Rain, glorious rain!
(It's time for warming comfort meals.)
The first substantial rainfall of the season arrived in my part of the Pacific Northwest overnight and continues this morning.
The surrounding heavy forest of mature Douglas Fir trees provide a thick canopy of protection so we seldom experience a hard, driving rain; but a steady, soothing shower of refreshment.
Temperatures are mild and windows are open this morning to allow the scent and sounds of Fall indoors.
I'm so thankful for the rain as Ma Nature does a much better job of watering the thirsty plants and trees than I ever do, rinsing all the dust from the dry summer away---
I swear you can almost hear the plants and trees giving a sigh of relief! Even the birds are merrily chirping as they gather at the feeders near the house.
It's a perfect day to spend in front of the comforting, crackling fire with a stack of cookbooks and magazines and a favorite cup of tea or coffee.
And something simple and delicious smelling, simmering on the stove for dinner.
Chili sounds like just the thing.
I think my favorite Chili recipe is this straight-forward one, not too spicy and no special or secret ingredients.
Again, this is another recipe I "wing", it's one you can tailor to your own tastes. Hotter or milder? Add more onions, beer, other seasonings? ~ It's up to you and what you like. You can even leave out the beans if you want, but they are healthy for us so I use them.
My Favorite Chili
For a medium-large pot of chili I use about 12 ounces of pinto beans, from the organic bulk section.
2 pounds of beef stew-meat
1 large onion, chopped
Chili Powder (your favorite), I use a combination of Penzey's
1 or 2 cloves garlic
scant teaspoon ground Cumin
1/2 teaspoon leaf oregano, crumbled just before adding
Salt & Pepper
Beef Soup base (the paste kind in a jar), optional, but it helps amp up the beefy flavor
If you have time soak the beans overnight, drain and rinse; set aside
Dab moisture from stew meat with paper towels (this helps it brown more evenly.) Salt and Pepper the meat.
In a large heavy pot with lid (I use a Dutch/French Oven) heat 1 to 2 Tablespoons oil until quite hot, but not smoking.
Brown the meat in two batches (or more batches if necessary), don't crowd the meat or it will exude liquid and not brown. Set the cooked meat aside while you continue browning the rest.
When all the meat is browned, drain all but 1 Tablespoon oil from pot, add all the meat and the onion, stirring until onion is translucent and tender, add crushed or minced garlic, stir for a moment.
This is my favorite tip when making chili:
Add seasonings before the liquid. Over medium-low heat add the Chili powder (I used about 2 heaping Tablespoons) the cumin and oregano, stir for a moment to bring out their fragrance. Watch carefully as they burn easily, it will ruin the final dish if they burn.
Add presoaked beans, and enough water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stir occasionally to prevent sticking. If you are using the Beef Base, add it now and blend in.
Reduce heat to medium-low (partially cover with lid) and allow to simmer until meat and beans are very tender, I usually let it simmer on low heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, removing lid during the last 45 minutes or so to allow some of the liquid to evaporate.
If the chili becomes too thick before the beans are tender add more water. Taste and adjust seasonings when the beans are cooked through.
Some cooks like to stir in a couple of tablespoons of corn meal during the final 30 minutes, for an even thicker Chili.
To serve I usually add some grated cheese and chopped cilantro on top. You may like to offer chopped onions, Hot Sauce, sour cream, crushed corn chips, etc. for passing at the table.
Here's my cheese of choice for the topping:
Tillamook, of course ~ since I'm in Oregon!
Try to find a local cheese that you like best, or use your favorite.
I love to serve cornbread muffins, or fresh tortillas with chili, but good old saltine crackers are good, too.
Do you have a favorite Chili recipe (Beef, Chicken, Vegetable, etc.), or special ingredients, or toppings you like to add?
I'd like to hear your favorites!
Have a great Saturday everyone.