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Monday, August 27, 2012

ijj's (Quick) 4-Alarm Chilli

So, I like to make chilli in a slow-cooker, or a large stewing pot, and let the bugger simmer as long as possible.  Well... at least for several hours.  In fact, I believe I've even posted a couple of versions of them (both con- and sin- carne) before.

But, once in a while, I either don't have the time, or I don't plan ahead, and I'll make a quick version.

A few major points of interest here about this 'quick' version:

  1. Less legumes.
    • with a "full" version of ijj's chilli, there will be more varieties of legumes, including at least one type of lentil.  Because these take a relatively longer time to soak and simmer, they're just not feasible in a 'quick' version.
  2. The 'quick' is relative.
    • When I say 'quick', I'm really just comparing it to a >4hr, slow-cooked, chilli.  This chilli still took about an hour to make.  (Lots of veggie chopping, and a good vapour-flash near the end).
  3. The '4-Alarm' is rather misleading, and not really indicative of heat.  
    • I called it '4-Alarm' because there are 4 chilli pods in this recipe, but really I'm not allowed to serve up much more than a "medium" hot dish in my house, so this barely even raises 1 alarm. :(
Anyway, other than that, this is a great tasting, well-rounded, chilli, with an excellent representation from a variety of flavours.  The first, and most dominant, of course, is the peppers.  They give you a good, solid kick to the head right away.  Slowly thereafter, however, comes a hearty hello from cumin (Hey there buddy!), followed by some stately appearances of tomato, garlic, and onion.  Even oregano gives a wave from the wings before all is over.

All in all, a great and not-altogether unhealthy, one-pot meal, that will surprise you with its depth.

So, we've got some fresh tomatoes, green onion, garlic, and chilli peppers.  And a small (this was only about 400g) amount of extra lean ground beef.

First off, we're going to loosely chop the green onion.  This is, of course, a subjective measurement, but this is loose for me, as I tend to chop much finer, to the point of mincing everything usually.  Throw that in a LARGE pan.

If you like, save some of the green stalks for later.

Next, chop the garlic, also loosely, and throw that in as well.

Do not add put the heat on yet, and do not add any oil.

Normally, in my kitchen, chopped onion and garlic shut their eyes and cringe in the corner of the pan at this point, because they know a moderate deluge of olive oil will soon pour over them.

Not today.

Nope, instead, we're going to crumble the beef in there and stir the whole thing up, and only then turn it up to about medium heat.

Even though this is extra lean beef, there is still plenty of fat for the veggies to 'sautĂ©'.  Trust me.

Next, chop up the chillies.  If you're worried about the capsaicin, I'm not going to judge you for wearing some gloves.  Even though I'm way too manly and cool for them.


So, after that's all out of the way, and you've been sure to stick your tongue in one of the juice puddles "just to make sure these particular peppers are indeed spicy", go ahead and throw them into your pan and stir it about.

At this point, use a blender (I prefer immersion blending) to mulch the tomatoes.  I chose 4 medium-sized tomatoes for this recipe, but the important thing to consider is that each tomato added contributes a fair amount of water.  Even these less-watery Roma tomatoes put in a good deal, which needs to be cooked off.  Now, this is fine - water is actually really easy to get rid of in a sauce or stew or anything cooked, because it is so easily vaporized.

So, I added my four pulverized tomatoes, and then turned the heat UP.  To like mark 7.  Really high.

You can see it's pretty liquidy at this point, but that will all change once all the water has evaporated. Trust me.

Because turning this puppy up to 'high' can be really messy and splootchy, make sure to put on your trusty (Culinary Spatterings Approved!) splatter guard thingy.

Now, while that is blipping away furiously on the stove, we can turn our attention to a little bit of clean-up, and some spice grinding.

First off, some salt.  Any salt will do, but I like a good himalayan pink for this kind of thing.  Next, a good handful of dried oregano.  Fresh is of course best, but for this sort of thing, the dried flakes are actually just fine (and will actually soak up a bit of moisture in the process).  Then, a not-small amount of cumin.  Cumin is a must-have flavour in chilli.  Trust me.  :)

Once that is all nicely ground, go ahead and carefully remove your splatter guard and toss in the spices.

Then, it's just a waiting game.  Leave this angry mixture stewing in its own furious juices for some time.  At least 20 minutes from start to finish.  That may seem like a long time, but really, compared to a slow-cook of 5 hours, this really is a 'quick' version of chilli.

You'll be able to tell when it's ready, when the sauce is no longer liquidy, but kind of 'pasty'.  Stirring will leave "unfilled' vacancies in the pan.

This is ready to serve!


You can plate this with a variety of garnishes and sides, ranging from tortillas to corn bread, and with anything from sour cream to hot sauce!

Today, I'm serving this up with some delicious - if generic - toast, and am going to top the chilli with some freshly-grated cheddar, and some of those scallion tips I had saved.

Now, this was absolutely delicious, if I do say so, and very complex, without being overwhelming.  As predicted, the pepper flavour was dominant, but the cumin and oregano were also present, and the onion and garlic, as supportive players, really make the dish what it is.

The heat factor was barely a 'medium'; however, for those with delicate tongues or sensibilities, a nice starchy side (like toast) can help mitigate the heat a bit.

Nothing works quite as well as a nice cold glass of milk, though.  This evening's pairing was a subtle chocolate milk from the south of the province, which exhibited a delicate head, and a cool, smooth finish.


Really, I might have chocolate milk once every three years, but we were at the grocery store yesterday, and it was cheap.  Like borscht.  Like $1 for 1 litre of the stuff.  So we bought it.  And so we had it in the fridge.  And so it seemed like a good pairing with tonight's meal.  And so that was that.