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Archive for September 11th, 2014

Grace’s Chili

Next to jazz music, there is nothing that lifts the spirit and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili.  –  Harry James

One of the things I really missed on the road was my own cooking.  I don’t mean that in a vain sense, as though my cooking was better than everyone else’s; what I mean is that I am, as I reminded y’all on Tuesday, a creature of habit, and it feels weird to go that long without cooking.  It’s part of the rhythm of my life, something that shapes my days, and my husband and Grace will both attest to the fact that no matter how tired I am or how busy my day, I insist on preparing a proper evening meal for my family unless I’m either too ill to stand up or we’ve already planned to do something else.  In fact, when I arrived home a week ago today I insisted on fixing dinner, despite having just driven for more than eight hours; it was part of the process of re-orienting myself to my normal life.  That’s not to say that Grace couldn’t have done it; she’s a competent cook herself, and though her repertoire is very limited she does what she does very well.  Today I’d like to share her recipe for chili; though I’m the one who cooks it for us nowadays, she developed it all by herself over 20 years ago and in my opinion it’s the best chili ever.

3# (1.4 kg) ground beef
2 (8 oz/225 g) cans tomato sauce
2 (6 oz/170 g) cans tomato paste
2 sauce cans water
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Ro-tel tomatoes)
1 medium onion, minced
¼ cup butter (½ stick)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) chili powder
2 tablespoons (30 ml) brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons (10 ml) paprika
½ tablespoon (7.5 ml) black pepper
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) granulated garlic*
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) prepared brown mustard
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) sage
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) mace
Tabasco sauce to taste

*If you don’t have granulated garlic, use half as much garlic powder or twice as much finely-minced garlic or garlic flakes.

Brown ground meat thoroughly in a large, deep skillet, then add onions and saute until tender.  Transfer to a large pot and add all other ingredients, stirring well after each addition.  Simmer over low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally.  Serve with crackers.

You will notice that the recipe contains no beans; that’s because we prefer beanless chili.  If you like beans, there is an additional step which must be performed first:  in a large pot cover one pound of pinto beans with water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for an hour.  Then drain the beans completely and add two liters of fresh water; bring water to boiling, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 90 minutes.  At the end of this precooking process, drain the beans again and add them to the chili with all the other ingredients; increase the chili’s cooking time to 90 minutes or until the beans reach the desired degree of tenderness (it won’t hurt the chili to cook longer).

One thing that’s really good about this chili is that when prepared as directed it’s spicy, but not blisteringly hot; however, it’s really easy to turn up the heat if so desired.  You could use the hot Ro-tel tomatoes instead of the original ones, use a hotter type of chili powder (or increase it to three tablespoons), use hot Hungarian paprika instead of the mild Spanish variety, substitute red pepper for the black, substitute horseradish for the brown mustard or increase the amount of Tabasco…or if you really like to live dangerously, all of the above.  The recipe makes enough for six people (nine if you make it with beans), but it also freezes well so don’t hesitate to try it even if there are only two of you.

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