I’m informally designating today as my one-year anniversary of hardcore cooking. Good friends and regular readers already know this story. So y’all can skip the next two paragraphs. Go on ahead, I’ll never know.
Last August, I came home from a month of speech camp with massive anxiety. No job, no prospects, and badly banged-up self-esteem. I decided, if I wasn’t going to be adding any income to the household, the least I could do was contribute work that would cut down our weekly expenses.
Hence, the cooking. For less than a hundred bucks a week we could both eat really, REALLY well. This year, as I’m about to re-enter the workforce, I’m feeling kind of angsty about where the time to cook will come from. Gotta work on my repertoire of things that re-heat well. Gotta do something, cuz the thought going back to takeout kinda disgusts me now.
Yep, I’ve turned into one of those a*hole food people.
One thing on the agenda is to make gallons — literal gallons — of chili. Right now, while tomatoes are cheap and taste perfect. Chili keeps well in the freezer for months, so the more I crank out, the more quick meals I’ll have through the fall.
I know I’ve covered chili on this blog before, but I wanted to share the recipe with fresh tomatoes instead of canned. The process isn’t substantially different. Just a little more prep but a lot more flavor. I don’t know who invented chili, but bless their memory all the same.
What I used:
- 1/2 cup dry red kidney beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
- 8 or 9 medium tomatoes (I can’t remember for sure — say a
poundpint* and a half)
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 large sweet yellow onion
- 1 medium green bell pepper
- 1 small red bell pepper
- 4 stalks celery
- 4 large garlic cloves
- Anaheim, serrano, and red and green jalapeno peppers
- 5-6 shakes mild green Tabasco sauce
- Cumin, parsley, cilantro, and cayenne
- Salt and pepper
Phew! Okay, so the first thing was to pre-cook the beans. Following the package directions, I let them go for a good hour before starting the chili prep proper. Next I put the ground beef on medium heat with some salt and pepper, and blanched my tomatoes.
I was thinking the other day, I don’t believe I’ve ever broken down my blanching philosophy. I bring the water to a good rolling boil, then carefully add the tomatoes (or peaches, or green beans, or whatever). Then I bring the water back up to boiling, and let it go for 3-5 minutes. For these tomatoes, I gave them the whole five. After that I fished them out with a slotted spoon and gently relocated them to a giant bowl of ice water.
While all that browning and boiling were going on, I was chopping up all the veggies except the hot peppers. Those go in later. Then I put the browned beef aside and drained most of the grease, using what was left to sweat down the veggies.
You’ll notice I used celery here, which falls outside my usual onion-bell pepper-garlic trinity. In this recipe it adds some much-needed moisture. Without the extra juice from canned tomatoes, that’s a big bonus.
Once the onions started turning slightly transparent, I dumped in the beef and beans and reduced the heat to low.
Next went in the tomatoes. Again, to conserve moisture, I peeled and shredded them right over the pot. That way all the drips ended up in the chili and not on the cutting board. I hope it goes without saying, I cut out and discarded the stems.
It was looking a little dry, so I added in a few ladles of the tomato-blanching water. Then I stuck a lid on all that and let it simmer while I diced up the spicy peppers.
I chucked those in the pot and added the Tabasco, cumin, parsley, and cilantro. Taste. Oddly not that spicy. So I added some cayenne. And a little more salt and black pepper.
Now my favorite part of chili making. Walk away. Go do other stuff. I mean, I do check on it from time to time, give it a stir and a taste, maybe adjust the seasoning. But the standing around, bent over a cutting board? That crap is over. I gave it an hour, maybe more. The biggest thing was making sure the beans were good and tender.
Actually, forget what I just said. THIS is my favorite part of chili making…
We had some for dinner, and lunch the next day. The rest I stored in a freezer bag. I’ll be super grateful to thaw that out, some chilly night this fall. (See what I did there? That joke’s for my Dad.)
Yeah, it took a while, but most of that time was spent sitting on my butt. And it’s so worth it, to have real-life-from-scratch chili! I bet this would be awesome in a crock pot too. If I had a crock pot. Are you listening, Santa?
I close, dear readers, by begging for your favorite freezable recipes. I’ve got two weeks until school starts and I need to do some hoarding. Recommendations?
Updated Aug. 10: Pints? Pounds? Whatever! Read what you write, girl.