We're now a few weeks into an interesting NFL season, one in which the lowly Dolphins have already won a game! Their victory two weeks ago against New England was a celebration-worthy event, and will no doubt fuel the fires of many a tailgater heading to Dolphins Stadium this Sunday to see the Fins take on the San Diego Chargers.
Yes, the tailgating should be fierce this weekend, if only because the Dolphins have only had one home game so far this season. And this ultimate expression of fandom is, to me, the best aspect of going to a game. No matter if the home team sucks horribly, it's always fun to pile your friends in the car, show up to the stadium five or six or seven hours early, and drink yourself silly whilst ingesting an absurd amount of enormously unhealthy food. There's an art to a good tailgate, one that takes years of practice to master. But once you've honed your skills on a portable propane stove or grill, you'll be a parking lot force of nature.
Over the next couple weeks I'm going to share with ya'll some of my favorite tailgating recipes. I'll start today with an easy one, my spicy lamb chili. I say easy, because you can make it ahead of time and simply warm it up on the stove or grilltop at the tailgate. Ladeled into Dixie bowls, this hearty chili will cut the beer nicely, and also ensure you're wide awake until at least the third quarter (the third quarter, as every good tailgater knows, being nap time).
Hit the jump for pics and step-by-step instructions.
Get yourself about 3 pounds of either cubed or ground lamb meat. I used ground meat in this batch because I had some frozen stuff left over from a recent foray into lamb burgers. The best way, I find, to get the stuff is to grab a whole, bone in leg of lamb and ask the butcher to grind it up for you, reserving the shank with meat and the bones for stock making.
And that's just what I did with the bones and shank: made stock.
In another pan I toasted some dried pasilla and arbol chilis that I had laying around for use as the chili powder. You can skip this step and use store bought powder, of course, but pasillas are really a crucial ingredient here. They add a chocolatey, smokey sweetness to the chili that ordinary powder won't get you. To toast chilis, cook them on med-high in a skillet with no oil until they get fragrant. Use a coffee grinder to reduce the little dudes to dust (to clean your grinder afterwards, grind a piece of white bread... I kinda like the chili-flavored coffee though).
Next, chop and assemble your goods. You need about 2 large onions, a diced red bell pepper, about half a bulb of minced garlic (heh heh), 2-4 jalepenos (or chipotles, I didn't have any handy), the broth you made (strained), your chili powder, tomato paste, a can of crushed tomatoes, cumin, salt & pepper, olive oil, cilantro, a bag of tortilla chips, two cans of drained black beans, and of course, your meat. Oh, and a beer of your choice. I like something full bodied like Red Hook ESB.
Brown the lamb, in batches, and set aside. Then add the olive oil, onions, and peppers and let them sweat down. Season with SnP.
Add your cumin and chili powder now. How much? Uhhh, I'm not good with measurements. Maybe 4 TBS of powder and 2 TBS of cumin? 50 TBS? Just add a lot. Trust me, it'll work out fine. Also toss in the garlic at this point, and cook this down until the spices meld in with the veggies.
Now that you have all that caramelized flavor on the bottom of the pot, pour in your beer to deglaze it. Let the beer cook down about half way and then....
Add your broth (2-3 quarts abo), tomato paste, beans, and tomatoes, and reintroduce your meat to all of it. Season it. Mmmm.
Note the chunks of meat, I pulled those from the shank and tossed em in. Let this simmer, covered, for about 45 min to 1hr. Then taste it. What does it need? If there's not enough bite to mine, I will add some more powder. I may also hit it with a dash or red wine vinegar if it's too dull, or a touch of honey if it's too spicy. Need salt? Wait a sec on that, you'll see why. This is a CRUCIAL step, because not only are you using your palette (testing it), this is where an OK chili becomes a great chili.
I also take this time to remove the jalepenos and dice them up finely, then add them back in.Why do I do them whole (with just a slit at the stem) instead of adding them diced to begin with? Because I want the heat the ribs and seeds and all those goodies inside will provide without having to eat that part. It's easy to remove that stuff after it's cooked and given up all its flavor, and then just add the diced chili flesh back in.
Now, add the thickener: About two handfuls of crushed tortilla chips should add some salinity, and thicken that pot of chili to a stew-like consistency. This is what it should look like now:
Football Gods! That looks f'in delicious. The green stuff you see is some finely chopped cilantro, added just at the end to preserve its delicate flavor. Store this in the pot until game day, then just re-heat on your propane stove. That's good tailgating!
Top with sour cream, diced raw onions, shredded cheese, and hot sauce!
Question? Comments? Something you'd do different? Let us know. Next week: Sausage hoagies. (Mmmm, Polish sausage...)
-- John Linn