Tip Tuesday: Sometimes It’s Best to Recreate Old Specialties

Tip Tuesday

As the title suggests, sometimes it’s best to tweak those old specialties.  I’m not talking about Family Heritage recipes; those should be set in stone.  I’m talking about your own recipes.

For years, I’ve been fairly successful with chili.  Fairly successful=Josh and Muffin eating it.  I even thought once about entering it in a chili cook-off.  And chickened out.  (Still kicking myself for that one)

But…while it was tasty…I’ve never been truly happy with it.

We are now (whether Josh likes to admit it or not) in soup and chili weather.  Soups and chilis are great for many reasons:  1)  They tend to be one pot meals.  (Cough cough) That means fewer dishes to clean.  2)  They tend to produce lots of leftovers.  3)  (And these are the only ones I bother with)  They tend to be very filling.  4)  They tend to be cheap.

What’s not to like?

I couldn’t find my most recent recipe incarnation of chili seasoning, and I purposefully bought only taco seasoning at the 25 cent sale at Albertson’s last week.  Packets of chili seasoning taste like salt lick, even more than the taco seasoning does.

So, what’s a girl to do?  Pinterest!

The Pinteresting Blogosphere came through…sort of.  I figured if I started with a basic recipe, like the one from Budget Bytes, I could probably add to it to make an ultimate recipe, adding and subtracting amounts as I went.  Do you remember Tyler Florence’s show on Food Network, Tyler’s Ultimate?  I took that approach, and then crossed my fingers that I wasn’t mixing up too many contrasting flavors.

For the meat, I used a bacon-infused breakfast sausage roll that I found at a steal at Super 1 for 99 cents.  You could really use any kind of ground meat (although chicken might be a bit dry), ground sausage (wouldn’t do Italian probably), and of course hunk-o-beast (really would love to try this with venison…hint hint).

The beans?  Instead of canned red kidney, I used some canned pintos that I bought on clearance at Albertson’s last week.

My issue with my previous attempts?  Everything that I had produced thus far was soupy…not even stew-y.  I wanted something THICK…like canned chili…but I kept producing soupy masses of beans, tomatoes, and meat….that tasted pretty good…just not quite there yet.

So I combined a bunch of stuff (including more flour)…and added in some lime because one recipe suggested it and it sounded like fun (and I had a cup of lime juice sitting in the fridge from when the limes were 5 cents each at Super 1 last week–and I price matched at Walmart)…and tried something I never had before…because I had been afraid to.

I had seen…quite a bit before…making a slurry out of masa harina corn flour or corn meal and water and adding the slurry to the bubbling chili mixture.  One blogger said that it added a depth of flavor.  I was petrified that it was going to add a whole lotta grit.  I was the Southerner that hated HATED grits until I was an adult and teaching and my first principal made shrimp and grits and they were wonderful.  Seriously.  One of my earliest memories is traveling from the New Orleans area (where we lived at the time) to visit my grandparents (up here) and stopping to eat breakfast and trying grits…and vomiting profusely.

Do you know how embarrassing it is for a Southerner to admit that she hated grits?

So, when I mixed up that happy slurry of corn meal and water (because I don’t have masa harina)…I was expecting chili-flavored little bits of gravel that Muffin and I would choke on.

And…instead…it gelatinized (If it’s not a word, I’m claiming it), making what would normally be broth-y into a thick, fragrant, chili stew!

Eureka!

Even now it brings happy tears to my eyes.

I didn’t really even taste the cornmeal (or one of the other surprise ingredients that is going to not go well in Josh land if he picks it out…hearkening back to his one experience with chicken mole), but it tasted GOOD.  The yeasty hoppiness from the beer, the sweetness from the browned and caramelized onions, the sausage, the beans, the spices…muah!  (Kissing fingers in triumph)

The parts list is a bit long, and I know I could have whipped it up together faster, but Muffin wanted to help (and we got sidetracked when a bottle of Frank’s hot sauce lost a battle with the ceramic tile…but the good news is…my foot stopped bleeding!) with the seasoning, so it took a bit.  Plus, gathering the ingredients took a bit.  To save your sanity, I will start with the chili seasoning.

But first…a picture…

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Chili Seasoning

(an amalgamation of several recipes…to follow my inspiration check out my Sumptuous Salads Soups and Stews board on Pinterest…at all of the chili seasoning pins…yes…I went there)

In a salad bowl, mix together:

1 tablespoon chili powder (I used Tone’s)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you have people consuming the chili that are not spice-phobic)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon paprika (Again, I used the Sam’s-size of Tone’s)

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon allspice, ground

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon thyme

(I wanted to use 1/2 teaspoon of cilantro, but I can’t find my little tin of cilantro)

Chili

(again, an amalgamation of my previous attempts and my Pinterest boards)

1/2-1 pound meat (bulk sausage, ground beef, ground turkey, ground venison, hunk-o-beast, stew meat, etc.)

1 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 recipe chili seasoning (see above)

12 ounce can beer (I used Coor’s light)

1 can tomatoes, undrained (14.5 ounce can) (I used petite diced)

1 can beans, drained (I used pinto beans)

2 tablespoons corn flour (masa harina) or corn meal (I used corn meal)

1/4 cup water

In a heavy enameled cast iron Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion, stirring every so often.  I cooked the onion while I compiled the ingredients and made the seasoning.  Note:  The onion will take a while.  Muffin does not like onion.  I promised him that I would cook it until it was sweet, and that’s what you need to do.  Think diner patty melt onions.  You want them with a few crispy edges, with brown and golden bits.  After the onion is done (and you may have some browned onion residue in the bottom of the pot and that’s great), add the meat.  (Next time, I plan on making the chili with stew meat, and I think at this point I would brown the meat, add the beer, and braise it in the oven for a few hours.  After that, I would add in the remaining ingredients.)  Cook the meat until done.  Drain any excess fat.  Add the seasoning (still over medium heat), and stir briskly.  Add in tomatoes, scraping the bottom of the pan to get up any stuck-on bits.  Add in the beans.  Stir.  Add in beer.  Stir.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes.  After at least 45 minutes (after allowing as much of the alcohol to cook off as possible), mix together the corn flour (or corn meal) and water in a small bowl.  Pour it into the bubbling chili.  Allow the chili to cook at a bubbling simmer for at least 10 minutes.

Serve as desired.  For this particular serving, I drizzled mine with ketchup, added a dollop of sour cream, and some shredded cheese.  I’ve also seen it with lime wedges, extra tomato or onion, jalapenos, chips, over rice, on a hot dog, etc.

IMG_0265

I also am including this picture of Muffin.  After we bought the limes last week at Walmart (price matching with Super 1’s price of 5 cents per lime), I zested all 20…and Muffin and Josh juiced them for freezing.

IMG_0248

Did I mention this recipe was Muffin Approved?  As in, Muffin ate an entire bowlful.

Muffin Approved

What’s your fave way to eat chili?

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