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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Just regular ole chili


Disclaimer: I never make chili the same way twice. I never measure ingredients or use exactly the same ingredients, either. The following is a general guideline to the chili my family eats on a regular basis. Keep ion mind also that I'm a lazy cook, willing to take all kindsa shortcuts, as long as the end product tastes good, is filling and nutritious, in pretty much that order. Presentation counts in tenths of a point on a hundred point scale. It's all about the substance with just a tad of “sizzle.”


Beef. Best: leftover roast or any easily “shreddable” beef, already cooked. Second best: a “chili-grind” of beef.

Beans. Yeh, I know some so-called “purists” insist chili ought not have any beans, but they're just blowing smoke. Pinto beans preferreed. Best: leftovers from a night of conrbread and beans, that is, pinto beans and hamhock. Second best: soak and cook some beans for this chili. Make do: open a can (or two or three, depending on your taste and amount of chili you're making) of pinto beans. Black beans are good, too, but I'd never make black beans up for beans and cornbread, so...

Onion, garlic. In amounts you find work for you.

Some kind of tomato—not canned paste. Whatever tomato you have on hand. Fresh & chopped, canned salsa, Rotel tomatoes and green peppers, and even leftover spaghetti sauce all work. To taste, naturally. :-)


Chili sauce: Best chili sauce “base” is the enchilada sauce found here. Use it in an amount that works for you (this might oughta be called "experimental chili." Ask your subjects how it works. :-) Next best: however many handsful of packaged chili powder work for you.

Whatever you use for a chili sauce base, you need to add cumin. Best: take cumin seed and powder a bunch up in your coffee grinder. Next best: a few handsful of pre-ground cumin powder.

Assemble your chili and let it cook a while (how long? As long as it takes to taste right to you. Leftover chili is best, so make lots.)

Olive oil at medium heat in cast iron skillet or pot. (Heat the skillet first, then add the oil.) Dump in the chopped onion (yeh, I didn't say to chop it, but do I really need to hold your hand?) and just clarify the onion before adding the minced garlic—as much as you like. Feel free. Imagine it's “Italian chili” if you want.

Add the beef (pre-brown any that's not already cooked before starting this, but remember: leftovers make the best chili). Add the chili sauce ingredients. Finally, add whatever tomatoes and beans you have.

I sometimes add just a dash of “chinese five-spice” or whatever else strikes my fancy, but I don't tell folks until after they've stuffed their faces with chili for a while.

Serve it any way you want. Here are a couple of options:

  • In a bowl, plain. (Nah.)

  • Weird: in a bowl with a splash of vinegar (your choice, but I like Balsamic when I go this weird) and soda crackers.

  • On corn chips, add freshly chopped onion, tomatoes and lettuce, top with some kinda cheese and sour cream, sliced olives, and maybe even the kitchen sink. (BTW, make your own corn chips. They just taste better. See below.) If you like to add peppers, feel free. Jalapeños are the classic choice, but feel free to try seranos, habañeros or whatever suits you. I like 'em all. (Well, maybe not all at one time. Then again, mabeso... )

  • Leftover chili wrapped in a soft taco, add some cheese & Whatever® makes a decent Quick Eats. Zap it, of course. (Liberally add habañero sauce? Of course!)

The possibilities are virtually endless (although I doubt chili ice cream will fly with my family).

Just off the top of my head, that's about it. Again, you need ingredient amounts, fugettaboutit.

Oh, corn chips. Take some regular soft corn tortillas. Tear 'em in half. Broil/bak 'em til crisp. I use a lil convection oven on broil for about 20 minutes to make a small batch. They taste much more like corn and much less like oil. Perfectly fine for most dips. Better-tasting than the greasy junk in sky-high-priced bags.