I now know why poets, authors and painters are notorious alcoholics and druggies……..being creative is an ass whip’n to the highest degree, especially after the holidays. So please forgive me if this post seems rather drab and mundane.
As seasons go, winters in Texas aren’t too bad. Unlike the northern states, Texas winters tend to be mild and pleasant. But on special occasions, Old Man Winter will pay us a visit. That visit came this past Sunday and The Old Man seems to be rather pissed. Typically, he comes and goes quickly, 30 degrees one day, 70 degrees the next. Not this time. No, it seems that someone has pissed him off good and he ain’t leaving anytime soon.
It’s times like these when I think back to my time as a ute, in particular, my time at the Lake. Winters at the Lake were special for us kids, for all the reasons you could imagine: burning leaves, having snowball fights, playing “I will show you mine, if you show me yours” with the girls next door. But even more special than that, Lake winter was the time of year that us kids got to sit around the house and do nothing. See the Cardinal Rule at the Lake was that as soon as breakfast was over, your ass was expected to be outside. It didn’t matter what you were doing, you just had to be outside. And the off chance that one of us tried to test the rule, you were quickly admonished by the enforcer, JB….. “God Damn It. You kids are at the Lake, get your asses outside.”
In addition to having the opportunity to be slugs, winter was a time for feasting. A time to gather around the fire, play cards and enjoy good food. Once the MAH Margs or Jack Daniels was poured, the respective cooks would head for the kitchen and/or grill. Welch burgers, fish fries, you name it, there was plenty to eat and rest assured, it was good. However, on those very cold nights when a roaring fire wasn’t enough to keep you warm, you could be certain that it was time for………..Mama T’s Chili.
In Louisiana, they have Midnight Gumbo, in New Mexico, they have Posole, in Oklahoma and Texas, we have chili. That’s right, good, down home, stick to your ribs chili. Now we can debate the best way to eat chili and I am not one to typically have an opinion, but I would put this chili up against any of that bullschit they serve in Terlingua. So alter as you must, but next time Old Man Winter pays you a visit, cozy up to a bowl of this goodness.
2 lbs stew meat or coarse ground chuck
5 T Mama T’s Chili Powder*
32 oz chicken broth, preferably homemade
14.5 oz can diced tomato
2 cubes beef bullion
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 T paprika
1 packet Sazon Goya*
1 T cumin
2 t granulated garlic
1 package spaghetti, cooked
Pinto beans, cheese, onions, jalapeno, cilantro, avocado and sour cream to garnish
The key to good chili is the layering of flavors. Therefore, pay close attention to the steps; it will pay off.
In a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven, brown meat for 3 minutes over medium-high heat. Once meat is brown, add onions and sauté until onions are translucent, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in half of the chili powder and stir to coat meat. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, beef bouillon, paprika and Sazon Goya, bring ingredients up to a strong simmer, reduce heat and simmer for one hour. After the chili has simmered for one hour, add the remaining chili powder and all the cumin and garlic. Simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes.
Now here’s the interesting/controversial part. Depending on which part of the country you are from, chili can be eating many different ways. I prefer my chili as follows: spaghetti, beans, chili, cheese, onion, cilantro and sour cream. On occasion, I will acquiesce to the wife and substitute corn bread for the spaghetti, but contrary to most chili snobs, there is no wrong way to eat it, assuming your chili recipe is as good as this one.
*Mama T’s Chili Powder is currently making the regulatory rounds and is not yet available to purchase. In the meantime, I would recommend Mexene. It has a nice balance of heat and flavor and is used quite often in chili competitions.
**Sazon Goya is a soup seasoning found on the Mexican food isle of your local grocery purveyor. Goya makes several different types, I prefer the one that is coriander and annatto.