Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Chili - the great American dish.

First in a series
The great American Chili

I think I mentioned something about New Years and traditions......well maybe next year!
     When the weather turns cold one of the best dishes to turn to is Chili.  Now, depending on where you are this can mean different things.  It is truly a regional dish and different parts of the U.S. make it in their own distinctive way.
  First, let's address the origin of Chili.  Many think that it is a Mexican,  or possibly Spanish dish.  Nope, it is all American, in fact Mexican comments from the late 1800's call chili "A detestable food with a false Mexican name sold in the United States from Texas to New York City"  Yikes!!  So fair warning to international readers, chili is true American and may insult your culinary sensibilities. (not really, this stuff is good regardless of where you live.)
    Having established the origins of chili to the U.S. the question becomes, "but where in the U.S.?"  Even though many places throughout the country claim to have "invented" chili,  it is generally accepted that it was started in San Antonio Texas around 1840 and then spread through the States where it was given different regional flair.  I will admit that some of the most boring chili is from here in Wisconsin,  it tends to be watery and with a bunch of elbow noodles, it's more like goulash, or it is so artificially spiced it is barely edible.(I can't stand heat that does nothing for the dish, food is about flavor not trying to burn off your tongue.Don't get me wrong I like some good spicy food, just not so hot that you don't taste the dish.)
    Somethings stay consistent regardless of where you live,  brown your meat with the onions and spices (put your chili powder in while you brown the meat, it does make a difference.).  Then add your liquids, cook  a good while then add your beans if you are using them.
     Another standard is chili powder.  You can make your own, however commercial chili powder isn't bad.  Chili powder is a mixture of spices, if you want to make your own try this----
12 dried chiles( 10 pasialla and 2 ancho would nice.  Change the chili mixture based on how much heat you like)
3/4 Tablespoon of ground cumin
1     Tablespoon whole oregano leaves
1  teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon of salt
Place everything in a food processor and let it rip until you have a powder.  Even though commercial powder is fine, this will give you a fresher more vibrant taste that is customized to how you like it.

dried red chili
   If a recipe calls for plain chili powder, it is just ground chili, no spices mixed in. If you happen to see a recipe that calls for chili pods, that is the whole dried chili. Again use the chili you prefer.
     I think over the next few days I will post several chili recipes for you to try, and end with my favorite. Most of them are a variation on what we will call the "basic chili", so I will just reference that and then give the variation. Some on the other hand are completely different!!

So, The Basic Chili:
1 pound lean hamburger
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 large yellow onion peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
3 tablespoons chili powder (commercial or your own)
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 large (28oz) can tomatoes, pureed in a blender
1 green bell pepper seeded and chopped
1 small bag of beans soaked and cooked per the bag instructions(usually kidney beans)  if you think beans are an abomination to chili, leave them out, it's your chili do what you want.
salt to taste

Brown the beef in the oil along with the onion, garlic, and chili powder.  Drain the fat and add remaining ingredients, including beans.  Simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours or until until beans are tender.(if you used caned beans put them in just before you serve or they will turn to mush)  This dish one of those dishes that gets better the next day.
basic chili

So there you have it basic chili, just this alone is pretty good, but I like to put a few dashes of Tabasco in it just to liven things up.

Stay hungry!

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