Wednesday, November 7, 2007

NaBloPoMo Day 7: In Which Our Heroine Uses The Word "Tomatoey" Twice In Two Sentences

Last night for dinner, I had a cheese sandwich. Blah. I really like to eat better than this, but we just moved and before that we were trying to whittle down our pantry, so we have really only done minimal grocery shopping since this weekend. I announced after my cheese sandwich last night, however, that this situation was unacceptable.

Dan and I both have a sizable commute now, and cooking elaborate meals on a weeknight has become considerably less feasable. I think that we're going to come to rely rather heavily on our crockpot.

When I bought this crockpot, I was replacing one that had served me faithfully through three relationships, a move to another state, and lots of chili, spaghetti sauce, pot roast, corned beef and cabbage, and vegetable soup. The old one was becoming inconsistent, occasionally burning the bottom of the pot, and was really too small to leave us with good portions of leftovers.

I had a couple of requirements for a new crockpot: I wanted one with an automatic timer, so things wouldn't cook to a fair-thee-well while I was at work all day, and a warm setting to hold things for a few hours. I wanted the biggest one I could reasonably store. The one I found is all of these things and it's terrific.

After I finished my cheese sandwich, I went grocery shopping. The temperature has really dropped in the last few days, and I'm wearing a wool coat to work again. When I walked in the door, I wanted a big pot of chili to be bubbling away waiting for me.

Much as I like the sound of my own voice nattering away here on the internet, I love my own cooking. I know everyone has a chili recipe that they like and are loyal to, but I've tasted some truly hideous chili. A friend of a friend has this foul concoction he makes that he calls "Male Chauvinist Chili." It involves a lot of different kinds of meat, including bacon, in a very thin, greasy, bland broth. And I fully respect the fact that my chili will not win any prizes with people who go for beans in their chili, because I think beans are bland, mushy islands of nothingness in chili. Be like the Cincinnatians, I always say: throw the beans on top if you really have to have them.

Here is my recipe for overnight, slow-cooker chili. I like it with cornbread when I have time to make cornbread and just regular bread when I don't have time to make cornbread, with shredded cheese, chopped onion, and diced tomato over top. Dan likes it with all of those things, plus some sour cream, but I think, why gild the lilly? It's not particularly tomatoey, but that's preference. You can add some additional diced tomatoes at the end, like another can or two, if you like really tomatoey chili

2-2 1/2 pounds lean ground pork
2 1/2 pounds lean (like 85% lean) ground beef (some grocery stores carry a "chili grind," which is a little coarser than regular ground beef. That's pretty good. Sometimes I grind my own beef: sirloin, in 2-inch cubes, in the freezer for about half an hour to firm it up, then pulsed in the food processor in one-second pulses, about fifteen or twenty times. It's leaner, and you get good irregular-sized chunks that are, I guess, more authentic than regular ground beef.)
1 white onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup chili powder
2 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. ground chipotle chili powder
1 tsp. cayenne (or more if you like it hotter.)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (the little flakes that come in the shaker-top thing in pizza restaurants, this is very hot and you can leave it out if you're not into the spicy.)
1 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt (this sounds like a lot, but remember that it's seasoning five pounds of meat and vegetables. Adjust as you see fit.)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 cups (give or take) chicken or beef broth (really, it doesn't make a lot of difference. I've used both. Use whatever you've got on hand.)
1 can of tomato paste (whatever size those are, I can't remember. They're that little can.)
1 can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup of masa, or corn flour (this is not the same as corn meal, and corn meal can't be substituted, unless you wants some seriously gritty chili.)

In a big skillet, heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil over high heat. Throw in the onions and the garlic and stir them. They shouldn't burn. When they're golden, turn on your kitchen fan and throw in all of the spices--the chili powders, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper. Stir everything around and let the spices toast up a little. Try not to breathe too deeply, or it'll be like pepper-gassing yourself.

Throw all of this into your crockpot or slow cooker and turn it on low. Put the pan back over medium heat and crumble the pork into the pan, and cook it until it's no longer pink, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or a spatula or a whatever it is that you like to use for this kind of thing. Throw that in the crockpot too. Brown the beef. Stir in the tomato paste and work it in really well, let it cook for a few minutes in the skillet.

Throw the beef mixture into the crockpot. Stir everything together. Pour in the broth and mix it all up, put the lid on the crockpot, and let it cook for...well, as long as you can. Overnight is great. If you start it in the morning before you go to work, that's good too.

Maybe an hour or so before you're ready to eat, mix together the diced tomatoes and the masa, and stir all of this into the chili. I put the tomatoes in at the end so that they'll still taste nice and fresh, not cooked and decimated. The masa is corn flour. It does two things: it thickens the whole thing up a little, and it gives it this really yummy, corny, Mexican taste. You can usually find Masa in a grocery store that has a good-sized Latino crowd. I cannot emphasize to you how big a difference good-quality canned tomatoes make. I am a fan of Muir Glen Organic brand. They are pricy, but totally worth it. America's Test Kitchen, who does a lot of testing and recommending brands and products, is pushing Redpack now. They say not to use imported brands--something about food tariffs and tomatoes packed in puree versus juice...I don't know. I quit listening. Find a kind you like and be loyal. This makes a LOT of chili. I really mean it. You should maybe invite some friends over. Tell them to bring some beers.

I like stuff on top of my chili. Cheese: good. Chopped onion: good. If it's not particularly spicy chili, I like chopped jalapenos. Minced cilantro: if it's handy. Chopped fresh tomato: Yum.

With the leftovers, I like to make a chili-cheese omelet: microwave maybe 1/3 of a cup of the leftover in a micro-safe container to warm it up. Beat three eggs with a couple of tablespoons of water. Throw a teaspoon or so of butter into a nonstick (NONSTICK!! HEED MY ADVICE!!) frying pan over medium heat. When it melts, pour the eggs into the pan. Do not move them around, or you will have scrambled eggs. When they firm up so that they're really just wet, not runny at all, put the leftover chili on one half of the eggs. Sprinkle some cheese, some onion, whatever of those chili toppings turn you on, over the chili. Dramatically flip the omelet closed like a book with the chili inside, preferrably with someone watching you. This is actually quite a swell fix for a hangover.

1 comment:

merseydotes said...

A chili omelet? Now I've seen everything.