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It's Football Season, So Time for Full-Contact Chili

Meat isn't always about the gourmet, you know. I mean, dry-aged prime steaks, grilled perfectly and served with a hearty beverage of your choice may be as close to a perfect way to spend some quality eating-time as I can think of, but it's not the only way to achieve the perfect meat moment.

Because as perfect as you can make that steak, as beautifully as you can present it, all juicy and tasty on a clean plate with a side of whatever, it's still just a steak. Sure, you may have made a sauce, you've cooked it just right, and it's a great cut of meat, but when it comes right down to it, there are clearly defined boundaries about what that piece of meat is that's sitting on your plate. And sometimes, well sometimes you need to color outside of the lines. Because cooking isn't always a tidy, civilized game of croquet; sometimes it's a muddy, exhausting, chaotic game of rugby.

Which brings me to chili.

Making chili is full-contact cooking. You've got to fully commit, be

willing to get filthy, accept potential injury. You have to be

flexible: recognize and go with your strong players, bench the weak.

You have to surrender yourself to the process and accept the results,

whatever they are, knowing that the game was well played. And you need

to know when to stop using a crappy sports metaphor, which would be now.

But just what is chili, anyway? Miriam Webster defines it as "a thick

sauce of meat and chilies," which sounds bitchin' doesn't it? It's also

apparently a programming language based on Algol 60, which sounds

fairly inedible. The thing is, within that description (the meat and

chilies one, not the programming language one) there lie limitless

variations, endless creative possibilities, the potential for greatness

and disaster. Which is why I love it.

And there's another thing about chili that I love, too. Unlike steak, I

can cook a pot of it on Friday, eat bowls of it all weekend, and finish

Sunday night off with some nice Dutch ovens. In other words, it keeps

really well and I can shovel bucket loads of meat down my gullet at a

moments notice.

Like all arts, making chili is personal; there's no one right way to do

it. But really, that's the beauty of it, because when you find your own

way to a great vat of chili you will have achieved something that's

yours, and yours alone. And your friends and acquaintances shall come

unto thee, and they shall be laden with offerings of fresh jalapenos,

and microbrewed beers, and ground meats, and lo, they shall say unto

thee: "make unto us some chili," and you shall make unto them a chili

like nothing before gazed upon, and they shall bow before you, and they

shall do your bidding, and they shall annoint you chili god, and it

will be good.

Of course if you're just interested in making a tasty bowl of chili

with minimal personal investment, you can use someone else's fine

recipe. Here's a link to the

list of past world championship chili cook-off winners, any of which I'd

assume would be quite tasty. But I urge you to find your own path.

Begin your own personal ChiliQuest. I did exactly that last night,

departing from my standard recipe to try something new, and it came out

great - I've put the ingredients and instructions below if you'd like

to see what I did or use it as a starting point for your own journey.

But whatever basic recipe you choose, whether a championship winner, my

latest concoction, or a recipe from a book, don't follow it verbatim.

Depart from the specifics and try anything that sounds good, taste

everything, fear nothing. The rewards are enormous, and the process is

more fun than watching Tool Academy on MTV (I just discovered that car

wreck this past weekend). Keep with it, spread your chili among your

acolytes, and maybe in a couple of millennia we'll snag another pagan

celebration, rename it after your birthday, and exchange food gifts

before the inevitable family arguments break out.



NOTE: This recipe calls for course ground beef, so you'll have to

request it from your butcher to be freshly ground, something they have

no problem doing at Publix. Tri tip is a favorite in chili, but pricey

and more relevant if you're doing cubed meat as opposed to ground. I

selected a boneless chuck roast and asked my butcher to course grind it

for me and it came out quite tasty. Make sure that you have it wrapped

in butcher paper or put it loosely in cellophane to avoid compressing

it on the way home.

2.5 lbs of course ground beef

1 lb. ground sausage (skip the links and grab a 1 pound tube from the bacon/sausage area)

4 slices bacon

1 ½ cups finely chopped onion (I used a sweet onion/red onion mix)

5 cloves garlic

1 jalapeno pepper

½ fresh lime

1 can chicken broth (14 oz.)

1 can beef broth (14 oz.)

2 cans tomato sauce (8 oz. each)

1 can Old El Paso chopped green chilies (4.5 oz.)

4 bay leaves

10 Tbsp chili powder

2 Tbsp paprika

1 Tbsp cumin

2 Tbsp brown sugar

½ Tbsp allspice

¼ Tbsp ginger

¼ Tbsp dry mustard

Salt, pepper, cayenne

Cheddar cheese

Chop bacon and put in large pot. Slowly cook, allowing fat to melt,

then add onions, garlic, and, if necessary, a bit of butter. Slowly

cook until onions are clear, then add the chicken broth along with the


3 TBSP chili powder

1 TBSP paprika

½ TBSP cumin

a bit of black pepper and cayenne pepper

Allow this to simmer gently while you brown the sausage in a separate

pan. Drain and add sausage to broth, then brown the ground beef (season

with salt and pepper while doing so), again in a separate pan. Do it in

two batches to avoid overloading your pan and allow it to brown well.

Drain and add to the broth, along with:

1 can tomato sauce

1 can beef broth

1 can green chilies

1 chopped jalapeno

4 bay leaves

7 Tbsp chili powder

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp paprika

½ Tbsp allspice

½ Tbsp cumin

¼ Tbsp ginger

¼ Tbsp dry mustard

Simmer over low heat for an hour, stirring regularly, then dump in the

other can of tomato sauce. Simmer for another 30-45 minutes, serve with

shredded cheddar cheese on top.

Bradford Schmidt is The Meatist. He's also author of the blog Bone in the Fan. He lives in northern Palm Beach County and believes that a hot bowl of chili could solve the energy crisis.

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Bradford Schmidt

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