4 Peppers, 4 Chiles, 3 Meats, 4 Beans

Rainy. Gloomy. Grey. Damp. Every window I look out of is like this.

And it was like that all weekend. I think we were on hour forty-two of rain when I started writing this.  Note: checked the rain gauge before posting today, 5-1/2″.

The perfect response to weather like this is…Chili. How about a lush, red, earthy, hearty chili with four kinds of peppers, three different meats and four types of bean?  So close the curtains, get out the kettle and send Curt into the kitchen to work some magic.

Before we go any further, is it chili or chile.  Well, both – depends on what you’re talking about.  Chile is the correct Spanish spelling while chili is the Americanized version.  Some people also make a differentiation between chile, the pepper, and chili the concoction of meat, spices and other ingredients (tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc., depending on your personal taste or perversion).

Speaking of personal taste and perversions, this recipe contains, in addition to the requisite meat and seasonings, – tomatoes, beans and non-chile peppers.  I know that’s anathema to some and I get it.  Sometimes I make a true bare-bones chili – just meat and seasonings – but sometimes I like a little variety and, hey, a few vegetables won’t hurt you.  If you’re a purist feel free to leave out the non-chile peppers, tomatoes and/or the beans – whatever suits you.  By the way, I always cook the beans separately and add them in to the chili, to taste, at the very end.

Impromptu Chili (October 13, 2012)

The latest version of Chili – 4 kinds of peppers, 4 kinds of chiles, 3 meats and 4 kinds of beans

The Beans

1/4 C dried Pinto beans
1/4 C dried Maya Coba beans
1/4 C dried Great Northern beans
1/2 C dried black beans
2 Tbs lard, oil or fat (olive oil, bacon fat, lard, peanut oil, etc – I used fat skimmed from a pork roast)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 Tbs oregano, Mexican preferred but Greek is OK
1 tsp ground cumin
pinch baking soda
1/2 Tbs salt

Pick through the beans to remove any stray field bits, rinse and put into a 4 qt. pot with water to cover by at least 2 “.  Bring to boil and let boil for 2 minutes.  Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let sit for 1 – 4 hours (longer if your beans are old).

Drain the beans and add fresh water to cover.  Add fat or oil, onion, garlic, cumin, oregano and baking soda.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 – 3 hours.  Length depends on how old your beans are – the older, the longer they will take to cook.  The baking soda helps soften the outer coating of the bean and allows them to cook quicker.  DO NOT add more than a pinch of baking soda, though.  Too much will turn the beans to mush.

Add the salt and adjust to taste when the beans are almost done.  When the beans are done, turn off the heat, cover and set aside while the rest of the chili cooks.

The Meat

1 # chicken gizzards
2 links of Mexican style chorizo – I used Johnsonville
1/2 # ground beef (85% lean)
2 Tbs neutral oil – I use grapeseed oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 qt. water
2 Bay leaves, left whole

Trim the lining and connective tissue from the gizzards and chop the remaining gizzard meat into a medium chop (about 1/4″ pieces).  You’ll end up with around 1/2 pound of meat. You could also grind the gizzard meat in a meat grinder or food processor).

Remove the chorizo meat from the casings.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot or dutch oven.  Add all the meat and saute for a short while, breaking apart the ground meats into smaller pieces.  Add the onion, garlic, water and bay leaves.  Bring to just below a boil and simmer for 1 hour, partly covered.

Dried chiles (L to R) Pasilla, Guajillo, Cascabel, Ancho

The Seasonings and Vegetables

Spices and garlic

1 Ancho chile, dried
1 Pasilla chile, dried
2 Guajillo chiles, dried
3 Cascabel chiles, dried
3 Tbs paprika
1 Tbs smoked (Spanish style) paprika
1 Tbs ground cumin
1 Tbs oregano, Mexican preferred
2 Tbs garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
2 Tbs brown sugar
1/2 Tbs cider vinegar
1 tsp hot pepper sauce (Franks or Tabasco) to taste
Black pepper, a few grinds
14.5 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 small green bell pepper
1 Italian style frying pepper
1 mild green chile pepper, like Anaheim

Roasted peppers, tomatoes

Begin by roasting the pepper, either over a gas burner or in a heavy frying pan.  Whether using either method, roast the peppers until the skin is blistered and slightly charred.  When cool enough to handle, scrape the peel from the pepper flesh.  Discard the skin and reserve the flesh.

Remove and discard the stems and seeds from the dried chiles.  In a heavy frying pan, toast the dried chiles until soften a bit and aromatic.  Be careful not to burn them, you’re just trying to wake them up.  Tear the toasted chiles into smaller pieces and cover with hot water.  Soak for 30 minutes.

Put the soaked chiles and about 1 cup of the soaking water into a blender and puree until the chilies are in pretty small pieces – you may have a few larger bits, that OK.  Add the roasted peppers and pulse for a few seconds to chop them into smaller pieces but not a puree.  Add the tomatoes and pulse for a few seconds.  Add the chile/pepper/tomato puree to the meat mixture.

Add the remaining seasonings, garlic, salt, black pepper, sugar and vinegar to the meat mixture and simmer for 1 hour.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Add bottle hot pepper sauce to bring the heat of the chili to your taste (you may not need any if the dried chiles were hot enough – they vary in size and spiciness).

Add beans to the chili or, alternately, serve the beans on the side and allow your guest to add them to their own tastes.  You can also present a bottle of hot pepper sauce at the table for guest to use to spice the chili to their personal tastes.

Postscript:  While there are several steps and many ingredients in this dish, it’s not hard to make.  There’s nothing magical about any of the ingredients – If you don’t have a variety of chiles or fresh peppers or if you have different ones, use them.  If you don’t have or want to use gizzards, use a different meat.  If you don’t want to bother cooking your beans from scratch or you don’t have 4 different beans, then by all means use canned beans or fewer kinds.  Chili is very forgiving – make it so it tastes good to you but also feel free to experiment.  I’ve had chilies that included celery, coriander, chicken, chocolate (unsweetened), summer squash, beef tenderloin, smoked pork, shrimp, beer, and many other things. 

They all tasted good.  They all tasted different.  They all tasted like chili.

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