Running With The Turkeys
     Today was a rough day.  Today I was forced to confront the reality that I'm 37 years old and I'm starting all over again in a new career (the hotel business, my 3rd career, for those keeping score at home), which means I'm making paltry wages at an age when my friends are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.  That's a tough pill for anyone to swallow.  It's especially tough for a man, even a semi-progressive one like myself.  A big part of my self worth, as a man, turns on how much metaphorical bacon I bring home, and right now we're not eating much bacon at the chilijoe homestead.

     We are, however, eating turkey.  Turkey chili, to be exact.  It contains:
  • ground turkey;
  • olive oil;
  • zucchini;
  • chili powder;
  • cayenne pepper;
  • sea salt;
  • black pepper;
  • pinto beans;
  • diced tomatoes; and
  • steel cut oats.
This was good.  And between the cooking and having gone for a run on the beach, I got my head in a better place.  It's good to be good at things.  Right now I'm good at cooking and running.  I'll get bettter at making money.

     In Utah, I skied and cooked.  One of the meals was chili.  The recipe was of my own devise:  beef, diced tomatoes, onions, garlic and green chiles, thickened with grits.  Flavored with chili powder, salt, and pepper.  

     It was the first chili recipe I've created, and I am pleased to report that my friends enjoyed it. 

     I must be learning something from this project.  

     That being said, next time I'll use a spicier chile pepper.  I picked the green chile because it is mild and I didn't know how spicy the guys liked thier food, but it was a bit too bland.  Next time I'll try anchos or chipotles.


After Market Modifications of Store Bought Chili
     Chili doesn't have to be street legal.

     You can take a store-bought chili and doctor it up at home.  I did just that the other day, taking a beef-and-bean chili and adding chili powder, garlic salt, white pepper and jalapeno hot sauce.  

     The end result was, like a Toyota Corolla with a spoiler, fat tires, and a lime-green paint job, kind of awesome.

California Garlic Chili
     I made the Garlic Chili from California.  It used no less than 5 heads of garlic.  DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG IT TAKES TO PEEL AND MINCE 5 HEADS OF GARLIC?  Too long, because the chili was, in the end, bland.  I think the California Red Chili peppers the recipe called for were too mild.

     I was very disappointed.  Garlic, like greed, is good, but it isn't enough.

Cooking is a way to connect with people.

This recipe called for tamales. I don't know how to make tamales. So I went to this Mexican grocery store. I've never been in one before, partly because I never saw the need -- I have ACME and Wawa, after all -- and partly because I thought I would be out of place, not being Mexican. But now I needed tamales, so in I went.

It was another world: everything was made by Goya.

But even beyond the obvious exoticism, it was great. They didn't have any tamales, but the owner said his wife makes them every so often, and that if I left her my number, they would call me next time she made some. _That_ doesn't happen at ACME. Or even Wawa.

She said she would call me next week.

In the meantime, I still had chili to make. So I bought a couple of quesadillas and used them as the base instead of tamales. On top I layered beef and beans cooked in barbecue sauce, topped with melted cheddar and, finally, tortilla chips.

Then I brought the whole concoction over to my friend Doug's parents house, where we all watched the Eagles lose to the Packers. And though the football, particularly the playcalling, was bad, the chili was very, very good.

Vegetarian chili, or I'm a little inebriated
Eggplant ... my cousin Nora ... hominy is good ... olive oil ... Emeril Lagasse .... ceramic knives .... the first Super Bowl the Eagles ever lost ... drinking stawberry daiquirís at ten years old .... hominy is like grits and grits are like cream of wheat, kind of .... masa harina is underwhelming . . . onions .... Califonia chiles are mild ... you could eat this chili for breakfast . . . can you guess the state?

Goodnight Laura, I'll most likely rewrite this in the morning.

Finish the damn blog!

     When I think of Arizona, I think of unfinished border fences, rich golfers in Scottsdale, age discrimination against the young, and pampered Admiral's sons on the one hand, and real American hero Pat Tillman on the other.  To the positive side of that ledger, we can now add this Pork and Poblano chili recipe.  Clearly labeled, this chili is made of pork and poblano chili peppers, and it's distinguished by its color, its simplicity, and its cream cheese.

     I have actually made this recipe before.  It's the first chili recipe I ever made out of the Chili Nation cookbook.  I remember it seemed so difficult.  You had to roast the poblano peppers and then peel off the skin.  You had to brown the pork.  You had to blend the peppers and cream cheese.  And you had to cook rice to ladle the chile onto.  Oh, it seemed so complicated to my younger self.  COULD IT EVEN BE DONE BY MORTAL MAN?

     It could.  Without much difficulty, actually, compared to other chili recipes,which sometimes REQUIRE YOU TO BAKE.  Like a woman. 

     But not this recipe.  This one is all open flames and knives and high-speed blending.  And the finished product is green!  And I'm not talking some lame "eat your vegetable" kind of dark green, but a more nauseous looking light green.  LIKE A MONSTER PUKED IN A BOWL.  AND MADE YOU EAT IT.  

     And it was good.  Manly man good.

     As a result, when I wake up in the morning, I have no doubt that I'm going to piss excellence.  

     But right now, I'm going to do laundry.

Line Camp Chili and Biscuits
     December 10, 2010 was a very exciting day for the Chili Project.  Much new culinary ground was broken, and good food was eaten.  But before we get into that, let me take a moment to say the following. 

