Friday, January 13, 2006

...and Hot Tamale

Well, maybe not, but chili today. After all, I promised. I apologize for a relative lack of measurement here, but I don't really measure all that much when I cook chili. I usually use my hands as a rule of thumb. So I've included my own personal measuring unit in this post.

The following will produce 4-6 bowls of chili, depending on how generous you are. It's easy to double and triple, because all of the ingredients are self-contained; i.e., one can of pinto beans, one can of tomato paste, et c.


Dutch Oven
10" skillet
chef's knife
paring or small utility knife
chopping block
cooking spray or a small amount of olive oil
latex gloves

I can make my chili with the dutch oven alone, but it's faster and easier to use the skillet.


1 lb top round or sirloin beef, trimmed*
16 oz pinto beans, drained (one can)
1 onion (fist sized)
2-to-4 jalapeño peppers (thumb-sized)
1 red bell pepper (you can use green if you want, but I like the red for its color)
1 clove garlic
6 oz tomato paste (one of those tiny cans)
1 oz (or so)Masarepa (pre-cooked corn meal)--spread out over a dinner plate
2 bottles of beer**


hot sauce (my choice: Jump up and Kiss Me Smoky Chipotle)


Extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
Sour cream
corn bread or muffins****

Get Started

First things first. If you're wearing contact lenses TAKE THEM OUT NOW. You'll be handling some foods high in capsascin, and the last thing you'll want to do is try to take your lenses out afterwards. Trust me on this. It's OK. I'll wait.


You're back. Good.

Put on the gloves and start chopping. Do the jalapeños first. How spicy do you want it? Obviously, the more jalapeños you use, the hotter it gets. Removing the seeds and inner membranes will also cut down on the ol' scovilles. I've found that four peppers, (seeds removed) is about as hot as anyone really wants it.

To remove the seeds, I roll the pod on the chopping block with the palm of my hand, back and forth a couple of times. Then I slice off the top of the pod (at the stem), and shake most of the seeds out into the trash. Sometimes I'll roll the pod a few more times between my palms inverted this way, getting as many seeds out as possible. Then, I slice the pods lengthwise, and remove any remaining membranes and seeds with the paring knife. You could use the chef's knife for this, but I've found the small blade works best. Once seeded and de-membraned, chop them small and put them in the dutch oven.

Chop the onion and bell pepper next. Chop these guys a little coarser--I go for pieces about the size of the tip of my pinky--and slide them into the dutch oven with the jalapeños. If you have a garlic press, use it to add the clove, or just chop it really fine, add it, and pour about half a bottle of the beer over them, add a couple of pinches of salt, and start simmering.*****

While simmering, get to the beef. I use top round (london broil) or sirloin because the fat's easy to trim from it. Trim the fat (if not already done by the butcher), and then cut the beef into small chunks--again, the tip of my pinky is my reference. Now, it's time to braise the meat.
(Don't try to do all of the meat at one time. It's possible, but this works best if you give the meat some room. Do 6-8 ounces at a time, depending on the size of your skillet)

Pre-heat your skillet to medium-high (using the cooking spray or oil at the appropriate time), dredge the meat in the masarepa, and sear it in the skillet, about 2-3 minutes, until the juice starts coming out of the meat. Add about 1 tbsp. of the tomato paste, and turn the beef into it, until the paste caramelizes on the beef, and dump it into the dutch oven. Then, deglaze the pan with 2-3 ounces of beer (pour the beer into the hot pan and stir it around to get all the caramelized tomato paste off the pan.) Let it simmer and reduce in size for about a minute, and dump it in with the rest of the stuff. Repeat as necessary. (If you're only using the dutch oven, slide the cooked meat out to the edges, cook the next batch in the middle, and don't bother deglazing)

Then add the beans and the rest of the beer, cover, and cook for at least 10 minutes (15 if you're only using the dutch oven, and have added the veggies second) on medium-low heat. I often do this in the oven (set at 300), but it can be done just as easily on the stovetop.

Fine Tuning

After that, uncover, stir, and add another pinch or two of salt, a couple pinches (probably 1/8th teaspoon) of cumin, a dash of cinnamon, a splork or two of hot sauce, and stir it in. I'm not going to tell you how much or little to add, really. It's all personal preference. I just advise adding a little at a time. It's always easy to add more. Next to impossible to remove too much. Let it cook uncovered for a while--maybe 5-10 minutes, to let the liquid reduce, stirring occasionally. If it's still too soupy for your tastes, add some masarepa. If you want more spice, add a little at a time, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before you taste. Repeat until it's the way you want it.

I like to let my chili simmer on low heat for an hour at this point, but it's ready to be served at anytime after the first half hour of cooking.


