It's a bye week again. I feel like even in the land of 12-13 game schedules there are still byes out there, and lo and behold, Michigan's defense gets a chance to catch its breath after the unmitigated disaster that was the Indiana game and the offense gets a week to prepare for the buzzsaw that is the Michigan State defense.
But not you, young wards. Your nightmares about zero-yard rushes, bombs over the top, and making Tre Robertson look like Johnny Manziel are merely... vicarious nightmares. This weekend, while you fret about next weekend, you're going to be relatively calm. Who knows? You might go out of town (me), go find a cider mill (also me), and connect with people who assumed you lived in a cave from September to December (hey, also me!). But you're also going to need something to eat. Something you can really enjoy on these 45 degree fall days. Something that warms the heart and soul.
I'm talking about chili. Not that canned excuse for nutrition (I'm looking at you, Skyline) or the hoity-toity bone-marrow-and-veal concoctions that are available for $25 a cup at the restaurants you don't attend but your significant others look longingly at during trips to the pub for the game. I'm talking the do-it-yourself, of-the-people concoctions that truly make America great.
First off, to borrow a line from Foodspin, if you hate beans, you're bullshit. Stop reading right now. But all Midwesterners should know how to make a proper chili, so here ya go. And what's chili without a beer to go with it? This chili requires a bottle. of stout, but why stop there? Go get a six-pack and sacrifice one of the bottles to the chili gods. Drink the other five. You'll be glad you did.
Here's how you make a fairly simple and amazingly delicious chili. The heavy lifting is done at the beginning (you can do this on a Friday if you want and then let it cook overnight. Either use a crock pot on low for 12 hours or a covered pot/Dutch oven on a stove on low for about four hours). Parentheses are the American way. Also - chili is about customization and throwing random shit in a pot and making it delicious. The only hard and fast rule - Generally you use lower-quality meat because you cook it and the fat and etc gets delicious and tender. Don't use anything super lean otherwise it's going to suck. And add beans. Don't be shitty.
Here's what y'all are going to need. This should cost you under 15 bucks if you know where to get your meat. Feel free to substitute ground chuck (delicious) or pulled pork for the beef steak, but we're going big and chunky today, folks. This is my grandfather's recipe, one he developed over fifty years of Michigan fandom, modified to add some heat.
- Meat: Half-pound of bacon, 2-3 lbs of chuck beef, boneless is fine, but ideally you have a removable bone
- Beer: One six-pack of stout or porter. Nothing with any weird flavors (I'm looking at you, peanut butter).
- Veggies: One onion (doesn't matter what kind), two green peppers, one red pepper, two jalapenos + assorted peppers (this is where you customize. Pick some peppers you like - ideally you go for flavor, because the heat will come out naturally. I like cherry peppers, habaneros, ghost oil (a drop or two at most) and serranos)
- Canned stuff: Two cans of kidney beans, one can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, one 15oz can of tomato sauce, and one 28oz can of crushed or diced tomatoes. OPTIONAL: MOAR BEANS (recommended, but man does it make a lot of chili. We're going to need a bigger pot)
- Spices: Chili powder, cumin, garlic, salt, pepper, unsweetened cocoa. Trust me on the cocoa. Wow does it add some incredible smoke. Southern BBQ at its finest, friends. And a little bit of olive oil for the peppers.
- Toppings/bottomings/etc: Onion, cheese, whatever. Oh, and chips for if you want nachos or elbow macaroni if you serve it over pasta. This is delicious and how I was raised. If you knock this, you haven't tried it. If you've tried it and don't like it, you're not human. Cornbread is also good.
The first steps are the most complicated part. You need to get some good oils going and a good sear on your meat, and then it's smooth sailing - you let the pot do the work and drink the beer. Here we go:
ROAST THE PEPPERS: Quarter one of the green peppers, a red pepper, and the spicy peppers. Cover them with olive oil. Broil them in your oven or hold them over a fire till the skin is blackened and blistered. Be super careful with the hot peppers. I like to rub my hands with the oil so the capascin doesn't get into my skin. Wash your hands after. If you feel some burning, squirt some contact solution onto your hands. It'll break up the oils and your hands will feel just fine after that. Don't touch anything you love with your hands for a bit.
SLICING AND DICING: Cut up your onion into nice small pieces. Dice the other green pepper. Cut up all the roasted peppers and the chipotle peppers. Keep the adobo sauce.
MEAT TIME: Cook the bacon in your pot/dutch oven until most of the fat has cooked off the meat in the form of oil. Remove the bacon, keep the oil and grease. Next, cut your beef into steak-sized slices and turn up the heat to high. This gets smoky - this is the litmus test for true chili lovers. Do you love this enough to smoke up your kitchen and irritate your housemates/sig other/dog named Ralph? Sear the beef for 30 second on each side and remove. Turn the heat back down to medium-low. Put the bacon and beef aside for now (the bacon should be cooked and the beef should be almost completely raw still with a nice black sear on the outside).
A NOTE ON BEANS: Feel free to add in a can of black beans, garbanzos, and really whatever you want. I used four cans last time I made this, but it was wayyyy too much food. I'm all for a multiple-bean chili, especially if you roast 'em long enough in the pot to make them ungodly good.
THE REST: With the oil still in the pot, toss in the onions and brown them. Not too dark. Friendly reminder to save this oil/grease - don't drain anything, you just cooked bacon seared beef in it. Don't even think about getting rid of this. This is the single most important part of the chili. Keep those juices together and you'll be a happy, happy soul.
Then add in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, adobo sauce, and peppers. This is your base. This is your chance to add in the spices you'd like. I use copious amounts of chili powder, a spoonful of cocoa, cumin, plenty of garlic, and whatever else I'm feeling like. I'm not above a splash of bourbon or something. Hell, I had a good chili once that I swear had mangoes in it. Don't do that. Once it smells good, all you have to do now is add the meat.
Dice up the beef into bite-size chunks. Add it in. If you see any really tough connective tissue, feel free to get rid of it, but the acids in the tomatoes plus the spices will take care of most of it. Break up the bacon and add it in too. Add in a bottle of the stout. Was that bolded? Good. Add in the bone if you still have it to simmer with the chili. Now comes the most important part since I told you the last most important part.
THE WAIT: Cook this on low, covered, for about four hours. The longer, the better - it gets darker and more flavorful. If you're using a slow cooker, you know this by now - but a pot works just fine too. Here's how I know my pot of chili is done: I've finished the rest of the six-pack. By the way, this serves a shit ton of people. Be warned.
So, there's your recipe. Do it. And enjoy your bye week. They don't come around often. It's a low-stress way to enjoy your weekend. Anyone got a better recipe? Open to suggestions.
I'll be making some version of this. Never make it the same way twice and don't stick too closely to the ingredients. Use what you've got.
Until next football week, Cheers, Michigan Faithful!