TheCrockery

A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

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Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Experiments in Chili

When we talk about holiday foods, we probably don't tend to think of chili (con carne or otherwise). It is not associated with holiday cheer. But perhaps it should be. After all, a large pot of chili can feed an equally large family gathering. Furthermore, chili can be customized through adding cheese, crackers or corn chips, sour cream, tabasco sauce, etc. so that each member of the party has his or her chili roughly the way he/she likes. Note that I didn't say "just the way they like it." This was not on account of the ungrammaticality of using "they" to refer to a singular person; that doesn't bother me. Rather, it's due to my recognition that not everyone is going to like the same kind of chili. We shouldn't pretend otherwise. Some like green chili. Some like white chili. Some like meatless chili. Some like their chili with turkey or sausage instead of beef. I bet you could even make chili with veal, though I haven't tried. (And what HAVEN'T I tried to make with veal?) The point is, you can't please everyone, but by offering a nice selections of garnishes and accompanyment to your chili, you can make you guests feel like they have some control over the quality of their meals. This will make them happy. I'm sure there's some psychological prinicple to explain it, but you'll have to trust me on it.

Truth is, I'm new to the chili-making world. I had made a vegetarian chili once or twice before, to limited success. As far as I can recall, I had never made "real" chili until last night, when I made it for a gathering of family members, none of whom would probably enjoy learning that they were mere guinea pigs in experiments in chili.

In any case, my first real experiment in chili went well, even though the crockpot was overfull and the recipe I was using was, ironically, meatless. I never let a thing like that stop me from adding what I want, though, so the following recipe developed. The original recipe said it fed 6-8. My version (below) fed seven hungry adults and two toddlers, with a small amount left over.

Hint: if you follow this recipe, use a large crockpot (at least 4 quarts), not a 3 quart one. If you have a very large one, you can bring it up to the proper by height by adding water, or water and tomato paste, or even just another can of diced tomatos.

And here's the recipe:

Big pot o' Chili from cans

~2 pounds of ground beef.
1 can navy beans
1 can black-eyed peas
1 can black beans.
OR, three different kinds of beans of your own choosing.
1 onion, diced
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 (12 -14 oz) can of diced tomatos.
1 1/2 cups of frozen corn, or 1 can of corn
1/3 cup sliced jalapeno peppers (from a can)
1 1/2 cup of water (increase or decrease as needed)
4 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard sauce (what you put on hotdogs, not ground mustard)
(Adjust spices to taste!)

1. Brown the beef. You may cook some of the onion with it. Cook the beef with 1 teaspoon chili powder if you like.

2. When the beef is done, fill the crock pot with the beans: drain each can, so you don't get that beany goop in there. You may even want to rinse the beans first.

3. Fill the pot with the corn, onions, diced tomatos, peppers, tomato paste, and spices. You don't have to drain the corn or tomatos, but if not, you may want to adjust the water level.

4. Add the beef on top. Pour water over the beef: make sure the crockpot is at least half full, but preferably not more than 3/4 full. (For this recipe, it seems that an overly full crockpot won't hurt.)

5. Cook on high 4-5 hours, or on low 8-10 hours. Stir thoroughly before serving. You can turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for an extra hour or too if necessary.

6. Serve with crackers, bread, cornbread, or of the above. Top each bowl with sharp cheddar cheddar cheese if desired, or with sour cream, or both. You may also wish to put the rest of the sliced jalapenos on the table, for the use of those with fiery taste buds. Enjoy!

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