South by Southwest Chili, by Beverly Hicks Burch

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A couple of weekends ago we were in the mood for chili. This time of the year your menu can get pretty predictable and for some, chili may be a winter staple. You would think for us that would be so since Tall & Handsome hails from the Land of Enchantment (NM) where everything rains chiles in red or green and covers the Scoville Scale from, “oh, I taste a little chile” to “Dear, Lord, help me! Someone call a hazmat crew, I’ve burnt a hole in my stomach and my tongue’s falling off…but, it was soooo good!”

I fall on the low end of the middle range especially because of my (autoimmune disorder) Sjogren’s syndrome which leaves me with little to no protection in my mouth (or eyes as far as that is concerned). One thing T & H has explained to me as a native chile eater: you cannot put the fire/heat out that is burning in your mouth with water, soda, tea, etc. You need some form of diary product like milk, etc. or if your lactose intolerant, tomato juice that will grab the oils of the chiles that actually cause the heat. The diary product or tomato juice coats it and soothes it…actually breaks down that heat. Think of the diary product and tomato juice as heat seeking missile with a mission! To put the fire out in your mouth! That’s probably why cheese and tomatoes accompanies so many Mexican and Tex/Mex dishes and why I also use some low fat sour cream with mine.

So, we may go a while without making a pot of chili, because we’re either not in the mood or are too busy experimenting with other recipes. But, on that particular Saturday the chili bug hit! Now, I admit to trying to keep staples on hand to whip up a pot should the “hankering” hit. For, years I have used a packaged chili seasoning to make my chili. So, Saturday I’m rattling around in the pantry to see if I have what it takes to make a pot…and…no chili seasoning mix!

Well, never fear! Doesn’t every good southwestern cowboy have his very own Chili Cookbook? T & H was quick on the draw with his and had it out on the kitchen island in a New York minute. At that point I figured I better get involved…or we might have a three alarm situation on our hands…

And, I did…

I eventually ended up thumbing through the whole book, looking at different recipes, pausing at ones that “struck my fancy” and jotting down some ingredients that looked good or interesting. I also added some ingredients of my own and came up with a pot of chili.

Now, T & H loves it when I do this stuff…if he sees me near a jalapeno, chili powder, Tabasco, or other “hot” ingredients he says, without fail, “’X’ number of years ago, I never thought I’d see you eating this (insert ingredient of the hour) or cooking with this (same as above).” Winking smile I think he forgets that any Southern girl worth her salt knows one of the big cardinal rules: one of the ways to a man’s heart is through his stomach. With a big ol’ mushy heart like his, a gal would walk on hot coals, so what’s a jalapeno or two?

This recipe may look complicated and like its got a lot of ingredients, but really isn’t hard at all! What makes it look that way is the fact you will be making your own spice mix instead of using a store bought pre-packaged one. And, doing that is really easy peasy! You can mix it up in a pinch bowl, or a custard cup, or a regular bowl, then set it aside until you add it to the chili.

I also used water as the liquid. If you use beef broth, use low-sodium or otherwise your chili will be too salty!! Also, a common ingredient in some chilis is beer. I may try that in the future…

After it was all said and done and T & H sat down, he said, “Honey, this is really good!” He had two helpings and indicated I should make it again.

I may have seen the last of pre-packaged chili seasoning in this house…

South by Southwest Chili,

For the chili spice mix:

In a small bowl add together, mix and set aside:

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (you can add a little more heat here by increasing the cayenne)

1 teaspoon Mexican oregano, crushed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder with New Mexico chilies

1 teaspoon regular chili powder

½ teaspoon Ancho chili powder (this gives it a slightly smoky flavor)

1 teaspoon paprika (not smoked)

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar

½ teaspoon granulated garlic

½ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

For the chili:

1 ¾ pounds lean ground beef

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded, deveined and chopped

1 bay leaf

1 – 15 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 – 8 oz. can tomato sauce

8 ounces ketchup (I usually fill the tomato sauce can with ketchup as a “measuring device”)

1 – 4 oz. can chopped green chilies

1 – 2 15 oz. cans of beans of your choice (kidney, pinto, black, chili beans, etc. drained and rinsed. The chili beans would only have to be drained about half way and not rinsed if using those.)

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire

1 cup water, you may need to add a tad more as the chili cooks down, depending on how thick you like you chili

¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

¼ teaspoon Jalapeno Tabasco sauce

1. Brown the meat breaking it up on medium high heat with the onion, garlic and jalapeno until meat is no longer pink. Drain if necessary.

2. Next add the spice mix and cook for 1 minute to let spices ripen.

3. Add remaining ingredients and bring the chili to a boil.

4. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. If you cook this a day ahead and allow this to sit overnight in the fridge, the flavors will really develop and blend!

5. Serve with grated cheese and low fat sour cream. You can also use cornbread, corn chip or crackers of the side.


Picking chili ingredients

I rounded up some of my chili ingredients from this group of selections…and added a few more…

home made chili spices B

The home made chili seasoning

home made chili

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Right Reserved.

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