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Sunday, May 6, 2007

Hearty (tho' somewhat heartburn-inducing)

Yesterday I made chili for today's mid-day dinner. Sometimes I feel like being creative with my chili (adding corn, roasted peppers, fresh chiles, chicken, etc.), but sometimes it's nice to just stick with the basics. I was also thinking about this being Number Two's first chili experience (he's had trouble with cooked tomato products in the past), and wanting it to be a positive one.

So, I made a variation of my mom's recipe, the one I grew up eating.

2 lb chuck, cut into 1-1.5" cubes (growing up it was always ground beef)
2 lb black beans (Mom always used red kidney)
8 med onions, chopped
2 lg cans whole tomatoes (might try crushed next time)
a few T chili powder
a couple T brown sugar
a couple t salt

Simple, simple, simple. I usually do a quick soak of the beans: cover with a couple inches water, boil 5 minutes, let sit for an hour or so. Then change the water, add a t of baking soda, bring to a boil, and simmer until tender (taste more than one bean for this), 20-30 mins. Drain and put back in the pot. Add tomatoes, brown, sugar, chili powder, salt. Saute onions and brown beef and add them. Stir (it will seem overly dry, but don't think you need to add any liquid), then put on medium heat, reducing heat to low as mixture reaches a simmer. Simmer for about a million years (give or take--seriously, this time I think it was 8 hours until I considered it done), until tomatoes have broken down, beef is tender, and flavors are melded. Adjust seasonings and serve with condiments of your choice: grated cheese, sour cream, avocado, chopped cilantro, lime wedges, tortilla chips, steamed rice (brown or white).

One reason this batch of chili took so long was because of the tomatoes. I gave insufficiently specific instructions to my personal shopper (aka Mavis), and he got the first ones he saw, Hunt's Whole Tomatoes. The thing is, lots of commercially-available tomatoes these days (actually, most) contain calcium chloride, which makes them firmer so they look prettier when you open the can. Now, I suppose for some dishes you would be using canned tomatoes that you would want to maintain their shape, but I'm usually wanting them to break down and form a nice sauce, so the CaCl really works at cross-purposes for me. I will look harder for tomatoes without CaCl, and if they prove hard to find I might just have to can some of my own this year.

Today we went condiment-less, because we were in something of a hurry and because I had used the last of the sour cream in the fridge trying a new (to me) recipe for corn muffins. It originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 2002 issue, Number 58.

2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 C fine-ground, whole-grain yellow cornmeal (mine wasn't fine-ground, so a little crunchy in the end product)
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 large eggs
3/4 C sugar
8 T unsalted butter, melted
3/4 C sour cream
1/2 C milk

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl to combine; set aside. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl until well combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds. Add sugar to eggs; whisk vigorously until thick and homogenous, about 30 seconds; add melted butter in 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition. Add half the sour cream and half the milk and whisk to combine; whisk in remaining sour cream and milk until combined. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients; mix gently with rubber spatula until batter is just combined and evenly moistened. Do not over-mix. Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide batter evenly among muffin cups, dropping it to form mounds. Do not level or flatten surface of mounds.

3. Bake unti muffins are light golden brown and skewer inserted into center of muffins comes out clean, about 18 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in tin 5 minutes; invert muffins onto wire rack, stand muffins upright, cool 5 minutes longer, and serve warm.

Other than not using fine-ground corn meal, I made this recipe exactly as directed, and they were beautiful. Delicious, too.

Another small food note from this weekend: Saturday we had roast Alaskan Chinook salmon, sauteed pea shoots (yum!) and steamed rice. I had the last of the sour cream-lemon-chive sauce left from the book group brunch, to which I had also added some chopped fresh dill. For the rice, an easy trick that I really like is to stir in some butter and about two tablespoons (per cup of uncooked rice) of finely chopped fresh herbs. It really only works with white rice, which we were having for a change of pace, but it makes it look restaurant-pretty and taste great. This time, I used dill, chives, and a little mint from the garden (another one to grow, dear readers, but only in a pot because it's a terrible bully and spreads like the dickens).

I leave you with a photo of Number Two, who somehow seems to have gotten the helpfulness gene. Nothing makes him happier than helping unload the dishwasher, or fold laundry, or pick up after his brother. Yes, I am a lucky mommy. Oh, and he loved the chili. The leftovers went into the freezer for some day this summer when it's too hot to really cook.

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Blogger ME said...

I've been making chili lately, despite the heat and humidity. Will have to try your variations.

I hosted a Valentine's Day Chili Cook Off one year and our ward did one many years ago. My friend Jana made an amazing version with black beans and butternut squash.

Mary Ellen

May 7, 2007 at 8:36 PM  

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