FEBRUARY SOUP OF THE MONTH

Yes, that is a heavy wooden spoon standing straight up in a batch of chili.  That’s the kind of “stick to your ribs” consistency I like in a bowl of hearty beef chili.  I guess it is not technically a “soup” but it is my Fenbruary entry in the series of SOUPS OF THE MONTH.  Last night was the first real winter storm of this relatively mild year.  Every tastebud in my mouth was screaming, “CHILI,” as the roads got covered with snow and I anticiapted a long weekend of couch sitting.

Now usually I would put chili in the category of improvisational cooking.  I can’t say that I have ever made the same batch of chili twice in exactly the same way.  But this one turned out so well that I have put down the ingredients and proportions so that it may be replicated in the future.  If you’re going to try this one at home I suggest that you prepare it as listed and then chanage it up in the future to make it your own.  So many chilis I have tasted at competitions are ruined by the addition of strange ingredients added in the name of individuality.  So be careful.  Let it be chili first.  Then if you just can’t help yourself you can start to add pineapple, ham, maple syrup, cinnamon, chocolate, bourbon, champagne, beer, wine, cardomom, sweet potato, zucchini, kale, carrots and marshmallows (all these things, and more, have been ingredients in chili I’ve tasted at contests.)  With a batch of this bubbling away in the crock pot it doesn’t seem like winter can last long enough.

CHILI

1 pound dried red kidney beans

1 package onion soup mix

2 cups beef broth

4 cups water

1 each dried guajiaa, New Mexico, Ancho and Pasilla Negro peppers

Rinse and sort through the dry beans to remove any dirt or small pebbles.  Put in the crockpot with the whole dried peppers and cover with the water and brotgh.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Remove the peppers from the pot and discard the stem and seeds.  Add the chilies along with a cup of the liquid and 1/2 cup of the beans to a food processor.  Process to a smooth paste and return to the pot.  Add:

3 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon medium chili claro (pure chili powder)

1 tablespoon chhipotle chili powder

2 tablespoons corn meal

In a large skillet, brown 3 pounds of beef that has been coarsely ground.  Really cook this well until it is browned.  This adds a tremendous amount of flavor to the chili.  Add the meat to the beans.  Coarsely chop on onion and cook slowly in the same skillet until the pieces are very soft and caramelized.  Add these to the pot.  Cook on low for another 4-6 hours.  Season with salt to taste.

Stick a spoon in the middle and if it stands straight up, the chili is done.