Monthly ArchiveDecember 2009
Seasonal Cooking 13 Dec 2009 10:30 pm
In Brooklyn this week the temperatures dropped below freezing for the first time: Winter is here. It means the last of my seasonal favorites will disappear from the farmers markets, and I’ll be subsisting on root vegetables until ramps, rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries reappear in May. But it also means it’s the time of year for the hearty, bracing cold weather fare I love: hot soups, casseroles, peppery, flour-thickened, fortifying stews, and of course chili. Chili’s good year-round, but for me it goes down especially well on cold fall and winter days. It’s food to eat while watching snow fall through a frosted kitchen window.
A steaming bowl of chili, topped with shredded cheese and sour cream (and my personal favorite, sliced avocados), doused with Tabasco, and served with a hunk of cornbread, is truly a delight. But chili is an extremely versatile dish — having a batch on hand in the fridge gives you the starting point for any number of quick dishes. There’s the chili dog, of course, and chili mac, and chili cheese fries. I love to use chili as filling for an omelet (served up with sweet-potato home fries), or for quesadillas or tacos. Sometimes I’ll poach a couple of eggs directly in a skillet of bubbling chili and wrap them in hot tortillas for a quick Dave’s Kitchen version of tex-mex huevos rancheros. I’ll also layer scoops of chili with tortilla chips & grated cheese and bake them into a plate of nachos.
What exactly is chili? Is it even possible to answer that question? There are certainly purist definitions of what chili is or isn’t, but really there are more definitions, variations, and recipes for chili than you can begin to imagine. A search for ‘chili’ on Epicurious brings up 1095 results. There are vegetarian chilis and all-meat chilis. Red, green and white chilis. Mild chilis and deathly hot chilis. In recent chili cookoffs here in Brooklyn, winning chilis featured pozole and pineapple. Some serve chili on spaghetti. In the house where I grew up, we ate chili over white rice.
The possibilities for chili recipes can be as unlimited as your imagination, or they can be bound by the contents of your pantry, or maybe both. This past week I thought I’d make a batch of chili to use up some things in my freezer. There was chorizo left over from this summer’s hot dog cookoff and chicken leg-and-thigh quarters left from god knows what. I also found some farmer’s market sweet corn that I’d put up in August. I began to notice a pattern as all those ‘c’s added up, and so I went with it: toasted cumin seeds, minced cilantro, and diced carrot went into the pot as well. The chili had a deep red color from the chorizo, and a satisfyingly hearty flavor from the chicken, which I browned directly in the rendered chorizo fat, fricasee style. With a pack of tortillas, a chunk of cheddar cheese, a ripe avocado and a carton of eggs, this batch of chili kept me going all week. Now, if we could only get some snow.
Here’s a recipe for Chicken - Chorizo Chili — Enjoy!