Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ode to Man Food

Today, I woke up feeling miserable, no doubt about it. Stuffy, listless, and fatigued, complete with sore throat, I knew I had the cold I had escaped all winter long. I guess it was my time, I suppose.

When I feel like this, I know exactly the thing to help knock it out, a spicy omelet. The thing about an omelet is that it is incredibly simple to actually make, once you have the technique down. Granted, until you do, you end up making a lot of scrambled eggs. But the best part of an omelet? You can toss whatever you want into it, in my case cheese, and a ton of black pepper and green Tabasco sauce.
Spicy.

Guys: Here is a fact for you to think on. There is nothing that can generate more points with your significant other than breakfast in bed. Give it a try one time, it's well worth the effort. It shows her that you're thoughtful and caring, and have a domestic side. Don't think it makes you too domestic though. I maintain that cooking is a very manly thing to do. You get to play with spicy things, hot things, and sharp things, all at the same time. What is more manly than that? Besides, you aren't going to have your mother cook your breakfast until you're 30, are you? What do Cowboys, Pirates, and Firemen all have in common? They're some of the manliest men around, and they all cooked.

Anyway, today was very much a man-food day. After tossing together a quick omelet, I set down to work on a large batch of chili. Chili is very much man-food. First created in Texas, it was a food of choice for cowboys and outlaws alike. The Chili Appreciation Society International, Inc. proclaims in their rules "No chili contestant may discharge firearms or use any pyrotechnics or explosives at a chili cook off." I have no idea, what you would explosives for in chili making, but if it's in the rules, it means someone has probably done it. Like I said, chili is very much manly food.

The thing about cooking chili is that it has a tendency to "grow" in size as you cook and add ingredients. Another part is every person who makes chili has their own recipe. I know it's less than helpful, but one you have a few basic ingredients, then you can start improvising.

The best way to begin is with a good quality ground beef, I use my usual 80/20 grind. That means the meat is 80% lean, 20% fat. To put that in perspective, if I use 10 pounds of meat, 2 of those pounds would be fat. It seems like a lot of fat, but a large amount of it is going to be eliminated during cooking. I use a half-pound for a medium sized pot of chili.
Where's the beef? Nevermind, here it is.

First of all, you need to brown the ground beef. At this time, it's all about adding flavor. I add salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powders to the meat before cooking, as it allows all the flavors to combine. After the meat is browned, you can drain out the excess fat.
Next to the pot, add a can of stewed tomatoes, a can of diced tomatoes, and two cans of tomato soup. Mix it all up, and add a half cup of so of chili powder. Simmer, and you have a basic chili.

I take things further. While that is simmering, I also add a cup and a half of fire-roasted sweet peppers, originally intended as topping for hot sausage. Stirring to combine, I then get to do my favorite part, the spicy and sharp parts.

Fun fact: That little bit of green in the up left corner is about 20X hotter than the vegetation on the bottom of the photo.


The thing about jalapeno peppers, is that all of the heat of the pepper is inside of the membranes and the seeds. If you can eliminate that, most of the heat is gone, but you still retain a really great fruity flavor. So, dispatch 1 jalapeno pepper, by cutting out the membrane, and then giving it a very fine dice. While you're cutting, also cut up 2 small onions. Here is a very important point: after you cut up the jalapeno, and your eyes are watering from the onion, DO NOT rub your eyes, you will be VERY sorry. Trust me.


Mmmmm...delicious Maillard reaction.

Next, take about half of the cut up jalapeno, and the onions, and give them a quick sweat in a small saute pan. This will add even more flavor. Once the onions are lightly caramelized, add them with the remainder of the jalapeno to the chili. Finally, and here is the family secret (don't knock it until you've tried it) add 1 heaping tablespoon of creamy peanut butter to cut the acid a little bit. Stir to combine, and allow to heat through. It can be eaten immediately, or allow to simmer for a few hours, and it will be even better.

Delicious, and absolutely worth the work.

Thus ends the ode to man-food.

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