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Recipe: Smokin’ Hot Sweet & Tangy Chili

November 11, 2009
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When the going gets tough, this tough chick gets cooking. Yesterday it was Pumpkin Gingerbread (with an optional buttercream frosting made with honey and fresh ginger.) Today, it was chili. Mind altering, believe in god, give up sex kind of chili.

My general approach to cooking has a few constant commons:

1. I believe in good wholesome, natural, whole, fat-filled and flavor-filled food.
2. I never use recipes or measure anything. I use methods.

Ready? So, as I was running errands, I did a quick mental inventory of what was in the house. I decided that I could either make Chili or Pulled Pork Tacos. I couldn’t decide. (You know me, I’m big on the power of “and.”) So I made both, sort of.

When I make my Pulled Pork Tacos, I do it by slowly cooking pork all day in a marinade that is essentially citrus juices and spices. Delish. When I make chili, I typically just use ground beef, like everyone else I know. Today, I combined the two.

1. Took a pot roast out of the freezer and cut it into 3 pieces that would fit in the bottom of a big chili pot.

2. Melt lard (yes, real lard, and yes, I render it myself, so you may have to use whatever high-temp fat you have…..) in the bottom of the pot until it’s bubbly hot and throw the pot roast in there. It’ll stick to the bottom, toss it around a few times until you’ve gotten brown bits all over it and stuck to the bottom of the pan. A minute or two.

3. Turn the heat WAY down. Chop up an onion, peel a bunch of garlic cloves, throw them in.

4. You are now going to cover the meat and onions with whatever acidic and tangy liquid you have in the house, and some stock or water. I put in about a cup or two of apple cider vinegar and juiced 2 lemons into the pot. Then I added about a cup of beef stock until everything was covered.

5. Spices. Kind of whatever works for you. I have some great chili powders from New Mexico (no idea what they are,) some salt, some black pepper. Let the whole thing simmer lowly for a few hours. Eventually, the meat will be falling off the bones (if you had bones, which you should because the marrow that melts in is super good for you and gives it a nice thick texture.)

6. Every now and then, mess with it. (ADHD cooking!) I went down a few times and charred the hell out of some peppers on the open flame burners. One orange bell pepper and one big poblano pepper, blackened over the flame, diced and thrown in.

7. Once the meat resembles Pulled Pork, you can turn it into chili. Usually about 3 hours or so. There will be a lot of liquid in the pot, and it’s delicious. Cut up some peppers (3 or so bell peppers,) throw in some beans (I used a can of black beans and a can of pinto beans,) another onion. Then add a small can of tomato paste and probably two big cans of diced tomatoes. It should look like chili now.

8. Spices. Go to town. Whatever makes you happy. Great chili powder, salt, pepper – and I always add a little cumin. At the very end, throw in a little bit of honey – 3 tablespoons or so (it balances the vinegar, as do the charred bits of the peppers you burnt on the open flame.)

The trick here isn’t the ingredients, it’s the method. By starting it as the kind of marinated pulled meat you would for tacos, you wind up with this amazingly deep tapestry of flavors that is far more interesting than any chili I’ve ever had. But still rich with the comfort-food goodness that this season requires.

Top, of course, with fresh cilantro and sour cream……. and serve with corn muffins……

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