So, a week from Sunday, 1/2 the country will eat itself into a coma, while watching grown men hurl themselves around a field. I will be one of them, rooting with my wife for the Giants :-)
Before that, however, we will host a tailgate party, and this is part of what I'm cooking up.
Chili for a small crowd.
Makes about 4 quarts, easily doubled or tripled.
1 large yellow onion
1 head garlic
1 large can diced green chilis, hot or mild
3 bottles or cans dark beer, like Negro Modelo
3 # ground beef
1 large or 2 small cans diced tomatoes (I use the fire-roasted ones for more flavor)
10-15 dried Ancho Chilis, prepared as below (most authentic, most delicious and most time consuming)
2 packages Carroll Shelby's Chili fixings (my favorite, easiest, flavorful, straighforward)
1/4 - 1/2 cup Penzey's Chili 9000 mix (tasty choice, order now)
a large amount of your favorite chili blend (most comfortable)
(if you are using the Anchos, you will also need 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1TBS dried oregano, and 1 TBS adobo seasoning)
2 whole Habanero peppers
2 TBS creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup masa harina (corn flour for tortillas, which comes with the Shelby mix, but is available at most supermarkets in our area.)
Red skin or dry roasted peanuts
Grated cheddar cheese
Chopped red onion
Corn and/or flour tortillas
Taste the beer. Seriously, just taste it. You'll want to know later how much to add.
If you're going to go whole hog and make the chili base from scratch, start by heating a large skillet over med-high heat, and toast the ancho chilis (not the green chilis!) a few at a time until they are browned. Remove them to a plate and let cool, then cut them open with a pair of scissors, and remove some or all of the seeds and veins, which is where the heat is. Put the prepared chilis in a bowl, and cover with warm water to soften, 30 minutes. Then puree the chilis in a blender, adding more warm water if necessary to get a thick sauce. Strain the mixture into a bowl, stir in the spices and set aside.
Taste the beer again. Make sure you have at least a 1/2 bottle left or open another.
Finely chop the onions and garlic, and saute the onions in peanut oil or vegetable oil over low heat in a dutch oven or large pot until very soft, 15-20 minutes, then add the diced green chilis and the garlic and saute until very fragrant and softened. Remove the veggies, and add 2 TBS oil and turn the heat to high. Brown the meat in batches, removing it when ready and adding the next batch, taking care not to burn the pan. When all the meat has been browned, pour in (up to) 1/2 bottle beer, and scrape the pan to get up the flavorful bits that stuck to the bottom. Let the beer cook for a bit to burn off some of the alcohol, and then add the meat and veggies back to the pan and stir to blend. Add the chili and its spices if you're going that route, or the packaged spices, and stir well. Add the tomatoes, and stir again. If the chili looks thick at this point, add a can or two of water (if you use the Shelby's, you will need the water.) Lower the heat to medium and bring to a simmer, then turn the heat right down, add the peanut butter and stir until blended, and then drop in the whole habaneros, which will add a lot of flavor, but not a lot of heat unless they are cut open. <--- WARNING
Now, put the whole thing in a 250 degree oven for 4-6 hours, which makes sure nothing burns. You could use a crock pot, or a flame tamer and leave it on the stove, but whichever way you cook it, you do need to check a couple of times for spiciness, and fish out the habaneros if the chili is getting too hot. Use the beer to cool your mouth.
When the chili has cooked for a couple of hours, taste for salt by spooning out a couple of tablespoons, and adding a little salt to that first. (Salt changes the way food tastes, so it's best to check on the side before adding it to the whole pot.) Now you can mess with the flavor by adding more spices, a little brown sugar, etc. The chili should cook for at least 4 hours. There will probably be a puddle of red oil floating on top: don't get rid of it! Or, at least not all of it, because it's where a lot of the oil-soluble flavors are! Instead, mix 1/4 cup masa harina with enough COLD water to make a thin, pourable batter, and add 1/2 slowly to the chili. Mix well, and add more if it's not thick enough.
Done. Now open another beer (you did save ONE, didn't you?) and enjoy. If the chili will be served cool or at room temp, it will SEEM less spicy, but the next day your lower body will know exactly how spicy it was, so be careful.
Bonus tip: when you chop spicy peppers, you inevitably get pepper juice on your hands, which is tough to get off before you do something silly like pick your nose or go to the bathroom. So, before you have an emergency which will cause your spouse/friends/rommies to fall around the room laughing at you, when you are done chopping the peppers, rub a teaspoon or two or vegetable oil on your hands, and thoroughly rub the oil in, paying special attention to the places that the pepper juice could get into. Then wash your hands well with soap and hot water, and still be careful for a while. (Until your next shower, anyway.) OK? OK!