dark days #19: eat like the locals chili

For the penultimate Dark Days winter eating local challenge this week, I’m showing off an adaptation of one of my favorite winter recipes.  The chili recipe isn’t remotely authentic to places that eat meat stews with chili peppers, but it’s my souped-up version of the Midwestern-style chili enjoyed in my younger days. With our variable spring weather, it’s just the thing after a cold, wet day of mucking about.

I feel very attached to the original chili recipe; indeed, it was one of my earliest Culinaria Eugenius recipes.  But the additives (sugar, salt) to canned kidney beans and a whopping 3/4 cups of processed A-1 steak sauce, plus a bit of ketchup, always bothered me.  One of the main reasons I underwent the messy, time-consuming process of making homemade ketchup last summer was in hopes of modifying this recipe in sufficiently tasty, locally sourced way.  I think I was a success.  I use quite a bit more homemade ketchup (1/2 cup, but I’d even go up to 3/4 cup), so the chili has a slight sweetness, and the allspice and coriander in the ketchup add subtlety to the mix.  I also added some onion powder and cumin to add more nuances.  Using a spicy dark beer (I used a local Christmas ale) rather than a lighter beer helped, too.  I played with the idea of adding things like molasses, more dark soy (with its molasses taste), orange zest or raisins (both ingredients in A-1) to align the local version with the original, but you know what?  I think it’s good enough as it is.

Yes, I still eat my chili with non-local saltines (or salted matzoh, as the case may be), and several of the spices are not local — most notably, the chipotles en adobo.  I might try to make the latter myself this year, since I always have plenty of jalapeños, and can smoke the chilis with our Weber.  We shall see.  But it remains crucial to use chipotles in adobo, since they add a strong smoky, chili-fleshed, garlicky, vinegary taste that is not easy to replicate.

This stew is very spicy, be warned.

I cannot for the life of me remember which farm grew the beautiful local kidney beans I used for this recipe.  I bought them months ago at Sundance market, and uncharacteristically, I threw away the label on the little baggie before writing down the name.  So thanks, farmers, whoever you are, for such a lovely bean.  (Anyone know the farm? Lost Creek Farm!  They’re the folks who suffered the freak hail storm last year that wiped out all their tender veggies.)  It wouldn’t have been the same with pintos or black beans, but you can, of course, substitute any hearty, thick-skinned dried bean.

Now excuse me while I sit back on my local laurels and feel very well pleased with my own fine locavore self.

Almost Plebian Chili Eat Like the Locals Chili

(A)
2 lbs. hamburger meat (lower fat better) (1 lb. local hamburger meat — I used Knee Deep Farms)
1 large yellow onion, chopped (local farm, storage)

(B)
1 T. chili powder (non-local)
1 t. black pepper (non-local)
1 t. onion powder (non-local)
1 t. cumin (non-local)

(C)
1 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes with puree (or substitute can of diced tomatoes and a half-can of tomato paste) 1 quart homemade tomato purée
2 15-oz. cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed (try to buy ones without added sugar) 4-5 cups cooked local dried kidney beans (under a lb. dried)
3/4 c. steak sauce AND 2 T. catsup (this is the “almost plebian” part) 1/2 cup homemade ketchup
2 T. Dijon (non-local)
1/2 lemon or lime, juiced a good slug of homemade lemon-garlic vinegar
3 or 4 canned chipotles in adobo, plus some sauce, chopped (don’t omit) (non-local)
1 T. sesame seeds (non-local)
1 T. dark soy sauce (especially if you’re not using beer) (non-local)
1 bottle beer or 1 cup water 1 bottle local dark, spicy beer (I used part of a 22-oz. bottle of Oakshire’s Ill-Tempered Gnome)

Note:  this recipe calls for cooked kidney beans.  Prepare the dried kidney beans by soaking them overnight, then cooking them in water doctored with a half of an onion, a carrot, and a couple of bay leaves until centers are creamy (1 hour or more).  Beans must be fully cooked before using them for this recipe.

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 (and it probably will be if you localized the ingredients) and add more beer or water if the chili is not as soupy as you would like. 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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