Converting to Chili

It’s safe to say it – I’m a chili snob. I mean, it’s not just chili; there are other things I’m snobby about too. I have, possibly after drinking too much of it in college, grown to severely dislike watered-down beer and will only drink ales, aka beers with substance, or soul. I have very slowly started to like whiskey, but only from small-batch distilleries and so far, only when combined with ginger. I think my cat is the prettiest and loveliest of them all, because she is, and that’s all I need to say about that. And when it comes to toothpaste, I prefer Crest Pro Health, in cinnamon, if available.

So yeah, it’s not just chili. But until I met Hubs, I was never a chili-likin’-girl. Past chilies have been too bean-laden (specifically of the way-too-large kidney bean variety), or conversely, too watery. Both prompt some level of embarrassment after my consuming them, either in foul smell or by the appearance of chili-stained shirts. Sometimes both, I suppose.

But shortly after the Hubs and I started courting, I met his sister’s fiancee (now husband), a fellow Southerner, and frequent wearer of Carhartts. He had me hooked after making his biscuits n’ gravy, but after a couple bowls of his chili I knew I had to find a way to stay in that family, at least long enough to procure his recipe.

And no, this isn’t that chili. But that’s the chili that converted me; it was thick (but no so thick I felt like I was spooning ground meat alone into my mouth), it was spicy, it wasn’t runny in the least, and it warmed my heart, filled my belly, and made me wonder what was the matter with all those other chili-makin’ wannabees.

This chili here, this chili gave me that same feeling. And then some. This one is all of the above, but it is also full of complexity and layered with flavor upon flavor. It’s spicy, that’s no lie. But it’s spicy in only the best way possible. It’s healthy, with a generous amount of beef but rivaled by just the perfect amount of beans, black beans to be specific. It’s exactly what you want when the winter won’t quit.

And at least in these parts, I don’t see myself making any summer salads just yet. The good news is that, at least for the few minutes I’m eating this chili (and perhaps the time before when the smell is wafting around every corner in our house), I don’t care for all that warm weather. Give me chili, good music, a magazine, and my electric throw and I’ll watch the snow all day long, smiling all the while.

Cold weather concoctions, previously:
Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine
Ancho Pork & Hominy Stew
Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Chili con Carne
Loosely adapted from Cuisine at Home; serves 8 (leftovers freeze well, too!)

printable version

fajita seasoning
2 t g cumin
1 t smoked paprika
1 t onion powder
1 t dried oregano
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t g coriander
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t g cinnamon
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1/4 t g ginger

2 T evoo, divided
2 lb beef stew meat, cubed
1/4 c tequila
2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes (fire-roasted, preferably)
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 white onion, diced
2 T garlic, minced
1 sm can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, pureed
1 T tomato paste
1 T mole sauce
1 1/2 c beef broth
2 T all purpose flour
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 lime’s worth of juice
sour cream

stir together all seasoning ingredients; set aside.

heat 1 T oil in Dutch oven. brown meat in two batches, adding 1 T oil again for the second batch. transfer to slow cooker. Deglaze pot with tequila, scraping up bits from bottom, and add to slow cooker. (if using a Dutch oven instead of slow cooker, just leave steak in pot and deglaze as instructed)

add tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, fajita seasoning, chipotle puree, tomato paste, mole to slow cooker. stir in beef broth and flour. cover and cook on high for 4 hours. (Dutch oven – bring to boil, partially cover, simmer over med-lo for 1 hour)

stir in beans and lime juice before serving, garnish with sour cream, avocado.

Meat & Potatoes Girl


Growing up, my family had a hearty rotation of meals. Each night was dedicated to a particular dish, and those dishes were infrequently altered. It wasn’t long before I had it figured out – my parents never really told us “the schedule”, but I eventually caught on. I was an honor roll student, after all. I started dreading Wednesdays and I perpetually anticipated Saturdays. As I type, I realize I might have felt that way regardless of the cuisine – to this day I continue to hate ‘hump day’ and love everything there is to love about Saturday.

