I’ve been reading this great book called Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes, and More from NPR’s The Kitchen Sisters which is a great read covering non-traditional venues for preparing extraordinary food. it demonstrates the fact that where there are people, food will crop up. i’m only about 1/2 way through the book so far but each story tweaks my interest a little more. i shouldn’t be surprised, NPR as a whole has a tendency to appeal to my esoteric side and find the weird angles of whatever human interest to keep me on my toes. i must admit that i never thought of cuisine and NASCAR until i read the story. but, the way this relates to here, now and today is that they write a wonderful story on the chili queens of San Antonio, beautiful exotic women who would ply the locals and tourists with hot fiery chilis in the markets of downtown San Antone. well, you had me at chili. San Antonio being as close to a home as i have had, beautiful exotic women, spicy delicious food, this story was custom made for me, wasn’t it?
anyway, this sparked an interest in making a bit of chili. it was rather convenient as i had been trying to think of a meal that i could make that would leave me with leftovers for a few days this week to stretch my meager budget and make it til the next payday. chili is perfect for that, you make a big ass pot, eat some, store the rest and it just improves with age, mingling and settling into greatness in the fridge. with the budget in mind as well, i decided to go with pork, quality and quantity the least expense option i have on the table.
after a bit of searching, i came across a recipe for pork chili that called for a cup of coffee amongst the liquid ingredients. this intrigued me to say the least. i decided to up the ante and give a nod to the wonderful mole tradition, dropping in a few wedges of mexican chocolate that i now have thanks to my wonderful in-laws Don and Pat (from san antone, yet another connection in this story). For me, the perfect accompaniment for chili is corn bread. my wife makes great cornbread and since she does, i’m not sure when the last time i even bothered to make it. we have an informal non-competitive agreement in our household, any dish that the other makes, we refrain from making to avoid any direct competition, no comparisons of who can make the best (insert dish). we all know who would win that contest anyway. my wife is a great cook. so, anyway, to the point, i actually had to dig a bit to find a recipe that i was happy with for the cornbread. as luck would have it, one of the cookbooks i brought with me to korea is El Charro Café Cookbook: Flavors of Tucson from America’s Oldest Family-Operated Mexican Restaurant, a great little cookbook detailing the history and dishes of a wonderful restaurant in Tuscon, which i must visit at some point. They have a recipe for cornbread but oddly enough, in the edition i have at least, there is no baking time listed. i’ve baked enough bread to be able to figure out when to pull cornbread out of the oven but i found this omission odd.
On to the recipes:
1/2 pound sliced bacon
4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large white onion, chopped
1 to 2 fresh jalapeño chiles, seeded and chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
1/3 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
14 1/2-ounce can beef broth
1 cup brewed coffee
1 cup water
28- to 32-ounce can crushed tomatoes with purée
2 (19-ounce) cans small red beans or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Cook bacon in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, turning, until crisp. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain and pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot. Crumble bacon.
Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper. Add oil to pot and heat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.
Brown pork in about 6 batches without crowding and transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate. Add onion and jalapeños and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened. Add garlic, oregano, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne, then cook, stirring, 1 minute. Return pork to pot with any juices accumulated on plate and add broth, coffee, water, and tomatoes with purée.
Simmer chili, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until pork is very tender, about 2 hours. Stir in beans and bring to a simmer, stirring.
Serve chili with bacon and accompaniments.
I increased the peppers to six, using 2 green jalapenos, 2 white jalapenos and 2 anaheim peppers. also, added three wedges of mexican chocolate, not enough to overpower the dish but i subtle undertone. if i hadn’t mentioned it, you probably wouldn’t have known it was there. would probably plus up on the chocolate next time so that it peeked its head out a little more. i did the dish in the crockpot after the pan browning of the pork, around 7 hours cook time on high to get the meat nice and tender. i waited until about 2 hours from serving to add the beans to prevent them from getting mushy. also used around 8 cloves of garlic and sprinkled in some chipotle pepper powder. the dish turn out really zesty without being overbearing. i hate it when people make chili and focus on nothing but the heat. its a real waste, there are so many delicious flavors to balance and enjoy, if you scorch your taste buds on the first bite, you lose all that and just have an endurance match eating white hot magma.
the cornbread is simple, mix together all the ingredients until they resemble a thick pancake batter, pour into a heated, oiled cast iron skillet and bake in a 350 degree oven until a knife inserted comes out clean and the top is evenly browned. bonus points for rotating the pan midway thru. should take around 18 – 20 minutes for the cornbread, individual mileage may vary.
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/3 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
6 tbsp melted butter
1 finely diced jalapeno
1/2 a can of creamed corn
the meal turned out great, good enough that i had two bowls of leftover chili this morning 🙂 Eddie brought over some Stella Artois, lager suits itself to chili quite well. i served up the chili with a bit of sour cream and shredded cheese over top, avocado, green onions, freshly diced tomatoes, whatever you like would also go nicely.
it occurs to me that next week is the midway point, meal 24. i should do something nice.
i wanted to take a quick moment to give some respect to Gourmet magazine, shut down this past week after 70 years of operation. a look at my recipes cooked and you will find a number of them start in the pages of Gourmet, by way of epicurious.com. I am thankful that Bon Apetit is still there but cannot deny that the absence of Gourmet creates a void.