Can we talk about chili now? I think so. It gets dark at four thirty, there's a fire in the woodstove, and Sally's worn her snowpants two days in a row. We have a fridge full of carrots and a counter covered in winter squash and garlic and sweet potatoes. It's time, people. I hope you are on board.
The first order of business is to char a couple of hot peppers. Those ones up there came from a friend's plant. I have no idea what variety they are, but I'd call them medium-hot, sort of like a spicy jalapeño. We also need to take a pound of ground beef out of the freezer, and a quart of crushed tomatoes. Oh! and some chicken stock. We need garlic—a full head—and a big red onion, peeled and chopped. Then chili powder, cumin, paprika, chipotle. And beans! Kidney and black, a pinch of salt.
We're going to keep this simple. We'll get out a soup pot and sauté the onions in lard, sweat them with the garlic and peppers and spices. Then we'll add the ground beef, brown that, and finally pour in the crushed tomatoes, beans, and chicken stock. We'll taste for salt. Then we'll simmer, letting the flavors come together, and we'll walk away until dinner time.
When it gets dark—in midafternoon!—we will make a salad and put some cornbread in the oven. And later, once we've set the table and washed the dishes and packed lunches and bags for tomorrow, we will light the candles and sit down.
SIMPLE BEEF CHILI
There are a lot of creative chili recipes out there, but sometimes you just want a simple one. This is plain Jane, and very good.
1 tablespoon lard, olive oil, or butter
1 large red onion, peeled and chopped
3 jalapeños or other mild hot peppers, charred, seeded, and chopped
8 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chipotle
1 pound ground beef
1 and 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 quart crushed tomatoes, preferably homemade
1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup cooked kidney beans
sea salt to taste
Warm up the cooking fat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté, stirring often, for about five minutes, or until they start to get soft. Add the peppers, garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, and chipotle and cook another few minutes, until the spices are fragrant. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring constantly, until the meat is just cooked through. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and beans, and taste. Season with salt as needed. Bring everything to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for about half an hour to let the tomatoes and broth cook down and the flavors come together. Serve hot, with the usual accompaniments.