Wednesday was meatloaf – I hated that meatloaf with a passion. Even now, I rarely choose to cook those lumps o’ ground meat. Thursday was fried chicken – my family’s fried chicken recipe will always be my favorite, no matter how much I heart Bojangles. The best part about fried chicken night was the fried gizzards. Maybe some of you have never heard of gizzards? Oh my – super tasty, my friend! The gizzard is a part of the digestive track in some animals and is helpful in digesting food. I’m sorry – that might not help in my plight to make them sound more appetizing, huh? When fried, they are delightful and chewy and sometimes downright difficult to grind. I don’t really eat them now, but I remember having them as an “appetizer” back in the day. Meanwhile, my cat was fed the chicken liver (not fried…) and we happily chowed down.

tri-tipbaked fries

Friday – barbequed chicken. The best darned bbq chicken you’d ever eat, sauce sopped up with bread. The only other night I vividly remember is Saturday – steak night. Of all meals, this was the night I most looked forward to. The down side to steak night was that most Saturday nights I was busy speed skating at the Galaxy Skating Rink, riding in cars with boys (isn’t that a movie?), camping out in the field behind my house, or various other things I’d rather not discuss here, thank you. As such, I frequently missed steak night, although I would occasionally stick around for dinner. My dad always cut up some cucumbers and submerged them in a bowl of apple cider vinegar and black pepper for us to snack on. He eventually started marinating his steaks in a bag of Italian dressing, and he grilled them to perfection, which was medium-rare/rare for he, I, and my bro and damn-near charred for my mom. Yes, her steak went on way before ours – and many times it had to go back to the ol’ grill as it was just way too juicy for her liking and just not quite leathery enough..

And while I loved those steaks, the cucumbers, and the gizzards, the item I craved the most from those Saturday dinners was the side – fried potatoes (which was also the side for Friday..we like fried potatoes). For whatever reason, my dad never cut up potatoes in the french cut fashion – he cut them into irregular chunks and fried those chunks in our much-used fry daddy. If I didn’t stick around for dinner, I knew there would always be a plate of those leftover potatoes sitting out when I got home – to the right of the stove, underneath the telephone and the key rack. They were good warm and fresh, but man, they were even better cold.

baked french fries

You might guess that my dad has not changed his cooking style. Me – I still like frying stuff, that’s no lie, but when it comes to fries, I bake ’em.  I mix ’em in some spices. Sometimes, I even eat them with aioli instead of ketchup or my old favorite, ranch dressing.

I still eat them with a nice, medium-rare/rare steak. Some things never change.

Tri-Tip Steak Frites w/ Red Wine Sauce
Steak adapted from Gourmet, October 2009; serves 4

printable recipe

4 russet potatoes, unpeeled, cut into long thin strips
4 T olive oil
1 T paprika
1 T garlic powder
1 T chile powder
1 T Italian seasoning
1 (1.5-2lb) tri-tip beef roast (London broil), about 2″ thick, cut into 4 steaks
2 t cracked black peppercorns
1/2 t salt
1/4 c dry red wine
1/2 c water
2 T unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
3 T finely chopped tarragon
accompaniment: Dijon mustard

preheat oven to 475 F. in a large bowl, toss potato strips with 3 T olive oil and spices (paprika through Italian seasoning). spread strips onto two large baking sheets, trying not to have pieces touch. bake in oven on top and bottom third, rotating about halfway through, for ~45-50 minutes.

meanwhile, pat steaks dry, then rub with peppercorns and 1/2 t salt. heat remaining T olive oil in ovenproof 12″ skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. sear steaks on all sides, about 3 minutes total. transfer skillet to oven (once fries are finished) on top third rack and roast 9-10 minutes for medium rare. transfer to plate and let rest 5 minutes.

while steaks rest, add wine to skillet and boil, scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half, about 1 minute. add water and meat juices from plate and boil briskly until reduced by half, 3-4 minutes. whisk in butter until incorporated. season with salt and pepper.

sprinkle fries with tarragon. serve steaks with sauce and fries.