This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Da Chili is Good!

With Fall in the air, my culinary thoughts have begun to turn to soups, stews and chowders; hearty, meaty, full of rich flavorful broths and lots of veggies and legumes.

With several groups coming to our home this week, students from the University, friends, etc., I thought it would be a good idea to make a pot of our two favorite and most popular soups--Potato Cheese Soup and my chili beans. My focus in this episode of A Fork in the Road is my chili.

I know there is great debate about how chili should be prepared and taste, whether it should have beans or not, whether it should be sweet or spicy. I have had a lot of bowls of chili in all parts of the United States, most recently on a road trip through the midwest and one of the "chili capitals," in this case, Cincinati, Ohio. I enjoyed the locally famous 3-way chili at Camp Washington and less so at the chain called Skyline. But the chili is to sweet and has no beans. The locals sweeten their style of chili with cinnamon and cocoa powder. Not really my cup of tea, but it was fun and different to have a platter of spaghetti land in front of me slathered with chili, onions, cheese and other available additions, each adding to the name 3-way chili, 4-way chili and so on. Pretty amazing to look at and attempt to consume. Still, I like my chili better!

I can't account for the heritage of my chili's. I learned to make it from my mother who was an Okie and whose parents were from Texas and Tennessee. Does that explain anything?

Regardless, my chili has made a satisfying fall or winter supper for my family for years. It tastes great with chopped Walla Walla or Maui sweet onions and grated cheddar cheese over the top. We have also served the chili over a layer of Fritos and, while living in Hawaii, a layer of sticky white rice. Awesome!

With that big build up, you are maybe wondering just how good is this chili? Well, here's the recipe. Let me know what you think and as always, don't be afraid to tweak my recipe. Add something new to it, increase the spicing. Have fun!

Michael's Chili Beans

1 pound--ground beef
2 pounds--pinto beans (dry or in the can)
3 T chili powder
3 T cumin, ground

3 T brown sugar (optional)
2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic, cloves minced
1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed
salt and pepper

With dry pintos make sure to pick them over looking for small rocks, dirt or other inedible material. Rinse dry beans in colander, place in a bowl and cover with water over night.

Next day, place soaking beans in a stock pot and cover with fresh water. Bring to boil and cook until the beans are tender.

With canned beans, drain in a colander. They are already cooked so cooking will take less time.

Saute onions and garlic in saute pan with olive oil. Pour out onto paper towels and drain. Add back into saute pan along with ground beef. Break up beef as it browns and stir together with garlic and onions. Add in tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, sugar and stir until heated through.

Pour beef mixture into simmering beans. Continue cooking until mixture is well combined. Taste adding salt, pepper and further spicing to match your taste.

Serve with corn bread and top with your choice of accompaniments--sour cream, cheese, onions, Fritos, or rice.