Ye gods! Somehow the winter went by without the making of chili. Dunno what happened. I had a pound and a half or so of lean unroasted beef in the freezer, cut off from a roast that we did in the oven. Looked like just the thing for some chili. Ground beef is fine, but chopped meat is even better. I took off the fat and cut it into chunks about 1/2 inch wide. Little cubes if you will. I put one large dried guajillo pepper and three dried ancho peppers to soak in a hot bowl of water. I get these peppers from Penzey's spices, and they have just the right combination of heat and complexity to make chili.
I sauteed the beef quickly (3 batches) in some canola oil, and removed from it from the Dutch oven. Next went in a little more oil and 2 onions, chopped, somewhere between fine and not fine. Added three cloves of chopped garlic. When the onions were tender and somewhat brown, I dumped the meat and all its juices back into the pan. Added 1 14 oz can of tomatoes, chopped, 1 chopped red bell pepper, a bay leaf, a little cayenne, some cumin, salt, pepper, a bit of celery seed and the water I drained from the peppers. You need about 3 cups of water.
While that mixture was coming to a simmer, I removed the stems and most of the seeds (by no means all) from the reconstituted peppers. Chopped them up fairly fine, and added them to the pot. Simmered the whole business for 2.5 hours, then added an undrained can of kidney beans and cooked for another half an hour.
We ate it with real corn bread (more of that later), and a salad with oranges and pineapple on shredded lettuce with a light dressing of oil and light vinegar with some honey and poppy seeds. Grated cheese and sour cream to put on the chili. God, it was good. Spicey, but you didn't need the box of tissues on the table, just handy. For less heat decrease the cayenne and only use 2 anchos.
The cornbread is made in a cast iron skillet, and the ingredients are shortening (any old kind except margarine), buttermilk, a whole egg, and cornmeal (stone ground is best) with a bit of salt, baking soda and baking powder. This recipe is remarkable for what it does NOT have. No white sugar, no white or other flour. It's what our ancestors made for years and years on a daily basis. With fresh butter, it can't be beat. Good with bean soup, too. Good with most everything. NO SUGAR. That's for dessert.
The second day, the chili was milder, with a resonance that comes from good ingredients sitting together in harmony overnight. The cornbread can be covered and put in the fridge for the next day, too Just heat it up in the microwave.
I think I could eat this at least once a week. There is some slicing and chopping involved, along with the preparation of the peppers, but what an explosion of taste.
The dried peppers keep in the fridge from one year to the next. www.penzeys.com.
Penzey's have the greatest spices, and a huge collection of chili powders and dried chilis. Some great rubs, too, if you don't make your own. I am very fond of Barbecue of the Americas. Also some Asian blends like Singapore Seasoning.
The chives and the garlic are peeking out of the ground along with the daffodils and tulips. I brought in some branches of forsythia which I'm trying to "force." Can spring really be around the corner? Can't wait to start grilling again.