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.

Venison Tacos

Couldn’t put a “Weird Crap I Cook” title on this one.  It came out too delicious.

Part of the load of venison we received was a few pounds of ground venison.  I wanted to make some unorthodox tacos and involve some new flavors that I thought would bring out the flavor of the meat.  I also felt like nearly burning out the motor on my Cuisinart mini-prep and driving Kristi insane with it’s high-pitched scream.  First item prepared was a mushroom paste that I planned on smearing on the tortillas prior to loading them with meat and the other toppings.  For flavor, the paste started with garlic and onions.

To get these down to a nice consistency you have to alternate the motions of the blade a few times. Hence the motor burning and the high pitched sounds

Once chopped, these went into a pan with some olive oil.

This is also the way my fried rice starts, but I had to stop making that after it became a mild addiction and I started to consider cutting a new hole in my belt

While those sauteed for a few minutes, I mini-prepped about a pound of white and brown mushrooms.

As I'm sure you've figured out by now, Kristi and I love mushrooms and use them in almost everything we cook

When they are ground up in a Cusinart, you recognize how little substance there is to mushrooms.  A pound of them were reduced in size to a couple large spoonfuls that went into the pan with the onions, garlic, and a little marsala wine.

The first real food I learned how to cook was chicken marsala from my mom's recipe. I quickly learned that marsala wine and mushrooms go great together

On the back burner, I sauteed a chopped onion in a little bit of olive oil.  Once the onion had caramelized a little bit, I added a can of rinsed beans, chicken stock, red pepper and salt to simmer for a little bit.  This was the start of the beans and rice that would be a side dish.

Kristi and I are also big fans of beans and rice

At this point the mushroom paste had cooked for a while and had a thicker consistency so it was removed and put into a bowl.

Great smells coming out of this bowl

Out came a pound of the fresh ground venison meat.

I say "fresh" because most of the meat came frozen but this was recently butchered and came refrigerated

I cooked the meat with a little butter in a pan with paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, red pepper, chili powder, and salt.

Looks like ground beef, but the texture and flavor are very different

While the meat cooked, I started an aioli based on the delicious one Conor made a few weeks prior in Boston.  A little mayo, olive oil, lime juice, the leaves from a bundle of cilantro, three garlic cloves, and black pepper.

Best part of my Philly produce market is that all herbs are sold in slightly smaller batches than usual for $1

The garlic, cliantro and lime flavors were very strong, but thats what you want when you're only using a little bit on each taco

Instead of garnishing with lettuce and tomato, which would be a little boring and not compliment the flavors well, the fresh garnish of choice was baby arugala.  I don’t use arugala enough, but every time it shows up in a meal it is completely delicious.  In Jamaica Plain, Kristi and my favorite meal to split is an arugala salad (dressed with lemon juice and cracked pepper) and a prosciutto pizza covered with arugala at Bela Luna.

Back to the tacos, here’s the toppings bar:

I despise the way flash photograph makes food look, but thats whats necessary in our apartment with all of its stupid environmentally friendly mini flourescent light bulbs

When the meat was almost fully cooked I added a splash of V-8 to give some tomato flavor to the meat since salsa wouldn’t compliment the other garnishes well.

I had never cooked with tomato juice before but having some V-8 in the fridge led to inspiration

While the meat finished cooking and absorbed the V-8, a package of pre-cooked wild rice went into the bean, onion, and chicken stock mixture to simmer for a few minutes.

Little bit of a cajun dirty rice look to this, might have even splashed some V-8 in. Can't remember, I was going V-8 CRAZZZZYYY

Finally, a shot of the finished product.

This was a really amazing meal, I can't wait to do it again exactly the same

The finished tacos, with all of the flavors from the garnishes blending together in each bite, were truly awesome.  Ground venison is different from beef or turkey; not as greasy tasting as beef, not as rubbery as turkey.  It has an almost grainy texture, in the best possible way, with all of the uniquely rich flavor of venison.  A small smear of the mushroom paste on the tortilla gave the strong and earthy mushroom flavor I was looking for.  The arugala and aioli added the finishing touches of complimentary flavors, acidity, and a little fresh crunchiness.

Also, when you cook beans and rice together like this, the final product is very creamy, starchy and rich.  Almost like a mexican risotto.

And that was it.  Well, not really, I had two more tacos after the one shown and Kristi had to turn up the TV to drown out the noises I was making as I ate round two.

Not sure what I’ll be making next week, might head to the Italian Market tomorrow to get something interesting to cook.  Also, if you haven’t donated to my Movember mustache growing, please click here and support prostate cancer research.  I’d appreciate it.