I’m bummed already. Under 30 degrees again this morning and its only December 9th. We don’t even officially hit winter for 12 more days. WTF!!!!
Even though its too early for this nonsense, I am already prepared. The fireplace and chimney flue are clean and the damper operating properly. The cord of wood is neatly stacked. The snowblower is all tuned-up and the gas tank full.
Today I will pull together my final winter survival tactics; I get my favorite cold weather recipes in order. Yeah, I am a closet foodie. I love to cook for my little family and friends. Wintertime is the opportunity to create some really tasty stove-top or oven baked belly warmers and I have more than a few in my rep built up over the years.
My spaghetti sauce is handed down from my Italian grandmother Rosalie Caruso, who arrived here from Sicily. Its the staple for some great stuff….lasagna, eggplant, veal and chicken parmagiana, manicotti, eggplant rolatini and other killers. Braised beef short ribs with mashed potatoes. WOW! A beef stew that seriously warms you all the way to the toes. Split pea soup enriched by the bone from a spiral ham.
My favorite winter feast though is chili. Mine simmers on the stove and then cures overnight, outside in the cold of the screened in porch, only to simmer again just before serving. The combination of beef, sausage, beans, vegetables, red wine and spices knocks me out and always delivers. And I make certain that the batch is large enough to always provide a quick meal sitting in the freezer.
When I lived in California I entered this chili in a cook-off and we took home a second place ribbon. What do those Californians know about chili anyway? The winner was a Hawaiian concoction that some guy named Wink drew up. It had 50 odd ingredients including….get this…..pineapple. That’s not chili, ok? That’s a gimmick….but it was enough of a gimmick to steal the top prize.
My friend Big Boy, the best first baseman I ever played with in 30+ years of competitive and hack softball, loved my chili so much that he gave it the ultimate honor….a name. So below, I am happy to share with you my favorite winter dish to make at home and share with your family and friends in this ridiculous cold weather…..
Jed’s El Pass-o Gass-o Real Texas Chili
1 lb. ground beef, 85% lean
8 oz. hot italian sausage, 8 oz. sweet italian sausage
2 cups chopped white onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper, 1 cup chopped yellow pepper
8 cloves, minced garlic
1 jalapeno, diced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1.5 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
1.25 cups fruity red wine
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand
2 15 oz. cans of fire roasted plain tomatoes, undrained
1 15 oz can of black beans, drained
1 15 oz can of dark red kidney beans, drained
Heat a large dutch oven or big old pot over medium high heat. Sausage first….if its in casing as links, skin it and just cook the meat itself, mixed with the ground beef, onion, bell peppers, garlic and jalapeno. Be careful with the jalapeno. The heat is found in the seeds and the light green rind inside the pepper so use the “fire” to your own taste. Stir once in a while to mix the ingredients and let the meat brown nicely, 10 minutes or so.
Kick in the spices. I put all mine in a separate bowl together and stir, then dump them in the pot in one swoop. Chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, oregano, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Give the mixture a quick spin or two to spread the seasonings. Add the tomato paste and thoroughly spread it through the mixture. Cook it all up for a minute or so, stirring the entire time. The entire concoction will now have a really great red coating of tomato flavor.
Stir in the wine. Then the tomatoes and finally the beans. Bring the whole mess to a boil and let it ride for 5 minutes or so. Drop the heat down to a level creating a bubbling simmer and cover, cooking for two hours and stirring occassionally, allowing some of the liquids to cook off as the chili thickens.
Cool overnight and re-simmer for 30 minutes before serving.
EXTRAS and OPTIONS
Every good chili has some final ingredients that you or your guests can add just before eating. Staples like diced white onion, grated cheddar cheese and sour cream are always appreciated. I like to also serve that simple Jiffy corn bread, spiked with diced jalapenos before baking. Some people put their chili on rice…and in Cincinnati they serve it over a bowl of spaghetti, if you can believe it. They call it Skyline chili and as you can imagine, its no light meal.
Well, there you have it. You are now ready to take on Bobby Flay in a Food Network “Throwdown”. And I am so fired up after writing this, that I am off to the store to get the ingredients so I can bang out a double batch today. Enjoy….
THE LAST BITE
When Cam Newton gets his Heisman trophy on Saturday, I hope they give him a pre-addressed cardboard box so he can return it to the Heisman Trust after the truth in all this comes out. Shameful.