What's a recipe doing on a blog about books? As anyone who follows my Instagram account can tell you, I love to cook (and take annoying snapshots of meals). This is the only recipe I can truly call my own, so I thought I'd share it with you here today during a brief break from book chatter. Besides, we're approaching the deep freeze of winter and what could be better than curling up with a good book and a steaming bowl of chili?
Growing up, my three children were notoriously picky eaters and no matter what I prepared, at least one of them invariably balked and pouted. This led to some very painful civil wars around the dinner table with both parent and child firmly entrenched in their camps. Remind me to tell you about the Great Salisbury Steak Standoff of 1998 sometime. One thing my beloved offspring agreed upon, however, was my home-brewed recipe for chili. As you can see by the recipe below, the Scoville scale of this award-winning* stew can get pretty high. Don't worry, I wasn't trying to kill my children or permanently scorch-and-scar the lining of their tender little throats. I've adapted the ingredients and increased the pepper level as we've grown older and strengthened our intestinal fortitudes; this chili started out tame and grew its fangs over time.
That's the beauty of this dish: it's intended to be malleable to a person's individual tastes and cayenne-tolerance. I've made this chili about four dozen times and none of the pots have ever come out tasting exactly the same. Admittedly, there was one time where the addition of just one habanero made the difference between edible and tossing-the-whole-thing-in-the-trash-and-filling-our-mouths-with-ice-cubes. The only thing that's been consistent--and which is essential to the success of the recipe--is the initial meat marinade. Be sure to let the stew beef get a good soak in that sauce before you start cooking. What you do with the peppers and spices after that is up to you; but just to be on the safe side, you might not want to operate any heavy machinery for a couple of hours after eating.
Dad's Dadblasted Hot Chili
2 lb. stew beef, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 cups teriyaki sauce
1 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. coarse ground pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. hot Italian sausage
1 lg. onion, diced
2 lg. cans of tomato sauce (about 2 cups)
1 cup barbecue sauce (I prefer Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet 'n Spicy)
2 bottles of beer (one for the chili, one to drink while you're cooking the chili)
2 4oz. cans of chopped mild green chiles
1 15oz. can of diced tomatoes
1-2 chipotles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
3 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. garlic salt
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
3 Roma tomatoes, finely diced
1 bunch of cilantro (about a cup), finely chopped
1-2 15oz. can of pinto beans
1 fire extinguisher (optional)
Chop up the stew beef then place the chunks in a large bowl. Pour in the teriyaki, Worcestershire and soy sauces until they cover the beef (if needed, add more sauce in equal portions). Mix, then sprinkle with ground pepper and mix some more. Cover, refrigerate for at least 4 hours. About 3 hours before serving, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large cooking pot. Carefully spoon marinated beef into the pot, without getting too much of the marinade in there (a little is okay). Brown that beef, then scoop it out of the pot and set aside. In the same pot, brown the ground beef and onions, then set those aside. Brown the sausage, then add all the other previously-cooked meat. Add the tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, beer, canned chiles, canned tomatoes, canned chipotles and spices. Stir well and let it start to simmer. Frequently taste while simultaneously sipping your beer. This is the time when I add more spices, barbecue sauce or beer, depending on how it's turning out. Meanwhile, chop the cilantro, tomatoes and peppers. (The number of peppers will vary according to your internal heat level. I usually go with 1 habanero, 3-4 serranos and 3-4 jalapenos. But I have a steel-lined stomach, so your mileage may vary. It's best to gradually add the peppers, tasting as you go, until your mouth is happy.) Add the cilantro, fresh tomatoes and peppers to the pot. Let the whole thing simmer for 60-90 minutes or until the flavors are well-acquainted. About 30 minutes before serving, drain and rinse the beans, then throw them into the bubbling cauldron of chili. Stir, simmer, serve. Garnish with cheese, sour cream, or extra cilantro. Have the fire extinguisher handy.
*1st place, 2010 Bureau of Land Management Butte (Montana) Field Office annual Chili Cook-Off; 3rd place, 2012 Bureau of Land Management Butte Field Office annual Chili Cook-Off (probably would have been 1st place again if it weren't for the fact that I almost sent one of the judges to the hospital after adding one too many jalapenos to the pot that year--lesson learned: milder is better when serving to non-family members)