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.

Cleaning out my Cabinets: Oven-Cooked Ribs and Apple Pie Cookies

In the midst of all the recent odd meals and random meat butchering, I did need to cook some things that make people want to return to our apartment occasionally.  Those meals are generally the ones that end up in these posts; anything new I attempted that came out pretty well.  As per usual, the meals were born out of having too much of something and needing to get rid of it.

Lets start with the rack of ribs that’s been in our freezer since August.

Leftover from a 3-rack-pack purchased at Costco for Little Compton. Needed to be rearranged in the freezer every few days to make sure the door would close

After a day to thaw and some recommendations from blog villain Brother Tim (a slightly better barbecue cook than me) I got started by preheating the oven to 250F.

Since I think it’s hard to top Tim’s ribs (jerk), I decided to give him a wide berth and instead go with something more similar to a Chinese spare rib.  I mixed together a dry rub of Chinese five spice, salt, cayenne, garlic, onion, brown sugar, and a little dried mustard and amply applied to the meat.

I refuse to let even a small sliver of pork go uncovered with rub when cooking ribs or shoulder. I figure they're self conscious about their exposed flesh like me

These went into a large pyrex with a dark beer, a couple dashes of liquid smoke,a few cloves, and crushed red pepper in the base of the dish for flavor.

Not sure how I would apply this approach to multiple racks of ribs, but guessing I will have to figure it out sometime soon

Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and send into the preheated 250F oven for 3 hours.  I spent that time bugging Kristi with my opinions on cooking debates she was unaware of, watching sports, and letting Janet play with my teeth and chin(s).  Eventually, this came out of the oven:

The exposed rib ends are a big no-no in the BBQ world, but I rarely claim to do anything correctly. However, I insist that you do whatever it is you are doing my way

At this point the oven gets switched over to grilling mode; oven rack at (or near) the top placement and set to high broil.  The ribs were transferred to a broiling pan with a little additional rub sprinkled over the top and broiled a few inches from the heat with the door slightly open to make sure the oven stays on.  After about 5-7 minutes they were sizzling, crispy, and starting to brown a bit so I pulled the pan out of the oven.

Started glazing the one on the right before remembering to take a picture. Kristi's priorities have been way out of whack recently when it comes to this blog. Since when is Janet's dinner more important than my action shots?!?!

Although I generally don’t like saucing ribs before they’re finished cooking, I wanted these to have a sticky Chinese spare rib-style glaze.  The glaze was equal parts traditional Sweet Baby Rays and soy sauce with a little sesame oil blended in as well.  I brushed on a thin layer and then put the ribs back into the oven under the broiler for another minute or so, keeping the pan moving constantly with a mitted hand to avoid burning (ribs and hand).

I hate saucy ribs and consider them a sign of a restaurant that has no idea what they are doing. I have lots of opinions!

The short time under the broiler turned the glaze from a sauce into a sticky crust on the ribs.  The meat was tender, juicy, and the steaming time made the meat extremely tender and fall off the bone.  The combination of the rub and the glaze gave the pork some good saltiness and a little contrasting sweet spiciness.

You do miss out on the nice pink bark that comes from smoker or grill cooked ribs, but it was 20 degrees out and I didn't have to freeze my a-hole off to make these

Pretty decent for a first attempt at ribs that never touch a grill.  Would definitely do them again.

Now onto the Apple Pie Cookies.  The two ingredients that led to this one were apples, which Kristi consistently buys then forgets to eat, and a bunch of maple candies.  The maple candies were made by Kristi’s Aunt Sue and Uncle Crocky as a wedding favor for their daughter Casey’s wedding last July.  They made a ton of them, and they were delicious, but even I couldn’t eat as many as they sent me home with.  Plus, they melted a bit en route due to the absurd summer heat.

Fast forward a few months and they’re still sitting in my freezer, so on the night that I made the tortillas and carnitas, I decided to use them for something.

You can see the shapes they used to be in before I left them in the car for a half hour on the hottest weekend of the summer. We took a family photo at the wedding and since my pit stains had met in the center and soaked my arms, it looks like I am wearing a solid dark blue shirt. I changed before the reception. It was that bad

The maple candies headed into the oven to bake for an hour and dry up a bit since I planned to use them as a sugar substitute for the cookies.  What came out of the oven was easy to crumble and had a texture similar to brown sugar.

Looked like sugar and smelled like maple. pretty much what I was hoping for

The rest of the process was very close to my recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies.  The maple sugar was supplemented with an equal amount of white sugar to approximate the total amount of sugars in that recipe.  Along with the sugar, I used the same proportions of butter, flour, eggs, baking soda, salt, and oats.  The only difference was using twice as much cinnamon and vanilla extract for this recipe and substituting cubed apples for the raisins.

I think this is only one apple but it might have been two, but I can't really remember

Mix the apples in with the hand mixer, stir in the oats and drop in blobs on a cookie sheet for baking a 375F for 10-12 minutes.  Once they deflated and had just started browning, I pulled them out and transferred to a rack for cooling.

They look pretty much like oatmeal cookies. Tough to make cookies look exciting and different

These were really good and tasted pretty similar to apple pie with hints of maple.  Since I used fresh apples, there was a lot of liquid that cooked into the cookies during baking and was absorbed by the oats and dough.  Because of all the extra moisture, they fell apart pretty easily when eating and weren’t nearly as good on day 2.  Still, worth giving a shot to if you are bored with cookie tube or regular oatmeal raisin.

Next week will be another post that will drive my sister in-law Jen further away from readership.  I feel like I ruined her winter with that Goat Head Cheese post.