Friday, January 9, 2009

COLD, SNOWY WINTER DAY: Perfect for chili!

This neck-of-the-woods has experienced a really cold, miserable fall and winter. Thankfully, we have so far avoided the burden of a deep snow fall. With spring a couple months away, however, we are a far cry from being out-of-the-woods yet.

While it is difficult to believe, as I avoid being cold at all in my older, coming 78, years, I used to love winters. When my children were small, and even before we had children, I loved to go flying down the hills on a sled. I found nothing in life more exhilarating than bundling up and pushing my way through a blinding blizzard. Today, that experience is unimaginable!

Our garage is fairable orderly, at least for me. Still and yet, we cannot get both cars in out of the weather. We have been blessed with too many freebys all stored in the garage, among them a new furnace and central air conditioning system. Julie's Lincoln, which she drives daily, sets out in the weather. My van, which I rarely use, is, of course, inside clean and dry.

Feeling guilty about all that, I clean her car about 6:30 each morning. Following breakfast, she heads upstairs to get ready for work. In my PJ's, with my trusty Duluth toque pulled down over my ears, my down coat fastened and wearing the serious cold weather gloves given to me years ago by my son Todd, I head out-of-doors to clean her car.

That is my exposure to the weather. As they used to say when I was a kid, I'd get out side and "get the stink off of me!" That may be it for the day. Oh, and on Monday's I bring in the trash and recycle bins. Yes, and less I forget I also open the door daily to reach outside for the mail. Ummm!

Julie told me at breakfast this morning that we had quite a bit of hamburg yet unfrozen. That was a hint to make chili or a meat loaf. Clearly, this is chili weather.

I was born a CHILI HEAD!" I've never met a chili I didn't like. I have met a lot of chili that left a lot to be desired. My daughter introduced me to "white" chili. If you haven't had the experience, trust me, there is no such thing as white chili.

Chicken, or turkey as the case may be, has nothing in common with chili. Chili is made with cubed beef, or if you are lazy, with hamburg. Not the "good" hamburg but the, cheaper, low quality, lots of fat hamburg. And, as my dearly loved, thoughtful, nurse of a daughter-in-law insists, you don't drain the browned hamburg excessively. You need a bit of fat for flavor, don't you.

I've been exposed to three different chili's of late. My dearest of friends, Kathy, makes a chili soup. SOUP? Its not soup, it's chili! Kimberly frequently makes chili for me when we watch football games together. Her soup is fair-to-middling good. Short on chili powder and probably too well drained, but pretty good.

We have a soup and sandwich dinner the Sunday we remove the Christmas decorations at church. Bill and Carla brought chili. It, likewise, was pretty good. The hamburg, however, was still in large chunks, it was a bit thin and short on beans, onions, peppers and chili powder. It is odd how some people make chili. Thankfully, I learned to do it right.

(Yes, its true, I am meek, lowly and humble, sweet, gentle and kind. What can I say? Making good chili is a birth right).

You use enough beef, or hamburg, to make the chili really thick and meaty. When you brown the hamburg, you break it down as fine as possible with a sharp edged spatula. Then you transfer the brown hamburg to a large stock pot, nice and juicy as the good Lord intended.

Adding to the undrained drippings, you fill the big #10 skillet about half full with coarsely chopped yellow onions and green peppers. After they have been covered and sauted transparent and golden yellow, you dump them into the stock pot with the hamburg. Next you add several cans of red beans, chopped tomatoes and a couple large cans of tomato sauce. Carefully, you add enough water to make the whole a bit "liquid". Then comes the fun part. You add the spices, bit by bit, tasteing as you add each.

Spices are so important in life. The term, "the spice of life", comes to mind. And variety, variety is what keeps the smile on our face. Use lots of spices. In liberal amounts I use sweet basil, sage, marjarom, paparika, sea salt, coarse and fine black pepper. Copious amounts of chili powder. Nothing will flavor a pot of chili as will a finely chopped red pepper, a little goes a long ways and does a lot of good. You can substitute red pepper seeds and cayanne pepper but it will not be as good.

The pepper is right when you can see the roses in your wife's face after the first bite. Chili is not chili without cummin, which most people seem to ommit. And, of course if you use tomatoes you must use thyme. You simply cannot use too many spices. Mix flour with water in the big, empty tomato can and use it to thicken the chili.

Then you cook the chili. Kimberly can make a pot of chili in half an hour, and, like I said it is fair-to-middling good. I can hardly get my chili warm in half an hour. I cover and simmer it on low heat for a couple hours, being careful to stir often as it will stick and burn. Remember, it is not soup. It is a hearty, thick chili.

Two important things come to mind thinking about the enjoyment of eating chili. Oyster crackers! It just isn't right to serve chili without oyster crackers. There should be a law! And, aging the chili. I've never had chili that wasn't better on the 3rd day. And, drinking a glass of cold milk with the chili never hurts, either.

Oh, yes, one more thing, very important! Always make enough chili to give some away to those less blessed people who love good chili but don't know the secrets I've just shared with you.

You just might also be a "chili head" if:

1. you think used toilet paper catching fire is normal, or
2. you think a financial investment into TUCKS medicated pads is a wise move!

God Bless!


Phatmom said...

Thanks for making me laugh out loud this morning, Walt! Enjoy the chili leftovers!
God Bless,

Mark Pierce said...

Dad - that was a GREAT chili post. Love reading your stuff. I'm wondering what Kimberly thinks of her chili being fair to middlin? She's never done anything fair to middlin in her life, that I know of! Ha! Love you! Mark