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Monday, March 28, 2011

One last time before summer comes....

What's that you say?  The sun is shining?  The birds are chirping?  The grass is growing?  The hay fever is getting out of control?  It must be spring!  Well... it felt like spring for about a week:  temperatures in the mid-70's, beautiful blue skies.  Time to break out the shorts and flip flops.  And then, as mother nature tends to do, we have had temperatures back in the 30's for lows again for the past couple of days and it's not looking like it's going to improve over the next week.  So I thought, what would be better than a nice bowl of chili?  After all, chili is something that I retire during the warmer months of the year and in Alabama, that's usually from around April until October or November, depending.  
Everyone has their own opinions on what chili should be.  Some like it without beans, some with.  Some like it mild, some hot.  Some like white chili and some like the traditional tomato based.  Me personally, I always go for the tomato based standard and add my heat afterward (my wife isn't a big heat fan).  This week though, with her traveling on business, I figured I could go ahead and make it the way I like it: caliente!  The following is my recipe for what we so lovingly call "dump chili".  "Dump" because you take a bunch of cans of beans and tomatoes and stock and dump it in a pot.  My dump chili has evolved though.  You can use dried beans but really, who has the time?  And technically, if you can taste the difference between dried beans and canned beans, be my guest.  

Another note on the spices:  You can use whatever mixture of spices you want, but when cooking something like chili, your flavors are going to develop overtime.  Mine started out this morning at 11 AM spicy enough to where I thought I had over spiced it.  At 5 PM when I checked it again, it was even hotter.  By 10:30 PM when I had my first bowl, it had a great front end taste and a nice back end spice to it.  So again, find some combination that you like and stick with it.  Remember what you did and try not to add things like salt throughout the cooking.  As far as the herbs I use, I have found a great tool for using dried herbs in slow cook recipes.  The mighty MORTAR AND PESTLE!!  Take what dried herbs you want for your spice mix (yes, homemade spice mix... please, PLEASE don't buy those little chili seasoning packs in the store.  They are a waste of money and full of things like MSG and the likes) and grind them in your mortar until they form a fine powder.  This way when adding them into things that slow cook, they don't turn black and nasty looking.  Plus, remember that dried herbs pack more of a punch than the fresh ones.  Be easy, don't over do it.  After grinding them, add in your other things like salt and pepper and whatnot and grind it again.  It makes for an even consistency that blends well into things that you are cooking.  I even use this trick when adding flavors to bread.

Anyways, the recipe:

Dump Chili
1 pound ground beef (80/20)
1 link chicken sausage, casing removed
1 link sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1 large can (24 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can (15.5 oz.) black beans
1 can (15.5 oz.) pinto or chili beans
1 can (15.5 oz.) kidney beans
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 box beef stock
1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
1 tbs. tomato paste

spice mixture:
1/4 tsp. dried cilantro, ground
1/4 tsp. dried basil, ground
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried chipotle pepper, ground
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. garlic powder

1.  Brown the beef, chicken, and sausage.  Drain well and add to a large stock pot or crock pot.
2.  Saute the onions and bell pepper in a little olive oil until onions begin to become translucent.  Add to pot.
3.  Add the beans, tomatoes, liquid smoke, and stock to pot.
4.  Make spice mixture and add to pot.
5a.  If using a crock pot, turn to low and cook for 4 hours with the lid on.  After 4 hours, remove lid and cook for another 4 hours.
5b.  If using a stock pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.  Cook for 3 to 4 hours with the lid on.  Remove lid and increase heat to medium-low for another hour.

It really is a simple recipe but it's something that makes you feel good and warms up your insides on a cold day.  Plus, the recipe above serves about a billion people!  That pot of chili will last me for a couple of days eating it twice a day and maybe saving some in the freezer.  I would generally say it has 10 to 12 servings.  What's good about using the three meats is that in one bite, you may taste a little beef, the next you may get a little sausage.  It's like a forever changing dish!  I generally like my chili pretty thick... like hold your spoon upside down and it sticks thick, but the crock pot method makes it a little thinner.  It's a good way to cook chili without checking on it often.  Cooking it in a stock pot allows you to thicken it up and your own leisure.  Of course, chili doesn't end after cooking.  That's when you add your cheese, diced onions, green onions, jalapenos, sour cream, or, if you're like my buddy Cash, a couple of dashes of Ghost Pepper sauce (not recommended for the weak at heart!)  A good chili recipe is indispensable.  And believe it or not, people do make bad chili, I've have a few bowls myself.  Just surprise your family next time when you skip the pre-mixed chili starter pack at the grocery store and say, "Nope, I've got this one in the bag!"

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