done it in the processor) and made sure to save the extra juices in the process.

Back to ‘lil blue: with the milk reduced almost completely I poured in a little over a cup of the finest Charles Shaw in my home.

Kinda spoofy that a sauce that is generally associated with tomatoes still doesn't have any in it but looks entirely edible. We'll get there

After another 10 minutes of reducing, the chopped tomatoes headed into the pot with a little of the reserved liquid and lots of salt and pepper.

And this looks a lot worse to me. I just despise poorly incorporated cooked tomatoes. I once had a shellfish risotto in Florida that was delicious aside from the chef's decision to throw in some raw halved grape tomatoes late in the cooking process. If he hasn't been attacked by a customer yet, I'd be happy to head back down there (four years later) and give him the old fork in the eye

Lid went on, and the pot headed into a 300F oven for 6-8 hours.  Unlike other slow roasted meats, this one will give your apartment nothing but good smells.  If anything, it was borderline insanity inducing due to how delicious it smelled and how long it took to be ready.

After six hours of few activities aside from watching football and playing with Janet, it was finally time to take ‘lil blue out of the oven and peek under the lid.  Don’t worry, after a few rounds of losing my eyelashes overzealously putting my face over a lid as I remove it, I’ve learned my lesson.

Very similar to how Momere's baked beans look when the lid first comes off after 6 hours. Just slow roasted goodness, and I love the look of the bubbling holes

Gave this a good stir and sent it back into the oven uncovered for another half hour to cook off the excess liquid.  Gave me a chance to boil water and cook a pound of pasta shells to an al dente texture.  Let’s check out the finished botobogese.

That's lookin' like one mighty fine pasta sauce

I started out by reserving some of the bolognese to the side then stirring the pasta into the remaining sauce.  When I looked up from doing this Kristi, Conor, and Trish were all giving me the nod that said, “why don’t you just go ahead and stir in all of the sauce”.  So I did, and they were right.

To explain the earlier misspelling, when I was in Shanghai with Wharton folks a poorly translated room service menu featured "Speghatti Botobogese". Aside from sending a friend into a maniacal laughing fit, "botobogese" has become the general way I refer to my bolognese in conversation, much to the confusion of others

Before putting the pot back into the oven for another 10 minutes to finish the pasta, I didn’t need approving nods to reinforce my decision to throw a couple handfuls of cheese on.  Which left us with this:

Melted cheese on top of rich meat sauce and pasta? Look, these love handles weren't going to maintain themselves

The strongest flavors in the sauce came from the meats which had cooked to the perfect tenderness.  The carrots, onions, celery and tomatoes had a uniform texture in the sauce with the mushrooms showing up in the occasional bite.  The flavors weren’t overly Italian since there weren’t any herbs or spices aside from the nutmeg, salt and pepper, but the slow cooked garlic and tomatoes made up for that.  It was really freaking good, and held up over the multiple days it took to finish that enormous pile of pasta bake.

This was either day 2 or 3, but it was still delicious. Especially with a good sized sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Hey, these lovehandles... eh, nevermind. I wore that one out pretty quickly

I’ve already made this a second time with ground turkey and beef chuck and it was awesome once again.  Next step is to make a pizza with just the botobogese and cheese, since that would be pretty much mindblowing.

I think I’ve over extended myself with this weekend’s food project, but we’ll see how it goes.  Couldn’t be more of a stretch than the extended Leggett family trusting me with cooking them 30 pounds of turkey over Thanksgiving.  I rewarded them by forgetting to remove the giblet bag.