My Chili Type
January 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
I like the idea of chili, but rarely do I enjoy what actually winds up in my bowl when out in The World. It is often greasy, with too many ingredients and sugar, and meat of unknown provenance. That said, it has never occurred to me to whip up a big pot of chili. I am really not that type of girl. However, since The Husband — “Mr. H” from here on, as it is easier for me, and what I call him anyway — and I have probably over 25 pounds of our own grass-fed ground beef from a cow share that we do with some equally enthusiastic, food-focused friends, I began to reconsider my position. So this weekend Mr. H and I decided it was time: we were making our own chili.
A simple goal, yes?
Well, “yes” and “no”.
The “no” part comes with finding a recipe that suits your needs and sensibilities. Yes, there are Chili Sensibilities. These include your feelings about beans, ground beef versus chuck, how many vegetables, if any, you wish to include, how spicy you like it (no, not like that…), etc., etc. And it turns out that there are actually a few distinct Chili Types: Cincinnati, Texas, New Mexico and Midwest. I suppose there is also the “Canned” type, and I fear that if I walked down the supermarket aisle where they keep all the “just add water” products, there may even be another type or two, but let’s just leave it at that.
Mr. H really took the reigns here, reviewing several cookbooks until he determined that we are the Cincinnati Chili Types (CCTs). CCTs go in for ground beef, a complex mix of spices with moderate-to-high heat and beans, but little other hooey. (No judgement!) The only part of the CCT that we do not abide by is the notion that the chili be served over spaghetti (!??!), but I am pretty sure that this must be some kind of misprint. Corn bread or rice: The only way to go.
On to the “yes” part: the marvelous simplicity of making chili. I do see why it is a popular thing to cook, as once you know your Chili Type, it is fairly simple to assemble the required ingredients, get them into a pot and call it a meal. And even faster when you are using grass-fed beef, since it takes far less time — maybe half the suggested time — to cook. And don’t mess around with cook times on grass-fed, or you will have some very rubbery meat on your hands.
I worked from the basic recipe for Cincinnati Chili in the 1997 Joy of Cooking, improvising here and there as I often do. Essentially, you put the meat, spices, liquid (water, vinegar and worcestershire sauce), along with onions and garlic into a pot bigger than the one I decided to use and just let it simmer until you feel that you have achieved chili. The chili meat is then refrigerated for several hours so that it can absorb all those spices you dug out of the pantry when you started the affair. Once it has cooled you can remove any fat that has accumulated on the top and get on with things. Those things include reheating the chili with the beans while you maybe take down some holiday decorations, feed your dogs and do some laundry.
Once it is heated through and somehow corn bread or rice has magically appeared, scoop into some cozy-looking bowls, add a dollop of sour cream on top, grate some good cheddar over that and you are done. Except for walking the dogs. And folding the laundry. But who’s complaining?