My butt hurts.
An unconventional start to a food blog post, I know, but it hurts! I was shoveling my car out from yet another mountain of compacted snow when I slipped and fell. I don’t know how I managed it, but I fell exactly and precisely on my tail bone. Not on my side, not on my behind… Nope, directly on the tail bone. Ouch. I flailed on the ground in a dramatic fashion hoping someone would come by and help me up, or maybe even shovel my car for me out of the goodness of their heart. Yeah. So that didn’t happen. After a couple more loud groans (ok, curses) I got up and finished the job. My butt still hurts though.
As much as I love winter - sledding, skiing, snowball fights, fur trimmed hoods, and all that - I hate hate shoveling my car and hate falling even more. Boston winters are not for ninnies. Boston winters are, however, for all day stews, chilies, and mugs of hot tea to squeeze while watching the snow wreak havoc on all those unfortunate enough to be caught outside.
My saving grace at the end of a long day of hobbling around with a sore bum and a cranky demeanor, was a bowl of chili that had bubbled happily away all of the previous Sunday. While I realize that the chili wasn’t true, conventional Texas Red (it had beans in it. Three kinds of beans, even. Gasp), I did have a real live Texan assisting and directing the chili-making. Does that count? Do I get some cred back, JC?
We basically put every manner of chile and spice into the pot that we could find. The Hatch green and red chiles that I brought back from San Antonio eons ago? Toss them in. Chile powder from my masala dabba? Sure. A can of chipotles in adobo sauce? Sounds good. Luckily, the searing heat of the chili mellowed during the cooking to a rather bearable, but still runny nose-inducing spiciness. The smokiness of the chipotles and roasted dried chiles combined with the other spices into a really complex and multi-layered taste. I can say with some certainty that it is the best chili I have ever tried. And it came out of my kitchen! And it made my butt feel better. Or maybe it just helped me forget, as I was happily wiping my nose and drinking cold water.
Texan-directed three bean chili
1 red onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, roasted, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
5 roasted chiles, such as Hatch (if you are fortunate enough to have a few stashed in your freezer) or poblanos, seeded, peeled, and chopped. I used a mix of hot and mild Hatch chiles.
2 dried, ripe (red) Hatch chiles or other New Mexican chiles
1 can chipotles in adobo sauce, pureed
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
42 ounces of whole canned tomatoes (that’s one big can and one small can), crushed roughly by hand, liquid reserved
1.5 - 2 lbs beef chuck, 85%, cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes (we actually only used 1 pound but would have liked more. I upped the amount of meat for the recipe)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground chile powder
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried epazote (I don’t actually have any idea what this tastes like on its own. Smelled pretty good though – a little minty).
3 sprigs fresh thyme (why thyme, you ask? Because it was in my fridge)
1) Preheat oven to 325F.
2) Roast dried chiles in a dry skillet until slightly darkened and fragrant. Cover in
boiling water to rehydrate for about 30 minutes. Strain liquid and reserve.
2) Salt and pepper the beef aggressively. In a heavy, oven-safe pot, brown meat in batches over high heat for a couple of minutes on each side, until a brown crust develops. Remove meat from pot to be added back later.
3) Lower heat. Add onion to same pot and sauté, scraping up the browned beef bits from the bottom. You may need to add oil at this point if the meat didn’t let out enough fat. Add garlic, dried spices, and thyme. Sautee for a couple more minutes to toast the spices and soften the onion.
4) Add bell pepper, Hatch chiles, rehydrated chiles, and chipotle in adobo puree. Swish around for about 5 more minutes to make sure the chiles are making friends.
5) Add tomatoes and their liquid, beans, reserved liquid from rehydrated chiles, and the browned beef. Season with salt and ground black pepper. Bring to a boil. Remove and throw away the scary, atomic rehydrated red chiles.
6) Transfer giant, heavy and hot pot to the oven and let it be for 4 hours or so, until lots of the liquid has evaporated, the flavors mellowed and beans softened, and most importantly, until the meat is falling apart. It should melt under the slightest touch. OMG.
7) Serve garnished with cheddar cheese, scallions, cilantro, fresh lime, and tortilla chips.
Please consider this recipe as a submission to Leena’s virtual chili cook-off. Hope the Texan presence during the chili making isn’t considered an unfair advantage.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Dry roasting red Hatch chiles from Mesilla, New Mexico. These gave off the richest, smokiest, most intense smell. Inimitable.