Friday, October 28, 2011

Fartless Chili For A Cold Night

Trick or Treat, when I was a kid,...those were the days! We lived in a safe neighborhood in a relatively safe little town, and us girls had our buddy system for "safety in numbers". We had our bases covered. Our older brothers set off, far enough away from us that we didn't actually see them do anything. But, it was a given that we just knew who was soaping up the car windows and throwing eggs at the houses. It wasn't worth getting our asses kicked for telling. It all came out in the wash, right? No harm, no foul.
None of us were accompanied by adults and we were free to be as silly as we wanted for as long as we could endure it. Oh man. Life was good. At least it was for a few hours.
In the late 1950's, Halloween was a candy coup de tat. The tolerant adults who opened their doors, time and time again, were also generous adults who gave us full-sized Hershey Bars, and very good candy, and whole packs of chewing gum. After a visit to every compliant house within a 1/2 mile radius, we would return home with our booty and feeling rich with an entire shopping bag full of sweet treasures. Oh yeah, home with the stash! For the most part, we had very cool neighbors on Halloween, and there was always one in a witch costume with her cauldron of dry ice made dramatic by many purple and green lights all over the place. It was fun to see someone's mom roll with it like that.

Our mom allowed us to keep the booty in our rooms with us. This worked out well for me because there was as much joy in counting it as there was pleasure in eating it. This was the beginning of my learning about advertising layouts and logos.No shit. I was a serious kid with an arty appetite as to how it all worked, no matter the medium. And along with Halloween came The Sugar Buzz. Oh, FUN.
And I showed the adults a thing or two about self-discipline. Never ruined my appetite for dinner and ate every bite on the plate. Grandmother Jeanette was new to this concept coming from me. And she didn't think it was such a good idea for my mom to be permissive as to allow us kids to keep it all in our rooms. My elders were fascists.
Then something happened to Halloween as we knew it, as like everything else since the murder of JFK. Everything changed so drastically, it made me sick to my stomach a lot. There began a big media to-do about razor blades hidden in apples, and every piece of candy had to be inspected for needle holes in the wrappers,and an adult had to accompany the kids for Trick or Treat, and the candy bars became bite-sized, and the other candy tasted terrible. The street became mean and my mother did a flip flop of opinion, deciding that it was the Devil's holiday, therefore I was no longer allowed to do Trick or Treat. She wasn't religious until I was in my 40's, so, where was this coming from? Yup. Everything and everyone....changed. That era died...

One of the cool things about living in the mountains is that there are no Trick or Treaters. It isn't pretty to think what could happen to these short little freaks in the dark of evening, scaring the skunks, perplexing the bears and disturbing the natural order of things that go bump in the night. And it is hello-nippy cold on Halloween night. Top all of that with that there are no streetlights whatsoever and there are long distances between houses, you can bank on it that there won't be Trick or Treaters. Nice saving$ right there. So you are free to exhale and kick back.
A small town with a population of 1,500, a virtual drive-thru of cuteness from the Gold Rush Days, it isn't without its Halloween spirit (more of a truth than a pun). "Uptown", there are merchants open and one place all doodeed up for the little ones to get their monster boogie on and depart with a pittance of crappy candy, all in the name of good fun for all. Some of the adults enjoy the hell out of dressing up in costume and acting retarded. And yes, it can be scary! Two of our better friends love it so much, they got married Oct. 31. Mr. P and I tied the legal knot the day before, but it had nothing to do with that obvious day of orange and black.

Mr. P likes to sow cow in the kitchen, adding a little of this, and a sprinkle of that until his witch's brew begets hop toads of flavor. A bowlful of his warm chili, sprinkled on top with finely chopped onion and piled high with grated cheddar cheese is a big hug on a cold night.

Pink Elephants coffee Cafe

Note: If you prefer to make your own beans:
Use 1/2 small bag of pinto beans and 1/2 small bag of pink beans. Toss into colander and rinse well, making sure to remove any little rocks, bean casings, lizard heads and dirt. Place cleaned beans in a large, non-reactive (steel or enamel) pot and cover with water up to 2" higher than the beans. Cover and let soak overnight. DO NOT SALT THE BEANS. Salting makes them tough. When ready to cook, the next day, drain beans of water in colander, put beans back in pot and fill will fresh water to 2" above the beans. Bring to the boil and stir, then lower heat to low medium and cook for 2 hours. If water boils down too much, add more water to 2" above beans only once. The beans turn the water into a yummy bean juice and it thickens, which is what you want. When done, remove from heat and set aside. Use as indicated in recipe, omitting the 1/2 can of water in the recipe.
1# beef chuck (stew meat), cut into 1" pieces
1 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Brown paper bag, lunch-sized
1/4 cup cooking oil or meat lard
1 large (24 oz.) can Ranch Style Beans
1 medium can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes or 2 fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2 the empty can of water
2 Tbsp. chili powder (3 Tbsp. if using homemade beans)
2 Tbsp. cumin (3 Tbsp. if using homemade beans)
1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper ( add 1 1/2 tsp. more if using homemade beans)
1 Tbsp. onion powder (2 Tbsp. if using homemade beans)
1 Tbsp. garlic powder (2 Tbsp. if using homemade beans)
2 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. ground Mexican oregano (1 1/2 Tbsp. if using homemade beans)

1. Put beans, tomatoes and water in crock pot and stir well. Put on high heat.
2. Make a dredge of flour, salt and black pepper and shake it up in the brown bag. Toss in the meat pieces, a handful at a time, and shake to coat thoroughly. Place coated meat pieces on a plate while you heat up the oil/lard in a non-stick skillet on medium high heat. When oil/lard is hot, add coated meat pieces and fry to brown on all sides. Remove from heat
3. Add meat and all of the oil/lard with it to crock pot and stir well to mix all. When hot,add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and Mexican oregano. Stir well to distribute evenly. Cover and let simmer on low heat for 2 1/2 hours. Then turn off heat and salt to taste. Be careful not to salt too much if using canned beans.

note: You can find ground Mexican oregano at the supermarket in their isle of canned Mexican foods and Asian specialties. The spices are in small, clear bags on rack hooks.
This is a very nice mild chili. You can make it as hot as you like by adding thin slices of jalapenos, serranos, or Habaneros (Scotch Bonnets). But you don't want to add the pepper slices until 10 min. before end of cooking time, otherwise the pepper slices will turn into the consistency of snot without flavor. Garnish with chopped onions, pepper slices, grated cheese or crushed saltine crackers if you like.

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