Monday, November 06, 2006

Texas Red

The other night I made a big pot of Texas Red chili, which we've been eating one bowl at a time, garnished with various things like corn chips, salsa, chopped tomato, chopped avocado, a bit of cheese. The photo shows what's left in the refrigerator after we've eaten two meals worth.

Here's the background and the recipe, as my friend Erin requests.

As favors to those who came to their wedding, Alec and Ellen gave us little jars of chili powder and a recipe, which has evolved since I've been making it for us. I've made it in France, and also in Israel. Sometimes, Alec and Ellen bring us more chili powder, but have also shared the spice-blend recipe, which is included after the main recipe. I vary the spice mixture and the recipe a little every time I make chili, which I have reflected below. Alec and Ellen might not approve of the variations or of the garnishes!

Ellen and Alec's "Texas Red" Chili
2 to 3 lb. lean beef cubes: trim off fat if necessary
2 chopped onions
3 cloves chopped garlic
Several fresh chopped chilies (such as jalapenos) or 1 can Old El Paso chopped chili peppers
1 to 4 tablespoons of chili spice (recipe follows — blend of spice is essential)
8 oz tomato sauce and 8 oz water
1 lb can of tomatoes, cut in pieces

Brown onion and garlic. Add fresh peppers (if using fresh). Remove from pan. Add beef and brown. Drain excess fat. Return meat to pan. (Add canned peppers.) Add spice, then tomato sauce, water, and tomatoes. Simmer several hours on top of stove or in 275 degree oven, until meat is soft.

One heresy is to add a can of corn, a can of black beans, and/or a can of red beans towards the end of cooking. I'm not enough of a heretic to make the beans or corn dominate the chili. That would be a different recipe.

Chili Spice Blend

In a mortar or spice grinder blend 1 crumbled bay leaf with 1 tablespoon of each of the following spices: Whole Cumin, Dried Oregano, Chili Powder. Optionally add 1 tablespoon each of onion flakes, parsley flakes, and dried basil. Add at least 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, dried hot pepper, or hot pepper flakes.

Note: If you are going to use the mixture right away, you can smash the fresh garlic in the mortar with the other spices. This dish should be made fairly hot, but you control the heat by how many fresh chilies, how hot they are, and how much cayenne pepper or even habanero peppers you put in the spice blend. You can make your chili hotter or milder by changing the balance of hot pepper to other kinds, and by knowing the heat of the spices you use. If you like it VERY mild, use Hungarian hot paprika instead of cayenne. It has a similar flavor but is less intense.

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