A lot of people I know are really, really upset. Why? Because the Dallas Cowboys did not go all the way to the you-know-what.
Here's what I think they should do on Sunday, February 5: Make a big pot of Texas chili, turn on the TV, and pretend it's the Cowboys playing in the Super Bowl.
Why not? As long as they have something deliciously Texan to eat, that's the important thing. Right? After all, they're probably going to watch the Super Bowl. And the Super Bowl is, after all, in Texas this year. So chili is the thing. Maybe you want to make some guacamole, too (it wouldn't be the first time).
But back to the chili: Beans need not apply. Because we are in Texas, y'all. It's all about the meat. You can make a pot of pinto beans and serve it on the side, if that's your fancy. Just soak the beans overnight, drain them, place them in a big pot, cover with water by an inch, add an onion (cut in half), a bay leaf or two, a few whole garlic cloves (you don't even need to peel them), and (this is optional), a piece of slab bacon. Bring to a boil, then simmer a couple hours, till the beans are nice and tender.
But I digress.
Here's the way I feel about chili: You could use an "easy" recipe. You know, one that uses chili powder and ground beef. But as far as I'm concerned, there's nothing like chili made the old fashioned way: by soaking whole dried chiles and grinding them to a paste. I also prefer to chop the beef roughly by hand rather than using ground beef.
Start with the right cut, not something lean: I like a well-marbled piece of chuck. Enlist your butcher's help with this. Then use a sharp knife to cut it into 1/2-inch dice.
Then you'll toast a bunch of dried ancho chiles in a dry pan, cover them with boiling water and let 'em soak. Half an hour later, purée them with a little of the soaking water to a lovely smooth, thick paste. Brown the meat, cover it with the purée and stir together.
Isn't that lovely? This is why cooks love to cook.
Add some of the liquid from soaking the chiles, some garlic cloves and onion you've charred in the dry pan then chopped, freshly ground toasted cumin seeds, dried oregano, a couple of bay leaves and cayenne for heat.
Simmer it all together for a couple of hours: The beef will become incredibly tender and all those wonderful flavors will meld and deepen. In other words, it cooks down into crazy-good Texas chili.
Here's the recipe:
Just the thing for watching (or not watching!) a hugely important football game in Texas. Let everyone serve themselves out of the pot. Put out bowls of chopped onion and grated cheese as garnish. Feel like making cornbread, or corn tortillas? That will go great – as will guacamole and chips. And beer.
Houston, we have *no* problem.