Chile (or chilli or chili) paste for the pantry

I was perusing the list of favorite blogs that I follow on WordPress. When I got to the Chef Mimi blog I found an idea (and a recipe) that I just have to share.

I always have dried chilli peppers around the house, but they mostly just get used when I’m making chilli con carne because they take time and usually some unplanned effort to use.  I’d not thought of making paste out of them! A wonderful thing to have on hand. This will take you to the recipe for Ancho Chile Paste. No matter how you name those peppers they are great to have in the kitchen–and this makes them easier to use.

(I’m not going to give up my ancho chile powder from Penzeys Spices, though.)

Is it chili, chilli, chile…pepper?

The cool weather has inspired me to make renew the winter supply of one of my favorite comfort food: chili con carne. Looking over my stock of these spicy, flavorful peppers–pasilla guajillo, ancho, chipotle, jalapeno, serrano–brought on this rumination about what we call them.  I’m obviously terribly ambivalent since it seem I have to keep looking to see what I used last time.

In reference works like Merriam Webster Unabridged Dictionary, Encyclopedia Britannica or even Wikipedia, you find all these forms listed for what we call the spicy fruits of the genus Capsicum. Sometimes it’s with the “pepper”, other times it’s just chili. Other sources like The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion seen to prefer chile.

Frankly, I really liked the suggestion of Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking that we simply use the chilli (which is what he does), from the original Nahuat where these lovely spicy, piquant fruits came from!

So, I guess it’s time to make some chilli con carne!

Chilli con carne redux update

I’ve finished the “fast” version of the chilli con carne that I posted about in Chilli Con Carne Redux!  I’ll concede that it’s only sort of faster in terms of the active prep time–it still needs to cook long and slowly, but it is a success.  I don’t think that I can tell the difference (tasted side-by-side with the more laborious version from the freezer) and friends have given it the nod of approval.  So here are the changes and additions to the original chilli con carne that I posted.

  • After the bacon browned, 3 tablespoons of tomato paste was added while the onions were sautéed, and this was browned–again to enhance the umami, not to add tomato flavor.
  •  None of the meat (pork or beef) was browned before adding liquids.
  •  Added bay leaves to increase the earthiness (used five large for this 6 pounds of meat).
  •  Added Mexican oregano–about 2 rounded teaspoons. (You really do want Mexican oregano for this–much different flavor than Turkish or Greek (Mediterranean) oregano–after all it is an unrelated plant, but worth having in the kitchen if you like chili.)
  •  Sun-dried tomatoes (about 1/2 cup chopped) were added for more umami even though this was NOT made in a slow cooker, I was not aiming for tomato-flavored chili.
  • During the cooking time I tasted some in a bowl with a little fish sauce added (yep, I did get up the nerve to try this) and it tasted wonderful; so I added about 4 or 5 tablespoons of fish sauce.  (I suspect that if you don’t have fish sauce a couple of anchovy filets thrown in would have the same effect.)
  • The final thickening was one with a brown roux made with masa harina.  For the fat in this roux I reserved about 1/4 cup of the fat from the de-fatting step.  I heated this and made sure that all liquid was evaporate, then added about 6 tablespoons of masa harina and cooked it until it was a medium brown and toasty smelling.
  • Because of my work schedule, this was cooked in a lower oven (about 195° F) for about 10 hours.

After another run on this I’ll have to post a revised recipe for the “fast” and easier version, but if you feel so inclined you can work with these changes–after all chili con carne is one of those things that really doesn’t need a recipe to be followed strictly.

Chilli con carne redux….

I love my chilli con carne–but it’s very a very time-consuming kitchen project so after considering umami in the slow cooker I though I’d try a few shortcuts, with some umami boosts.

I usually buy a big chuck roast and cut it up myself, but I found that my local Harris Teeter had stew mean which was chuck roast already cut up, so I bought a big package of that.  Some time saved there.  I did have to cut the pork, but I bought  spare ribs so that all I had to do was cut them into chunks–another bit of time saved.

One thing that takes a lot of time is browning that much meat, so I thought I try bypassing that step since I still plan to cook it in the conventional oven very slooooowly, letting evaporation and concentration happen so there should get a little browning as the liquid reduces.

I toasted all the spices (cumin and coriander) and the chilli peppers that went into the pot and added a little tomato paste that had been browned.  I know that fish sauce (nam pla) and soy sauce are supposed to boost umami, but I just couldn’t put either of them into the pot.  If this doesn’t work, I guess I’ll try that next time.

The pot of chilli con carne is ready to go into the oven as soon as the oat bread comes out.  So some hours from how, I’ll know if this worked or not….