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“Chile Con Chez Meredith” • April 1, 2006

Super yummy on a cold crummy day!!


First, go read the Beef Stew M Column and pay particular attention to meat selection!  DO NOT BUY CHILI MEAT!!!  Remember — NO CRUMMY FOOD!

Second, “chile” is more exactly named “chile con carne!” “Chile” refers to the chili peppers, “con” means “with”, and “carne” means meat!  In other words, “chile” is really “chile peppers with meat!”

It is NOT “chile con frijoles” with “frijoles” meaning beans!!!  It you want beans with your chile, then mix some in afterwards or dump them on top.  If you cook them IN the chile you’re either gonna make “shoe leather chewy” chili, or else “bean soup!” Read the part about potatoes and meat in the Beef Stew M Column — same principle applies here.

So — Meredith Chile contains no beans although you are welcomed to add them separately later.

Third, chile and onions go together — but only in certain combinations!  The onions you cook in the chile should be cooked to mush because they are providing flavor only!  AND — they should be sweet onions, like 1015’s, and not hot onions that overpower the rest of the chile.  Translation: If you can see identifiable onion pieces in your chile after it’s cooked, you did it wrong!!!

A lot of people like onions with chile!  In fact a lot of them like hot spicy onions with their chile!  But don’t cook them WITH the chile — chop them up raw and sprinkle them on TOP of the chile!  You want to maximize the flavor of each — not tangle them up into some kind of mess!!

The real secret to great chile is “meat” and “heat.” So let’s start with the meat.  For chile to use as a sauce on hot dogs for example, you’ll only need ground meat.  For chile you eat from a bowl, you’ll probably want to add some meat pieces like it was a stew.

First step is the ground meat.  As I said before, forget the chile meat — go for the ground steaks.  I’ve used ground round, but prefer ground sirloin.  You can scale this up as needed, but let’s just consider how to do it for one pound of ground meat chile dish.  Pick out your ground meat carefully and get the leanest you can find.  NOW — cruise over to the meat counter and see if you can get them to grind it again so it’s even finer.  (Batting eyelashes helps — assuming you are female and the person behind the counter is male — other combinations may send entirely different signals!) You want “fine” ground meat.  You don’t want to go all the way to pâté but you ideally want it finer than hamburger.  BUT — if you can’t get it ground finer, it will still work pretty well.

Over low to medium heat, slowly brown the ground meat.  You want to do it slowly so nothing burns and also slowly so it doesn’t cook up into big chunks.  You’ve got to stir it continuously — a perfect male job!!  It’ll help if you add a quarter cup of water to the pan to help the browning process along.  And that’s just a quarter of a cup regardless of how much meat you are browning.  It should just barely cover the bottom of the pan before you put in the meat.

If you are making “bowl” chile, then you need to do the same thing as we did with the beef stew.  Select you meat, trim it carefully, tenderize, flour, and cook in another pan.  (Males are also very handy for this, too) Once it is cooked, add it to the browned ground meat.  Ideally, they should both be ready at once.  Discard any oil and left over flour.

For each pound of meat add one packet of chile mix and one can of tomato sauce and stir continuously, (assign you male to the task,) over your lowest heat setting until your burner has cooled down enough so that you are not in danger of burning the chile.  Cover, stir periodically, and let simmer for an hour at least until the meat pieces are nice and tender.

OK — which chile mix do you use? I don’t know about your grocery store, but there are hundreds of them here in Texas — we’ve got almost a full aisle.  It’s mostly a matter of personal preference.  Pick one that strikes your fancy.  I like chile pretty spicy and I’ve tried a number of the spicier ones.  However, I’ve had the best luck with a mild basic mix that I “spice up” myself.  So I usually use French’s Chile-O mix which is pretty generic, but is available just about anywhere.  To this I’ll add a teaspoon at a time of chile powder.  For me, a teaspoon per pound is about right, but you might like more or less.  Once I’ve got the “chile” taste to my satisfaction, I “heat” it up with some ground cayenne red pepper!!!  You want to do this a little at a time as it’s very easy to get it WAY TOO SPICY HOT!!

Try a bowl of it with grated cheese on top, add onions or beans if you like, and it will take the chill off the coldest day.  Try it the same way over a bowl of rice.  My favorite is over a layer of tortilla chips with lots of cheese — or the same thing with Frito’s for a real Frito-Pie.

Put the leftovers in the refrigerator and let them cool down there.  Don’t let it stand at room temperature.  You can nuke portions of it and they taste just as great.  You might need to add a teaspoon of water per bowl, but try it without — you’ll be surprised.  Also, be SURE and cover it when you nuke it as it will splatter like crazy!  Try nuking for 30 seconds, stir, nuke for another 30 seconds, etc. until it’s just the right temperature.

And it’s terrific on hot dogs and hamburgers.  Try it for breakfast with eggs, too!!  And we’ll use it in other wicked Chez Meredith concoctions, too!

Love,

Meredith


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Last Updated: April 2006


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