Sunday 11 May 2008

Texan Red: A Homage: Part II

Part 2- random musings

So based on my readings and tastings, what do you need for a chili con carne?
Actually this part is really easy (the clue is in the title), meat and chiles - that is all.
You would be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t add garlic and cumin to the mix but not much else.

The concept I like is that of it being peasant food, cheap and easy to produce but nourishing. This describes most of the food I like and all of the food I cook.

Most of the controversies focuses on tomatoes, water and beans.

As you will see I do add tomatoes but that is a personal choice gleaned through many creations with and without. I feel the tomato add to the chiles (same vegetable family), but prefer puree which gives the kick without the dilution a can of tomatoes, or roasted tomatoes would do.

Water, stock or tomato juice is frowned upon. A bowl of red should be a thick semi-solid mass. A spoon should stand upright when placed in it. This may cause a textural issue but there is some science behind limiting the amount of dilutant early on to allow the key ingredients (meat/chiles) the maximum exposure to each other.

Beans, while almost always present are outlawed in US chili cook-offs, are added by almost all cooks on completion of testing and prior to general consumption. The extreme would be for beans on the side, like your rice or tortilla, etc, but I feel they are of major benefit. They should be pinto beans, nothing else works as well. Kidney beans, I am told, are too sweet but personally, are just too obvious.

Liquid is a key issue – recipes may call for booze – tequila, beer, wine or stock even coffee but this should be balanced with the need to keep the chili from drowning. Altering the proportion of lid-on and lid-off time can compensate for over dilution.

As with most stews flavour improves through the cooking time and continues to enhance with resting. Often chili-heads will swear it tastes better the next day, a few places only serve day-rested chili.

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