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Home & Garden

Tomorrow’s Forecast: Chili

Got hungry football fans? Try this hearty, Texas-style dish (with jalapeno cornbread).

By Virginia Manuel

Fall and football just naturally go together. Whether it’s youth, high school or college football, or the NFL, passion for the sport is woven into the fabric of autumn weekends in the commonwealth. Even for the casual fan, half the fun of watching football – either at the stadium or on TV – is being able to gather together a group of like-minded friends for a hearty meal.

One of the most ubiquitous football-watching dishes is chili. It’s economical, portable and, no matter how you prepare it, it’s hard to do it wrong. There are dozens of versions, and there are equally as many cooks who proclaim that their recipe is the most authentic.

Below we are offering a Texas-style chili that differs somewhat from the garden-variety chili that most people are used to. Here are a few thoughts on what constitutes a true Texas chili:

• Traditional ground beef is seldom used. In Texas (and at some specialty butchers in Richmond), cooks can buy what is known as “chili grind,” which is coarser than hamburger meat. In other instances (such as the recipe below), the dish starts with cut-up beef chuck.
• The addition of tomatoes or tomato sauce is optional.
• Pure chili powder is an essential flavoring ingredient. It is easier to find in the southwest than on the East Coast. Commercially sold chili powder is actually an amalgam of chili peppers, salt, spices and garlic.
• Above all, beans are never added to the chili. As a native Texan chef once pronounced, “Chili is chili, and beans is beans!” They are served on the side.

Chili with Cubed Steak

This treatment is the result of extensive experimentation. After you try it, you’ll probably want to add your own touches, such as adjusting the spices for more or less heat or using jalapenos instead of the milder chilies. Beer gives the dish a lot of “zing,” but you can add a cup of water or tomato sauce instead.

½ cup canola oil, divided
3 pounds stew beef, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
¼ cup chili powder
2 teaspoons oregano
2 cups water
1 (28-ounce) can concentrated crushed tomatoes
2 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chilies, drained
1 cup beer, optional

Several hours or the day before serving, heat ¼ cup of the oil in a large kettle. Add the beef and cook over medium heat until browned. Remove meat as it browns to make room for the rest. When all the meat has browned, drain off all the liquid in the kettle and set the meat aside. Heat the remaining oil and add the onions. Cook until soft – about 5 minutes. Return the beef to the kettle, along with the next 5 ingredients and the water. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. Add the tomatoes, chilies and optional beer, cover and simmer for 2 to 3 hours – the longer the better. If not serving right away, cool to room temperature and refrigerate. About 45 minutes before serving, gently reheat the chili, adding a little more water or beer if it seems too thick. Serve over refried beans (recipe below). Serves 8.

Suggested Garnishes: Tortilla chips, shredded cheddar or Jack cheese, sour cream, onions or scallions, chopped tomatoes, chopped olives, peanuts, raisins.

Refried Beans

Known as refritos in Mexico, these are a tasty accompaniment to chili as well as tacos, enchiladas and burritos. If you save the fat rendered from frying bacon, it will add extra flavor to the beans.

1 pound dry pinto beans
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ cup bacon fat or butter
Salt to taste

A day or more before serving, carefully pick through and wash the beans. Place in a large kettle with enough water to cover. Add the onions and garlic and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 2 hours. Return to low heat and cook until very tender – about 3 hours. Using a potato masher, coarsely mash the beans (including whatever liquid remains in the kettle). Stir in the bacon fat or butter, and continue mashing over medium heat until the fat or butter is worked in. Add salt to taste. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight. About 45 minutes before serving, reheat the beans in a 200-degree oven. If they seem too dry, stir in a little more bacon fat or butter. Serves 8.

Jalapeno Cornbread

A zesty, pudding-like spoon bread that goes nicely with chili or other hearty soups or stews. The jalapenos pack quite a punch, so if you have a delicate palate, leave them out or substitute regular canned chilies.

3 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
2 ½ cups milk
½ cup canola oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup canned cream-style corn
1 ½ cups shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
1 (4-ounce) can chopped jalapeno peppers, rinsed and drained

In a large bowl, combine the first 3 ingredients. Stir in the eggs and the remaining ingredients until smooth. Pour the batter into a spray-coated 9-by-13-inch baking pan and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If desired, spread the top with melted butter before cutting into squares. Serve warm. Serves 12 to 15.

© 2017 Chesterfield Observer