Chili Nouveau

Hello, British cousins. It’s been a long time. Maybe I was waiting for the heat and humidity to break so I could finally lift my arms.

Today is the first certifiably chilly day in Maryland of the soon-to-come autumn. When that snap is in the air, I know it’s time to make the first chili of the new season. Chili nouveau. This is SanViejo’s Life Affirming Homesick Chili. The arrival of the nouveau batch is eagerly anticipated every year by tens of people. Family trailer trash and foreigners mostly, but what the heck. These are my people.

I start with lightly marbled stew meat, cut into quarters. A couple of pounds of that and some ground beef to bulk it out a little. Then the usual suspects… diced tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, bay leaves, a red pepper or two just for the color.

And…  and…

My fellow Texans, wretched refuse from the Terlingua Chili Cookoff, are going to be somewhere between derisive and fighting back tears when I tell them I also toss in pinto beans. Yeah, I know it’s a hard concept to wrap your mind around, like finding out everyone in your town is an android except you. God, I hate that. But anyway, I imprinted on beans while quite young and there’s no going back for me. Maybe I was toilet-trained too early or my mom dropped me on my head, but there it is. Just get over it.

I sautéed two large onions and, near the end of that onion-clarifying sweat lodge session, I added an entire one of those garlic bulbs where all the cloves are jammed together in a circle, finely chopped, all sautéed together in olive oil. Then I added another chopped onion, this one not sautéed. We’re talking nuance here.

I chopped and added a large kickass jalapeño pepper, seeds and all. During those times when the voices in my head are screaming at me to revive my plans for world domination, I add one or two more jalapeños to the accompaniment of my maniacal laugh, with my head thrown back – mwahahahahaha!

I bring it to a boil, stirring all the while. Then, when it bubbles viciously, I turn the heat waaaaaay down and slam the lid on while moonwalking backward from the stove. I let it simmer for about two hours, barely bubbling. Thirty minutes before I turn off the burner, in a sombrero-waving, shout-out to the mighty mothers of Mexico, I mix two rounded tablespoons of maso corn flour into just enough water to make a paste. I stir it in. It thickens, it flavors, it makes us all Mexican, thank you Jesus.

Legend has it that this chili is even better on the second day, after the flavors have had a chance to partner up overnight in the fridge. The few times it has lived to see a second day, the theory has been confirmed.

Love from the far shore,
Larry

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