chilly! my staples: midwesternish chili

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It’s snowing in Eugene, and the Californian in me shoved aside the Midwesterner and ran outside to take pictures. We only get snow like this once every couple of years here, and it makes me happy because I remember the sound and the smell of snow, so hopeful, so vivid.

And being chilly, I made chili. This is one of my favorite recipes, and the best Midwest-style chili I’ve ever had. It’s particularly lovely because you can make it with almost all pantry ingredients, so it’s perfect for a day you’re snowbound. You can make it on the stove or in a slow-cooker. The recipe is a significant modification of one in a cookbook put out by the graduate students in my first grad school. It was called “Peanut’s Plebian Chili,” after a dog named Peanut. I ditched the Peanut, for obvious reasons, and made my own class-based value judgments. And I welcome you to do the same.

Almost Plebian Chili

(A)
2 lbs. Hamburger meat (lower fat better)
1 large yellow onion, chopped

(B)
1 T. chili powder
1 t. black pepper

(C)
1 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes with puree (or substitute can of diced tomatoes and a half-can of tomato paste)
2 15-oz. cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed (try to buy ones without added sugar)
3/4 c. steak sauce AND 2 T. catsup (this is the “almost plebian” part)
2 T. Dijon
1/2 lemon or lime, juiced
3 or 4 canned chipotles in adobo, plus some sauce, chopped (don’t omit)
1 T. sesame seeds
1 T. dark soy sauce (especially if you’re not using beer)
1 bottle beer or 1 cup water

Brown (A) on high heat in a dutch oven, preferably in two batches, but I’m not lookin’. Drain meat of extra grease. Turn down heat to medium low and add (B) to coat meat. Stir in (C), then cook for about 1 hour, covered, at a simmer. Tastes better the next day. Add salt only if necessary. Usually doesn’t need it, but if you use low-salt kidney beans or use less processed substitutes for the steak sauce and catsup (which I don’t recommend in this recipe), you’ll need salt. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, if that strikes your fancy, and/or pickled peppers. I prefer straight-up saltines and a beer chaser.

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