Fifth Crumb: Weekend Chili

“Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.” J.K. Rowling

 

This week I’m taking a break from policy and culture to reflect on some transitions and bring you one of my favorite recipes of all time.

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Greg and I are going through a lot of transition right now – new job, new city, new apartment, new season – and it’s been both a slower and faster adjustment than I’d hoped. Slower in the sense that our new apartment is small and we are in the process of culling down some of our clothes and furniture so it will all fit comfortably. That is taking longer than I like. (I much prefer to have everything unpacked and put away in about 48 hours.) I’m also in the process of wrapping up my North Carolina job from afar, which is proving to be somewhat challenging. It’s so much easier to stick my head into someone’s office door to ask a question than to wait for them to respond to an email from someone hundreds of miles away. Plus I’m job searching in a newish field (food, yay!), which is an exercise of fits and bounds.

On the flip side, I was surprised with how easily we transitioned back to Greg being at work. Like putting on worn-in running shoes, we’ve flipped roles again so that (for the moment) I am doing more of the domestic work. (When Greg was in school and I was working on multiple contracts, he was doing the majority of it.) It’s a role I both enjoy and feel uncomfortable in and a duality that I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to. On one hand, I’m very good at domesticity and I love the flexibility to think and read and do what I want. I obviously love to cook, which I usually do at least twice a day when I’m home. I also read constantly throughout the day – articles, opinion pieces, books, magazines, even tabloids. Given the freedom to do so, I cannot seem to stop and I find a tremendous amount of satisfaction in learning.

But I am also enormously wary of taking on too much of the domestic work and internalizing traditional gender roles that I (well, we, really) have tried so hard to avoid. I believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing that role, but it always seems to fall short of what I want for myself. And after a few days I always get restless.

I’ve been staving off this bit of anxiety by catching up with the cookbooks that have been in storage for the summer and starting to really think about food and cooking in new ways. Part of this is prompted by the fact that I’m going to be doing some pro bono (sounds better than volunteer, ha) work for the new cooking school at Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street. But this transition is also an opportunity for me to explore and learn about the world through new and interesting flavors. Boston is my hometown, but I haven’t lived hear in years and I’m feeling inspired to see it through renewed eyes and tastebuds.

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One of the things I’ve most missed living “away” as they say in Maine, is the transition between summer and fall that is so acute in New England. September is still hot and sunny during the day with temperatures falling with the sun in the evening. You can still enjoy the beach if you can escape for a day, but the crispness, coziness and clarity is nigh.

It’s also the start of football season and, while I don’t inherently love football as a sport, I married a man who played for 14 straight years, right through our senior year of college. For him, football and fall are inexorably linked and so we watch every Sunday. I’ve grown to enjoy the ritual almost like I enjoy freshly brewed coffee every morning or the first August tomatoes.

Part of that custom is making Greg’s Sunday Chili, one of my all time favorite recipes. It started out with a basic recipe he found online years ago, but we’ve tweaked it and played with it until it became the perfect food and now we make it almost every week. The best part? This recipe gets nearly all of its flavor from loads of fresh chilies. And the peppers and grass fed beef back this recipe lighter than most so it fills you up without making you bloated and lethargic. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

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Pepper prep! Say that three times fast.

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Greg’s Sunday Chili

Serves about 6 (or 2, with a lot of leftovers!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. grass fed ground beef*
  • 1 lb. ground bison*
  • 1 medium-large or 2 small onions
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 3-4 poblano peppers
  • 3-5 jalapeño peppers+
  • 1 habanero pepper+
  • 1 28-oz. can plum tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1 6-oz. can of tomato paste
  • 1 13-15 oz. box or can of black beans
  • 1 13-15 oz. box or can of kidney beans
  • 1 12-oz. beer (I use Redbridge gluten free)
  • 1-1.5 TBSPs chili powder
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

*I try and use grass fed beef because it’s generally leaner and easier to digest. However, I recognize that it is expensive and outside of the budgets of many people. If that’s the case for you, use the best meat you can buy. You can also substitute a second pound of beef for the bison or halve the meat and double up on beans.

+ You can add as few or as many different hot chilies as you want!

 

Directions:

  1. Before you get started dice the onion and all of the peppers and set aside in a bowl. The jalapeño and habanero should be diced much more finely than the bell and poblano peppers. You can control the heat at this point; the more of the seeds and white cores of the jalapeños and habaneros you keep, the hotter it will be. I recommend using latex gloves. At the very least, don’t touch your eyes or anywhere else you don’t want to burn!! This is IMPORTANT. (Yes, it warrants caps.)
  2. Set onion and peppers aside.
  3. Brown the meat in 1Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat in a stainless skillet. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. When the meat is browned throughout, turn heat off and set aside.
  5. Heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in the Dutch oven then add the onions and peppers. Let soften, 10-12 minutes.
  6. Add the browned meat, plum tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste and beer to the onion and pepper mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, but go easy to start. You can always add more.
  7. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer for about 45 minutes, uncovered.
  8. Add the drained and rinsed beans and the chili powder. Let simmer for another 15 minutes and voila! C’est fini.
  9. Serve with diced red onion, cilantro, avocado, and/or grated cheddar… Or with nothing at all. This recipe stands on its own just fine.
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Chili “sticks to your ribs” as my grandparents would say…

I hope that your transition from summer to fall, back to school, or back to work is going smoothly. I, for one, am enjoying the cooler, dryer air.

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What I’m Reading: As much on cooking technique and theory as I can get my hands on.

What I’m Doing: Prepping myself to start doing some work with Milk Street.

What I’m Eating: Chili, duh. And Macoun apples.

What I’m Thinking About: The Hidden Epidemic of Teen Hunger.

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