Moody food

Happy April, friends! Have you had anyone fool you today? I haven’t tried to pull off anything lately, but I cringe with embarrassment thinking of all the pranks I did to my mom. When I was sixteen, I told her I was pregnant. Now that I’m a mom, I realize I might’ve crossed the line with that one. I pulled off my favorite pranks on days other than April first, though. Youth group camps and trips were my ideal playgrounds. At a muggy, Mississippi KOA campground while daylight faded, my friend and I filled a boy’s tent with frogs from a nearby ditch. He entered after dark, without a flashlight. Screaming commenced. I could have peed my pants from laughing so hard. (I felt bad, too, and fessed up.) He sought revenge the rest of high school. On a different trip I called the motel front desk and pretended I was on staff. I gave all the boys’ rooms a 4am wake-up call. One unlucky chap without a watch showered before he realized the time.

The fact that Miles has an extremely mischievous side should give my victims some comfort. Payback arrived through my own womb. His adorable naughty giggle begins anytime he’s trying to be sneaky. He frequently hides Charlie’s toys in our shoes, under our pillows, and in drawers. One of his favorite things to do while I’m seated is take my slippers off my feet, run away giggling, and hide them somewhere. His eyes twinkle the whole time, too.

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Stuck in a swing, unable to cause mischief

So yes, I know it’s April Fool’s Day, but trust me here. Prankster and all, I’m not so mean as to intentionally post a recipe that won’t turn out. This chili struck a note with Harry and me last week and I just happen to be getting around to sharing it today.

Weather in March in Seattle is notoriously moody. Dark gray skies and thunderstorms quickly trample our crystal blue skies. Only the flowering trees still shine in that darkness. This year the exceedingly heavy rainfall led to the horrendously tragic mudslide just north of Seattle, too. There’s been a lot of contrast. A lot of grief and sadness. A lot of joy and beauty.

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$200+ worth of cookbooks for free. God bless Seattle Public Library.

I picked chili during a rainstorm. Consulting cookbooks I checked out from the library, I searched for a recipe that would feed my family and a friend’s. (I try to drop off more meals than frogs these days.) The recipe needed to improve with time, too, in case I delivered it the next day. It comes from the yet-to-fail-me Melissa Clark, via In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite. I don’t make chili often because I find many of the recipes to be a little boring. My interest was piqued by this one because 1) BEER, 2) the pepper variety encouraged me, and 3) she recommended changing up the chili powder. Chipotle, guajillo, New Mexican and ding, ding, ding! I thought of my leftover ancho chili powder from making mole and began to salivate.

Just like that, this chili became my go-to recipe. I like the slight heat of the jalapeño, the hominy’s chew, the ancho chile powder’s nod to mole. Whenever that happens, I will share it here. Both so you can try it and so I can reference the recipe after the cookbook has returned to the library.

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A quick iPhone shot. I’m not sure it’s possible to make chili look really great in a photograph, but I didn’t really try. I will probably never become a stellar food photographer because I like to eat more than I like to shoot. How do these people take pictures and let their food get cold? They are devoted to the craft, my friends. I’m not there yet. My devotion lies with the food.

Beef, Bean and Hominy Chili with Cilantro Sour Cream from Melissa Clark

Serves 8

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 lbs ground beef (I used 1 lb beef, 1 lb bison)
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped (I used a white onion on my counter)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded & chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded & finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chili powder (I used ~80% ancho chili powder and 20% regular chili powder- any powder will work, but a mix of special ones will add to the depth of flavors)
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 12-ounce bottle dark beer (I used an oatmeal stout)
  • 1 30-ounce can hominy, drained
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican (I used normal)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or chives

1) Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over high heat. Brown half the beef until it is cooked through. Break it up with a fork to help it cook evenly. Transfer it to a large plate or bowl using slotted spoon, and season it with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Drain the fat from the pan and repeat this step with the other half of the meat.

2) Return the pot to the stove (after most of the fat has been drained) and add the remaining oil. Stir in the onion and peppers and cook until softened, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili powder and cook until fragrant, about two minutes. Add the tomatoes, cooked beef, stock, beer, hominy, beans, oregano, bay leaf, and remaining 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low, simmering until thickened. This will take anywhere from one to two hours. Try not to rush it, though. The length only helps the flavors meld.

3) Stir together the sour cream and cilantro or chives prior to serving. To serve, top off a bowl of the chili with a spoonful of the sour cream! And don’t forget the cornbread!*

*I served my all-time favorite cornbread recipe in muffin form. This cornbread is wonderfully moist, a little tangy, buttery and slightly sweet. It offset the slight heat of the chili perfectly. If you’ve never browned butter before, Michael Natkin has a lovely video tutorial that should help you feel more comfortable. It’s a great thing to learn–it makes almost everything with butter in it taste better. (Cookies, rice crispy treats, scones, you name it.)

 

 

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