What Is Chili Anyway? part 3)
(Food #4: January 18, 1999)
Is it OK to brag about your own cooking? I
hope so, because I'm about to do it. I just ate one of the
best bowls of chili I've ever made. It's the second one
like it this week. I got everything just right twice in a
Spider Cañon Red ChiliThis recipe seasons 1/2-lb. of meat, enough for two or three medium servings of rich, mild to medium-hot chili. Start with:
Fry the bacon or sausage until it is crisp. Crumble it and brown the beef in the fat until all the liquid it yields has simmered away. Skim off the fat and add:
While I'm about it, it dawns on me that I've never really said much about my three chili powders: Spider Cañon™ Southwest Style, Cottonwood™ New Mexican Style, and La Gallina™ White Chili Seasoning.
Spider Cañon™ is a simple red chili powder with traditional Southwest flavor. I've carefully blended it to give a clean, fresh flavor with beef (and lamb, for some people), and a beautiful red color from red New Mexican peppers. Spider Cañon's a working chili, for everyday, not a show chili. This is a chili everyone can enjoy any time. Even the medium-hot blend sits on your tongue, not back in your throat, like some. After all, hot and harsh are two different things.
I've proportioned the spices to do best with about 3/4-hour cooking. That way I can get better flavor from a smaller pack of spice. That's better for my system, and the taste is really a lot better.
Cottonwood™ is a sweetheart. It's just as red as Spider Cañon, maybe more so; but it's not Southwest. Its main flavor comes from red New Mexican peppers, helped along with some interesting bitter herbs. For all you purists, no, it doesn't make New Mexican Chili; it makes New Mexican Style Chili. I've taken a little artistic license.
The recipe and cooking sequence is the same for both of my red chilis.
La Gallina™ was a surprise to me. Somebody showed me a white chili recipe and something clicked. I knew just what should go in the spice package, and I got it just on the first try.
I really thought it would be a fad, and maybe it will be, but La Gallina White started out as popular as both the reds. And I really like it, too; but why so many women love chicken chili I don't know. (Now that little comment will cost me about a half hour of protest from my older, Lib.)
Chicken doesn't cook as long as beef, so the recipe for La Gallina's quicker and sequenced a little differently. This week I'm going to start some tests with La Gallina and pork.
Recently I've been packaging my chili powders in twin packs: two "makes-1/2-pound" packs, as well as our standard "makes-1-pound" pack. In my chili powders all the ingredients are mixed especially for each order, not premixed. I do it this way because I use a lot of crushed spices instead of all powdered ingredients. The crushed spices taste better, but they don't mix uniformly. Shake a package and watch. You'll see what I mean. For some people it's really a lot easier to make chili in smaller batches; for singles or small families, a 1-pound batch is a lot of chili.
You can obtain all our fine chili powders and spices, and other useful and entertaining products from our Online Store.
Chili Questions Answered–Myths Exploded!In our first food issue I mentioned the various mystiques that chili devotees have applied to chili recipes, spices, etc. (Food back issue #1; "What is Chili, Anyway?", 9/25/98, available from our Reference Library). My question was, basically, what is there about chili that causes such polarization? I've been testing chili recipes again, and I'd like to explode a few of these myths and answer a few questions in this part of this issue.
|Question: What is the best meat to use for chili?||
A lot depends on whether you're making red or white chili.
Beef goes perfectly with red chilis, but what kind of beef?
I've heard all sorts of favorites: ground chuck, ground
sirloin, diced chuck, diced sirloin, diced brisket, diced
round, etc., etc., etc. I've tried them all and come up
with one absolute favorite—diced lean chuck; second choice—
ground chuck. All the others were either weak in flavor or
poor in texture. Brisket was the worst, with awful texture
and a very high price.
If you choose chuck plan on cooking it slowly for about forty-five minutes. If it's ground chuck, skim off all the fat. Start by browning the meat, without flour or masa harina, until all the liquid that sweats from the meat boils away. Skim off all the fat, then cook at a very low simmer, covered, with the recipe's liquid ingredients added, for fifteen minutes. Cook it fifteen minutes more with the spices and vegetables added, and a last fifteen with the salt added. The result in my tests was tender, tasty, well- spiced meat that spoke for itself from amidst all the rest of the ingredients. A definitely superior red chili.
I feel pork, chicken, and turkey are bland in the richness of my Spider Cañon red chilis. For those light meats I blended La Gallina White Chili Seasoning, based on sweeter green chiles and several other aromatic herbs and spices. In this new medium chicken was wonderful.
Cook chicken slowly, too, but for less time than beef. Use the same browning technique as for the chuck. When thoroughly browned cook only about six minutes in the recipe liquids. Then add the remaining ingredients and the salt, and simmer just until the vegetables are transparent.
A last note: I found lamb very tasty in chili, but only as a companion to beef. By itself it was a little on the gamey side. If you add ground lamb to your chili, be sure and skim off as much fat as possible; lamb is very fat.
At this point I can't help mentioning Pam Anderson's
great cookbook again. Some people don't like the discipline
of recipes; but if you like to lock down good, reliable
results you'll appreciate this book. In The Perfect
Recipe Ms. Anderson fully explains selecting meats
for recipes and getting the best flavor from them. I put my
money where my mouth is and gave copies of The Perfect
Recipe for Christmas this season. They were very
well received. See our
to order from our associate Amazon.com.
And now for the myths:
|Myth 1: Chili must be cooked in a cast iron pot only!||
Did I mention polarization? Both of these myths are
nonsense created, apparently, for the purpose of adding
some sort of secret insider "method" to chili's very simple
and forgiving nature. I tried cast iron, glass, stainless,
and aluminum—no difference at all except for the cleanup.
Stainless is definitely best. I use the kind of stainless
with the thick aluminum bottom to get very even heating.
Forget about these two myths and use what you have or can afford. You could probably make great chili in a hub cap if you used good meat, vegetables, and spices.
|Myth 2: Never cook chili in cast iron!|
|Myth 3: Always cook chili covered!||
See what I mean? You can't have it both ways. What did my
tests show? First, when browning the meat your pot should
be uncovered. It won't brown properly and the juices won't
reduce if the pot is covered. Once browned and simmering,
cover the pot tightly. It saves heat, keeps aromatic
ingredients in, and gives the meat more even cooking in
the closed, moist environment.
To thicken chili remove the cover and simmer just long enough to reduce the liquid content to suit you.
Cooking with a tight cover gives you control of the cooking process and time; cooking uncovered reduces your control.
|Myth 4: Never cook chili covered!|
|Myth 5: Only masa harina is suitable for thickening chili!||
Well—we've got to have something to talk about next time.
I'll take these and several others then.
|Myth 6: Always use flour to thicken chili!|
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