Damn it. Now I’m bashful.
(The never happens. I’m the social one around here usually)
Laura has already mentioned the important points you need to know about my cooking:
- I don’t really believe in recipes – don’t get me wrong, they’re useful and all, but only for ideas.
- I like meat. No. Really. I’m totally down with eating animals. Meat is murder. Tasty, tasty murder.
- I started learning to cook as soon as I could stand tall enough to help my Momma at the stove.
There is more to the story than that though. I love the kitchen. I love cooking and I love feeding people. To be perfectly honest, I think it might have something to do with being a born and bred Southerner. You know – maybe. That whole hospitality shtick. It’s hard to tell.
My first memory of cooking is sitting at our kitchen table watching my Momma make chili in the bright red Le Cruset ductch oven she had been given as a wedding present. 12 years before I was born. 25 years later she is still using it to make chili. Amazing chili. Reminds you of home, love, and everything-you-ever-need-including-the-sea’s-salty-air chili. You may be wondering what the secret to this unbelievable chili is. This chili that was an important part of my childhood. (Especially since it is the dish my Momma made to feed the hordette that followed my brother around when he was a teenager.)
Back to that red pot for a minute. It’s a great pot. Awesome enough that I convinced Laura that we should ask our families to get us one for a wedding present. They came through. In spades. Ours is bigger.
Now I’m going to tell you a story and a secret. The secret of my Momma’s chili.
I remember the way she started it because it was the way that she started all of her Meals-in-a-bowl meals (this is a technical term and shall become familiar to you all, trust me.) – pouring enough jade green olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot, turing up the fire to heat it up, and then adding bright, white, diced onions and LOTS of garlic to sauté. Once she had clarified the onions, she’d add ground beef. Two pounds of red, raw ground beef to brown. She stood over the pot stirring the meat, garlic, and onions together until the meat had browned and then she added a chili mix. That’s right. A mix. (Queue dramatic music) Specifically two boxes of Fantastic World Vegetarian Chili Mix. That’s the secret. That’s it. My Momma added soy protein and a commercial chili mix to her chili. It’s what makes it so thick that you stand a spoon up in it. So hearty that one bowl is enough to see you through to the middle of the next day.
Once she had thoroughly mixed that into the ground beef, onions, and garlic, she would add pico de gallo. Otherwise known as Pace Medium Salsa, two of the big jars.
Now, I prefer to use Hot and/or to just make my own pico. But that’s because I can be a snob who has too much time on his hands.
Back to the chili. With the pico in, my Momma would add two or three cans of black beans, a can or two of pinto beans, and then a can of diced tomatoes. She salted the pot. Added a little water to get things thin enough to stew properly and then she put the lid on. She waited while the pot heated up. Occasionally taking the lid off to stir the pot. Once the whole pot was simmering happily she turned the heat down, put the lid back on, and went to her study for a little while.
Thinking about that chili again has got me going – I’ll just have to make a pot of it myself. There will be pictures. And if Laura can corner me, I may just have to put together a recipe to post up here.
In the mean time, here are my two favorite tools in our kitchen: