Wednesday, January 14, 2009

1001 Simple Chili ( Spicy Meat / Bean Stew)

Chili pepper was domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Americas. 500 years back, they travelled with Columbus to Spain and soon spread across the world. When eaten, capsaicinoids (a group of plant chemicals occurring in chilies) fool the brain into believing that the mouth is on fire.  The brain responds by raising heart rate, increasing sweat, and releases endorphins (the feel-good hormone), to soothe the body. This 'rush' is what makes chilies so addictive. 
Added to meat and cooked into a stew with some flavouring, it soon became a wildly popular stew - Chili con carne (literally peppers with meat). Beans were probably added later to stretch the stew and in many versions they replace meat.  With its name shortened to Chili, it is now the official dish of Texas.   
A huge variety of meats / beans can be used along with a variety of flavouring and additives as listed above. A dash of beer / wine / sour cream / vinegar / pickle juice can be mixed in before serving.

Chili can be served straight or with crackers, cooked rice, pasta, tamale, corn bread, cinnamon rolls, sandwiches or tortillas. They can also be used as a topping for hot dog, cheese & fries, corn chips or mashed potatoes. A glass of ice cold beer, cola or milk goes well with a bowl of chili. Chili can be thick, soupy or watery. They can be thickened  with masa, cornflour or crushed crackers. They age well, getting tastier with storage. The traditional recipes call for long gentle cooking over a few hours. A pressure cooker reduces the cooking time dramatically. The Indian whistling pressure cooker is probably the easiest and fastest way to cook chili. A variety of chilies can be used to cook the chili. The chilies so used can be fresh, dried, boiled or even grilled. Each variation subtly alters the taste and flavour of the stew.  
Thousands of ‘the most authentic and tastiest’ versions exist with bitter feuding over the inclusion or omission of meat / beans/ flavouring agents . This cookbook focuses on fool proof, simple chili recipes that a first time cook can cook up on the very first try.  The emphasis as always, is more on ease of preparation than on gourmet cooking.

As with most One page cookbooks, 10 different bases are combined with 10 flavouring agents and ten additives to create a thousand chili recipes, numbered from 000 to 999.

The bases
 A variety of meats / beans or both are used as a base. Meat can be ground ( available as chili grind) or chopped into bite sized cubes. Larger beans need to be soaked overnight and smaller ones can be cooked without soaking.

The flavouring
Cumin, onion and garlic form the basic flavouring. A variety of other flavouring listed in column 2 can also be used.

The additives
Most chilies do not use any vegetables (with the exception of tomato). But a variety of vegetables as listed in column 3 can be used.

Experiment and cook up your own versions !

And that's my entry for San Antonio's Chili cookoff Challenge.

1 comment:

Gloria Chadwick said...

Very interesting post about the history of chili, but the whole idea of the chili cook-off is to submit a recipe and a picture of your chili. Hope you still want to participate. Would you like to make one of your 1,0001 chili recipes?

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