Friday, January 26, 2007

Fiery Food for a Frigid Friday

Finally!! I do believe that winter has come to Boston. Today the high was a whopping 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12C). When you factored in the wind chill, it was bone chilling -5. It was so cold this morning during my commute that my toes never got warm despite the woolen socks and heavy trousers. In other words the perfect weather for homemade chili!

We had a chili a few weeks ago when it wasn't very cold, only coolish out. That batch was made by MBH and was O.K, but we both thought it could have been better. Maybe we just needed a nice blast of arctic air. Whatever the reason, tonight's batch was exactly what we both needed to warm up from our toes to the tips of our nose!

We use a package mix as a base for our chili and about a pound or little bit more of 93% lean ground sirloin along with a can of kidney beans, half an onion, a can of tomato sauce and if we are going to go for a little spice a can of diced tomatoes and chilies.

We've tried a couple different brands of mixes but the one we like the best is the Wick Fowler's 2 Alarm Chili Mix. It contains seven packets of seasonings: red pepper, chili powder, cumin and oregano, paprika, dried onion and garlic, salt, and masa harina.

I also like to add a little additional cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon to the chili (about 2 tsp of each) while I'm browning the ground beef. Adding these three spices at this step infuses the meat with a spicy smoky taste. After draining the ground beef (normally very little fat is left to drain with 93% lean ground beef), I toss in the chopped onions and let them cook until soft and translucent, the spices combining with the onions for a very flavourful mixture.

Next step is to put all the packets of seasonings from the mix in with the exception of the salt, red pepper, and masa harina. I save these for the very last minutes of cooking. This is also where I add the can of beans (undrained), the tomato sauce, the can of chopped tomatoes and chilis and one can of water (use the tomato sauce can to measure the water). I put a lid on the pot and let it simmer slowly. I keep a second can of tomato sauce handy in case I want to lighten out the taste of the spices and a refilled can of water if I need to add more liquid. I taste the chili several times during this simmer to make any adjustments to the seasonings and liquid. After it has simmered for about twenty minutes, I make any last additions to the seasoning. This is where I add the salt and the red pepper if we are going for 3 Alarm strength. I don't use the whole salt packet, just enough to punch up the spices. I let the chili simmer for about ten more minutes. While the chili is simmering for the ten minutes, I mix the masa harina with about 1/4 cup of warm water to make a thick batter. I stir in about 2/3 of this mixture into the chili to make it "spoon stand-up" thick and put the lid back on to let the chili simmer for an additional 10 minutes. This allows the masa harina to cook and all the flavours to really come together!

Sometimes I make a batch of yellow cornbread to go with our chili but tonight I went for little round white corn chips and a sprinkle of cheese on top.

Both MBH and I cleaned our bowls and agreed chili was exactly the right food of warmth for this very chilly night...