I put the pot in the middle of the table, along with a big bowl of shredded cheddar, a bowl of sour cream, and a basket of muffins. My reccomended serving procedure is: line the bottom of the bowl with the cheese, add the chili, add a dollop of sour cream on top, and serve with the muffin and a beer. My beer of choice is Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale, but since that's not available in the United States, I usually go with a Labatts.

Well, that's it. Hope it was worth the wait. I'd love to hear from you if you try this. It goes great with football.


*If you can get a butcher to trim it for you, order a pound, trimmed. If you buy it pre-wrapped, figure about 1-2 ounces of the package will be fat, and buy accordingly

**Or more, if you're planning on having some while you cook. I usually use Labatts, but any ale will do.

***I recommend Himalayan Mountain Red Sea salt, which is mined from deep underground mines that are high up in the Himalayan mountain range. If, for some reason, you find yourself short of this kitchen staple, I suggest Fleur de Sel, which is harvested by hand off the village of Guerande in Brittany in July and August, when the sea is calm and the weather conditions are just right.

Or, just grab a handful of Morton's. It's salt for chrissakes.

****I used to have one of those 'corn shaped' cast iron muffin bakers Colleen mentioned in the comment section of a previous post. STBEW washed it with soap & water & put it away still wet. I don't have it anymore. Rust and corn muffins don't mix.

*****If you're only using the dutch oven, do the meat first, and add the veggies afterwards. It just takes a little bit longer to cook.


Blogger Dear Lovey Heart said...

you should create your own Extreme Pirate Cooking Show i would watch it

4:11 AM  
Blogger Guy Wonders said...

As you know, I'm not exactly a food person, but thought I would comment on old Alexander Keith. He's buried behind the building where my dentist is located (in a cemetery, thankfully). People like to leave empty bottles of Keiths on his headstone, especially on his birthday.

A recent book details the nasty exploits of Alexander Keith's nephew, Alexander "Sandy" Keith, Jr.

More at this link:

While I'm not sure if this story adds to your delicious-sounding chili's taste, it certainly makes it even more interesting.


9:17 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Where can I get some of this Jump Up & Kiss Me?

9:58 AM  
Blogger Colleen said...

i officially love you. you can cook. you are liberal. sense of humor. intelligent. and i've seen you in a looney toon shirt.

now i'm going to the grocery. i'm makin some of this shit this weekend. and i think i'll break down and buy the corn pan anyway.

but let me ask you this....which cornbread do you prefer? the sweet or the unsweet?? this will cinch whether i love you or not.


11:25 AM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

DLH--thanks! I don't know if I know enough about cooking to warrant a show, but perhaps I'll post a few more of my recipes here.

Guy--wow. What a cool story. Interesting tribute to ol' Al, as well. At least they're just leaving the bottles, and not the beer after it's been processed.

Jessica: Follow the link to order online, or just stop by. I'll jump up and kiss you anytime.

Colleen--whoa! Talk about pressure! The answer is--I don't know. I didn't know there were two kinds of cornbread. The only one I've used is Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix. Tell me a different brand and I'll try it. And I'll jump up and kiss you too.

You too, DLH.

Guy--you get a handshake. Maybe a hug. Top half only.


12:24 PM  
Blogger Colleen said...


yeah, there's 2 kinds of cornbread. a sweet cornbread like jiffy makes (which i use myself and is southern approved) and a savory cornbread or "cracklin' cornbread" which is not really sweet, is a little salty, and is usually white and can be quite dry. i like both, but prefer the savory over the sweet. BUT, i love jiffy cornbread.

i think i'm still crushin on you though...i mean, you can cook and that's pretty hot.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Well, maybe I WILL like it better. Gimme a name, or a recipe.

And why is it that all the woman who like me seem to be several states away, and married?


10:29 PM  
Blogger mal said...

is your measuring device "dishwasher safe"? Can you use it in the microwave?

8:45 AM  
Blogger mal said...

mmmmmm, just saw your comment on distance and marital status....good question *G*

8:46 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

'Cause you're a likeable guy. To borrow from your field, think of it as an indication of your wide appeal, not as a niche market.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Mal--I don't know if the PMU is microwaveable and/or dishwasher safe. It's such a useful little item that I take it with me wherever I go, so I just clean it with soap and water. It's good to keep it--ahem--handy.


10:24 AM  
Blogger Colleen said...

you've got mail!

12:16 PM  
Blogger Notsocranky Yankee said...

Wow! Great recipe! I'm totally lazy and time-challenged so I use a McCormick chili mix that only requires hamburg, red beans and tomato sauce completed in 30 minutes or less. Pretty bad, huh? Beer is essential for the cook -- Sam Adams in winter - Corona in summer.

Jiffy corn muffin mix rules! Sometimes I cook it in a 8" round cake pan and cut it like pie. My kids think that's funny and again, it's quicker.

I'm ready for my group hug now...

2:31 PM  

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