Monday, April 16, 2007

Bob’s Chili Con Carne

Bob’s Chili Con Carne with Habanero and Beans
version 10

Makes around six bowls of chili.

In addition to the usual kitchen hardware you will need:
  • a crockpot, slow cooker or simmering element. A regular stove boiler element is generally too hot.
You will need the following ingredients:

  • 800 mg of lean (but not extra lean) ground beef (about 28 ounces)
  • 800 ml of crushed tomatoes (about 28 fl oz.)
  • 540 ml tin of mixed beans (20 fl oz.) If you are in Canada, you won’t go wrong with the Unico version of this. In a pinch, a tin of kidney beans will do
  • 1 medium sized onion (I like red, but any onion will do)
  • 3 tbsp of bacon fat recovered from salt-reduced bacon
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder (or half a bulb of very finely chopped garlic)
  • 3 tbsp of New Mexican chilli powder (regular American style works OK too)
  • 1 tbsp (or so) of dry oregano. I’ve never measured out oregano in my life, prefering instead to throw it in by the pinch. But this is around the amount I’m using
  • 1 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper. About eight full grinds of the pepper mill ought to do it
  • 2 big habanero peppers. Scotch bonnets can be used instead for their heat, but won’t impart the flavour we’re after.
  • 125 ml of water (about 1/2 of a cup)

Now I know what you are thinking, “¿dos habaneros? ¿está él loco?“* Keep reading and you’ll find out how we control the heat from the habanero.

Traditional chili recipes call for suet, but the bacon fat adds a most interesting flavour. Besides, you’ll get to eat a bunch of bacon sometime before this — ain’t nothing wrong with that! Bacon fat will keep for months in the fridge, so don’t feel as if you have to cook it the night before. The easiest way to get it is to cook a quarter kilo of bacon in a frypan until it is brown, not black, then pour off the excess fat into a ramekin. Cover the ramekin and put it in the fridge. Any chunks will settle to the bottom, leaving clean white bacon fat at the top. Use only the top two thirds of the fat — chuck the rest. It is important to use salt-reduced bacon, not just because it’s better for you, but to control the amount of salt. Crushed tomatoes have salt, the beans have salt, and the beef has salt. Add to this some regular bacon fat, and you will have a chili that tends to be too salty. You can add more salt if you like, but you can never take salt away, so we err on the side of caution here.

This recipe should fill your average crockpot maybe three quarters of the way up. Set your slow cooker to “Auto” or your stove to low. Chili has to be carefully simmered or it will burn and taste funny. If you see little bubbles at the sides of the pot (slow cooker) or a few in the middle every second (stove top), this is good. If the top is vigorously bubbling like a young pasta sauce — too hot. Cook the beef and put it, along with any fat it yields, into the slow cooker along with the bacon fat, and the tomatoes. Chop up the onion and throw it in there too. Most brands of crushed tomatoes don’t have enough water in them so add some or all of the water until the chili thins out to the consistency of a smoother pasta sauce — thick enough to draw a shape in, but not thick enough to form big mounds. What I like to do is add the water to the empty can of tomatoes and swish it about to get leftover tomato off the sides. Stir all of it up well and then leave it alone for about an hour or so. This will bring it up to temperature and melt the bacon fat.

Now throw in the rest of the ingredients except for the habaneros and the beans. Stew for around 4-5 hours, stirring once an hour, or whenever you feel like it. Get the stirring done fast so as to not lose too much heat.

I imagine you are wondering about the habanero… so tasty… but so hot! How do we control the heat? If we chopped them up fine and threw them in at the beginning, we would extract all of the capsaicin from them and the chili would be too hot for most. So we’re not going to do that. Instead, we are going to use the pepper itself as a kind of bouquet garnee. About halfway through that 4 to 5 hours, take the habaneros and cut through them twice, about three quarters of the way up along their length, leaving the top intact. This allows flavour to flow out of the pepper, but leaves them big enough to find later. Drop them in. Getting flavour from a habanero this way takes at least an hour, so on the next stir, break out your spoon and give your chili a taste. There should be a delightful floral-like smell and a slight fruit flavour as well as some heat. If it is hot enough for you, fish out the habaneros, gently shake the chili off of them, and throw them away. If you are like me and like lots of heat, leave them in until the end. If one of your habaneros is missing a quarter, don’t freak out, all you have to do is get most of it out to control the heat.

In the last hour or so, drain and stir in the beans. Tinned beans are already soaked and slightly mushy, so all you have to do is get them in there to absorb some flavour. Don’t drain the beans completely, in fact, adding a a tablespoon or so of the bean juice is often not a bad idea, as the slow cooker may have lost too much moisture over the last few hours. Nearing the end of the cooking we are expecting the chili to get stiffer, but no too stiff. When hot you should be able to pull a decent rounded spoonful from your bowl, but not ice cream sized chunks.

And that’s it. Spoon it into a bowl and enjoy!

Thanks to cobolhacker

1 comment:

emy said...

....what am i missing? where's the beer???