     Happy birthday, Alyssa! 

     Today, my daughter turned 5.  I hope she loves the flowers I sent her, and tomorrow I hope she enjoys her birthday party.  How could she not?  17 of her closest friends are coming over to her house for a tea party.  And, I am informed, there will be a pinata.

     Now, on to the chili.

     I made an Alaskan chili today.  It was notable in three respects:
  1. biscuits
  2. sirloin
  3. ancho chili peppers (dried).
I had never made chili involving any of these three ingredients before, so let's discuss them one by one.  

     Biscuits are awesome.  They're fun to make.  You mix flour and baking powder and vegetable shortening and milk and sugar and cream of tartar, and then you squeeze all that goodness together with your hands, which get all white, and like magic, you've got dough.  Then you use a wine glass to cut the dough into little circles.  When you bake those circles at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, you get golden brown deliciousness. 

     If you can't tell, I think I'll do more baking in the future.  

     In this case, the biscuits formed the top layer of the chili.  Interesting.  Most chilis, the starch, be it rice or crackers or pasta, is on the bottom and the meat and/or beans are on top.  In this Alaskan chili, having the biscuits on top made me feel like I was eating a chili sandwich.  I could scoop up a biscuit, pile some more of the meat and chili peppers on top, and make an open-faced chili sandwich.  I liked it.  

     Sirloin is a good meat for chili.  It tastes good and classes the whole thing up, as opposed to the more usual ground beef.

     But the anchos.  These are the key ingredient.  So good:  a little fire, with a little sweetness thrown in.  These will be go-to chili peppers for me going forward, especially when I'm making a chili for family members (Hi Mom!  Hi Aunt Jana!) who only like a moderate amount of heat. 

     All in all, I really liked this "Line Camp Chili and Biscuits" and will be making it again. 

     Next:  an old friend comes to visit.  From Sonora, Arizona.  He's kind of a pig, but everyone loves him anyway . . .

alabama chili
      I've never read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, but I like author Fannie Flagg.  She's the one who said, in reference to her days as an aspiring writer intimidated by the highbrows at a writing conference:  "You don't need to be a genius to be a writer.  You just need to love stories."  And she wrote a bestseller that got made into a movie.  A Julia Roberts movie, but still . . . it's the sort of story that gives a man hope.  I do love stories.  And those are rags-to-riches, overcoming the odds type stories are the stories I love the most.

     Tonight's chili is based on a recipe from the Whistle Stop Cafe, which was owned by Flagg's Aunt Bess.  The Whistle Stop is in Alabama.  In Irondale, to be specific, near Birmingham.  The Whistle Stop is also the first stop in the Chili Project, in which I'm going to cook and eat my way through Chili Nation, a cookbook by Jane and Michael Stern.  This cookbook has one chili recipe from each state in the country.  We begin tonight with Alabama's recipe.

     The recipe was a combination of ground beef, pinto beans, green chili peppers and -- oatmeal.  That's right, oatmeal.  All on a bed of saltine crackers.  Wacky, huh?  

     Well, I'll tell you this:  if my mom had made this Alabama chili recipe, I'd have eaten my oatmeal as a kid.  This is good shit, yo.

     The oatmeal and the crackers replace the more traditional bed of rice that you find in most chilies.  They work really well.  The replacement may be better than the starter.  Rice may be the Wally Pipp of chili -- which makes oatmeal and crackers Lou Gehrig.  (Pipp, of course, was the Yankees first baseman who missed a game with an injury back in the '20s.  HIs replacement, Gehrig, went on to play the next  2,130 straight games before retiring with a stirring speech.)  

     I coudn't find the 10 oz. can of Ro-tel tomatoes and green chilies that the recipe called for.  Acme didn't have it.  So I used two cans of 7 oz. chipotle peppers in adobo sauce instead.  Chipotle peppers must be spicier than green chiles, because this recipe was supposed to be extremely mild, but the way I made it, it numbed my tongue.  In a good way.

     Two of the great things about chili are, one, it's a one pot meal, so you can concentrate on doing one thing at a time, and, two, chili goes great with football and beer.  As I eat, I watch my beloved Philadelphia Eagles play the Houston Texans, and I drink a couple excellent craft beers.  I drink a Hopdevil, by Victory Brewing ("The brewmasters . . . of victory!" as their slogan goes), and a Milk Stout, by the Lancaster Brewing Company (no cool slogan, just really good beer).  I like a beer with good hops, and the Hopdevil has enough to be a good NBA prospect if this libation thing doesn't work out.  I also like a milk stout because the milk (or rather, the lactose, a sugar derived from milk) makes it not as bitter as a regular stout.  In fact, the truth is that the milk stout goes better with this Alabama chili than the Hopdevil does, which is hard for a hophead like me to admit.

     Yes!  The Eagles score again to take a 14-3 lead.  McCoy on a quick dive.  He had plenty of room there -- the misdirection running plays are working well.  It's unusual to see the running game working for an Andy Reid team.  Or rather, it's unusual to see an Andy Reid team call running plays.  He usually calls about a 70/30 pass/run balance, and the defenses wait for the pass because they know it's coming.  Good to see he's gotten less predictable.  You're learning, big guy.  Will this be the year the Birds finally win a Super Bowl?  In a world where Any Reid sticks with the running game, anything is possible.  Like oatmeal in chili .

Postscript.  I fell asleep on the couch and missed much of the second half, but the Birds pulled out a narrow victory. . 


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