Thursday, July 17, 2008

Red and Black Chili: Economically Delicious

With the economic downturn, delicious yet economical food, especially that can serve more than one meal, seems timely. Chili is a classic American dish that meets those needs. I said 'American', because the chili we grew up with here is only distantly related to Mexican cuisine. And if it were Mexican, it would be called 'chile' anyway. At most, our chili is related to Texas cooking, Texas Anglo cooking. But just because it isn't Mexican doesn't mean it can't be delicious.

At our restaurant/deli in Athens, Georgia, we make several chilis: a 'hot blond' chili with turkey, white beans, habaƱero peppers, cream, and neither tomato nor ground dry chilies (my blog , 10/28/06); a green chile (like the New Mexico dish; my blog of 11/20/06); and both meat and vegetarian versions of Red-and-Black chili (we're in the home of UGA, after all). Below is a recipe resembling our meat chili, adapted for home use.

This is a double recipe. It will serve six people, then give leftovers for several more later or it can be sloshed on grilled hotdogs or hamburgers. It is good ladled into big soup bowls over top of a little cooked white rice (see rice cooking, my blog of 1/26/08). Some people put a little grated cheddar, jack, or Mexican melting cheese on top to serve. A salad rounds out the meal. Texas style chili calls for beer. But hearty dry red wines of almost any type -- except expensive -- go quite well with it too.

Red and Black Chili (with Beef or Turkey) Tim

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans or, preferably, 1 pound dry black beans, cooked (long way best, or pressure cooked 24 minutes)
2 thick or 3 thin strips smoked bacon, finely chopped
1 medium-large onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds ground beef (at least 85% lean) or ground turkey
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Salt
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomato, including the juice
1 small-medium red bell pepper, large dice

Prepare the beans and set aside: if canned, drain and rinse them; if home cooked, drain, saving some of the juices. Fry the chopped bacon with the onions, stirring frequently, until onions start to turn golden. Add the garlic and meat (raw if reasonably lean, pre-fried and some grease skimmed off if fattier). Cook until the raw color leaves the meat. Add the bay leaves and dry seasonings, including 3 teaspoons of salt. Fry gently several minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes, and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the diced bell pepper, and simmer another 5 minutes. Finally add the beans. If needed, add a little of their liquid (if home-cooked) or water, just enough to make a medium-thick gravy. Simmer 10 minutes. Taste, and add salt as needed. Remove bay leaves toward the end of cooking.

Let sit 10 minutes, stir, taste and add salt if needed.

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