Friday, October 8, 2010

RECIPE: Reinventing Game Day Chili

I love chili.  I like my chili beefy, spicy, with tender meat.  Before now, my chili was nothing to look forward to: dry, tough ground meat,  kidney beans and tomato sauce.  It tasted like I had combined beans, ground hamburger meat with a jar of spaghetti sauce.  I wanted to turn this recipe around and make a better homemade chili.

The first challenge was to solve the problem of dry, tough meat.  I decided to use an unconventional method of tenderizing the meat...I combined the meat with a panade.  A panade is (according to "a thick paste made by mixing bread crumbs, flour, rice, etc. with water, milk, stock, butter or sometimes egg yolks."  This is generally used to bing meatballs or fishcakes.  I remember reading an old issue of Cooks Illustrated, and they used this method to make a quick and tender bolognese.  Why not use it for chili?  I soaked a slice of white, crustless bread in about a half cup of whole milk.  Pulsed it in the food processor, then added my meats and pulsed together.  

The second challenge was trying to avoid using a tomato base, but still achieving the consistency of tomato sauce..something for the meat and beans to cling to.  I decided to brown tomato paste and then add a good quality beef stock.  It did the tomato sauce here in this recipe.

I also wanted big onion flavor but didn't want so many chunks of onions interfering with the chili texture.  I solved this by making a jalepeno, onion, garlic mixture (think...sofrito) in the food processor and additionally only chopping one onion.  This ensured there would be a nice onion flavor throughout as the "sofrito" melts into the dish and the one chopped onion adds some texture.

Enough of the chit chat!  Trust me..this is good:

Game Day Chili
Serves 6-8

1 pound ground veal/pork mixture
1 pound ground beef  ( I've been grinding my own meat lately, but, the supermarket meat works fine in this recipe.  See note below on how easy it is to grind your own meat)
1 slice of crustless, white bread
1/2 cup of whole milk
3 onions, chopped
3 jalapeños, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 cups of good quality beef stock
1 can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
salt, pepper

In a small bowl, soak the bread in milk.  Let stand, long enough for the bread to fully absorb the milk, minimum of 15 minutes.

In the food processor combine two of the onions, garlic, and jalapeños.  Pulse until the consistency is almost a paste...not quite a puree (think, sofrito).  Set aside.  Finely chop the remaining onion.  In an empty food processor add the panade.  Pulse into a thick paste.  To the panade add all of the meat.  Pulse in the food processor until everything is well combined.  Don't worry, this won't toughen the meat...the panade is in the to make sure it'll stay nice and tender.  Set aside.

Pre-heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add meat mixture.  Break up with the back of a wooden spoon.  The meat should easily break up.  Add the one chopped onion.  Cook until the meat is done.  Transfer the meat to a separate bowl. Sauté the sofrito in the Dutch oven until all of the veggies are soft.  Add the tomato paste.  Combine well with the sofrito mix, until it looses its bright red color.  Add beef.  Stir well and add spices.  Combine well and add stock and beans.  Stir and simmer for about 15 minutes...until desired consistency is achieved.  Add more stock if you want a soupier chili.   Since we doctored up the meat, believe it or not, it's ready to eat when the beans are cooked through.

Note:  If you have a food processor, it's a cinch to grind your own meat.  If I'm not sure the establishment where I'm purchasing the meat from grinds the meat in house, I prefer to grind my own.  You never know how many different cows are in your package!  Gross.  Just take the cut of your choice, roughly chop into 2 inch pieces, removing any undesired fat.  Pulse through the food processor.  What a cinch!  It's a little rough on the wallet as you may be paying 7 bucks a pound to maybe 2 bucks...but at least you know where it came from.  All of this STILL sound like a pain?  Find a butcher or store that grinds their meat in house.