Monday, April 2, 2012

Chili Memories, Arizona Traditions

When I lived in Phoenix and worked at The Wigwam Resort, the younger employees often got together after work at someone's house/apartment and some form of party inadvertently started.  The bars closed early and no one seemed to actually be from Arizona.  This forced us to be more social in comparison to the culinary scene out here in Chicago, at least at the time.  When we were able to plan it, we'd all try to coordinate a similar day or evening off and get into trouble.  It didn't take long for some themes to develop.

Like chili night.  

It started with a cook from The Arizona Kitchen (Carlos, if I remember correctly), that began infusing habenero peppers in vodka and stashing them in his freezer.  Word was spreading that in a few weeks, once the stuff was deemed potent enough that he was going to throw a party and everybody had to do a shot.  Someone else suggested they make chili, and one of the pastry night cooks (Amy?) I think offered to make cornbread. 

They started cooking sometime like 10 or 11 in the morning, and by 8 pm, just about everyone was starting to show.  There is nothing quite as unique as a shot of freezing cold vodka laced with capsicum, burning both cold and hot though your digestive track.  The evening ended with my friend Byron shaking Amy upside down with some other guy until change fell out of her pocket.  I used to have a picture.  I guess you had to be there (and drunk). 

At least two parties (and plenty of stories) have formed around a bowl of red and/or wicked hot vodka since then.   

Today I finished a batch of chili that I started last night, and I want to think it's one of the few times I haven't timed it to include a shindig or gathering.  Kinda feels like something's missing. 

Anyways, the latest batch is incredible.  I started with 2 large onions diced and sweated in lard and EVOO.  I then added over a dozen cloves of minced garlic.  Once that got all happy, I added ground cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, a small can of diced green chilis, 3 diced jalapenos and 6 diced cubanelles.  Once that toasted a bit, I added 8#'s or so of pork fennel sausage I made from scratch the night before.

Yes, I made the sausage for my chili.  My mother-in-law just had her colon removed and I made a batch of fennel sausage sans fennel seeds so she could enjoy a sausage deep dish pizza on her birthday this Sunday.  I just made too much, thus warranting a chili extravaganza. 

Back to the recipe.  I then added an equal amount of ground veal and cooked that for a bit.  After it started to release its fat, I added about 6 bottles of Stella Artois, a bunch of canned diced tomato, 8 cups of coffee, and a quart of chicken stock.  I let that cook down all nice and happy.  By the way, if you've never cooked chili with coffee instead of water or stock, try it.  The same for BBQ sauce.  It adds a layer of complexity that just rocks.

After that I picked a few tablespoons of thyme & chopped about the same amount of fresh oregano and mixed that in, as well as a cinnamon stick.  Cinnamon rounds out cumin.  I find that it makes it taste less like you're making refried beans when you use the two together. 

I do confess to using canned beans.  I just didn't feel like destroying my kitchen at home with 3 or more dirty pots, plus containers for soaking beans.  I opted for kidneys, black-eyed and black for this batch.  And for those high and mighty chili purists out there, yes, I did add beans, and yes, if you have a problem, kiss my chef patoot.  If it tastes good, who the frick cares? 

I skimmed the Hell out of it too.  Some fat is okay, but too much is unappetizing no matter how good it tastes.  Well, if you're in the area, give me a buzz.  I have beer, crema & cotija cheese to accompany a big bowl of red if you're hungry.

No Fleas were harmed in the making of this article.  Good music to listen to when making chili btw, Breaking the Girl?  Hell's yes.

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