October in Santa Cruz: 70-80 degree weather engages in a battle with the coastal fog. Usually they settle this amicably and agree to take turns. In terms of dinner (because it’s all about the food), this means a week of barbecues followed by a week of chili and soup, or “earthquake weather,” as we call it, after the big quake of ’89.
On the evening of October 17th, the warmth had defeated the fog. It was 5:04 pm, and as my mom, brother (age 2 1/2), and I (age 5) were eating pasta with pesto, the house began to shake with a violent rumble, and everything in my vision became a blur. I remember running to the door frame as my mom got my brother out of his high chair, and we heard glasses and dishes breaking in the kitchen. It seemed to last forever. My glass of milk that had accompanied the pesto pasta made its way out to the front yard with the rest of us, where it sat precariously on a white patio table. I remember trying to drink it an hour after the quake, but it tasted warm and wasn’t very appealing. To this day, whenever I taste milk that’s slightly warmer than fridge temp, I think “Earthquake!”
Here we find ourselves enjoying another warm week in October, 22 years later (I just dated myself) and we just so happened to have two small earthquakes in the Bay Area yesterday. I told you it’s earthquake weather! Even though weeks like this cry out for burgers and hot dogs, we crave chili, a symbol of the season, and we love the comfort that it brings, knowing that it’s only a matter of time before the fog returns.
You know what else brings comfort? A post-chili walk on the beach on one of those warm evenings, paired with a magnificent sunset. Moments like these make living on a fault line worth it.
This was the first bean-less chili recipe we’ve ever made, but now I understand why this type of chili is popular in Texas. Hearty ground beef and green chiles are the stars of this chili, which is seasoned with a homemade chili powder and thickened with pureed fried corn tortillas. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get our hands on Hatch chiles, the kind that chef Tim Love recommends, but we used Anaheim instead, one of the recommended substitutions.
Still looking for a chili recipe for Halloween? This might have to be the one. Who knows if it will be chilly or balmy; earthquake or no earthquake. Either way, October calls for chili. It’s not the prettiest dish in the world, but we thought that some minced jalapeño and crispy fried corn tortilla strips added some aesthetic appeal. You can make this chili up to 4 days ahead of time – store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator and gently reheat before serving. Serves 6.
Beef & Green Chile Chili
(From the Oct/Nov 2011 issue of Fine Cooking; by Tim Love)
For the Spice Mixture:
2 dried guajillo chiles
1-1/2 TBS. ground cumin
1 TBS. freshly ground black pepper
1 TBS. granulated sugar
2-1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1-1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. kosher salt
3/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
For the Chili:
8 large fresh Hatch chiles (or Anaheim or Cubanelle chiles)
1-1/2 lb. 85%- to 90%-lean ground beef
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 6-inch fresh corn tortillas, quartered
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, halved, cored, and coarsely chopped
2 to 3 medium jalapeños, finely chopped
2 small cloves garlic, minced
3 TBS. all-purpose flour
5 cups lower-salt chicken broth, heated
- Make the spice mixture – Stem, seed, and grind the chiles to a powder (we used a coffee grinder); you should have about 1 TBS. In a medium bowl, combine the chile powder with the remaining spice mixture ingredients.
- Position an oven rack about 4 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Place the chiles on a large, heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet and broil, turning with tongs as needed, until charred on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the chiles to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until cool enough to handle. With gloved hands, peel, seed, and finely chop the chiles; set aside.
- Put the ground beef in a large bowl. Mix in 3 TBS. of the spice mixture.
- Line a plate with paper towels. Heat the oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy-duty pot over high heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring often, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef to a medium bowl and set aside.
- Put the tortillas in the hot oil and fry on both sides, turning occasionally with tongs, until golden-brown and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the tortillas to the paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add 1 1/2 cups of the onions and the remaining spice mixture to the pot. Cook for 15 seconds, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan. Add 1/2 cup of the roasted chiles, half of the bell peppers, and half the jalapeños. Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the green peppers are softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
- Stir the flour into the vegetable mixture and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add 1 cup of the broth, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan until no lumps remain. Add the remaining 4 cups of broth and 1 TBS. salt. Stir and bring to a boil.
- While the mixture comes to a boil, transfer 1 cup of the broth mixture to a food processor. Crumble in the fried tortillas and process until the tortillas are finely chopped. Pour the tortilla-broth mixture back into the pot and stir in the remaining onions, bell peppers, and the meat.
- Return the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low to low and simmer, stirring occasionally and skimming the surface as needed, until the chili is thick, about 50 minutes.
- Stir in the remaining roasted chiles and jalapeños and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Skim off any oil that rises to the surface. Season to taste with salt. Garnish with crispy fried corn tortilla strips and minced jalapeno to taste, and serve warm corn tortillas on the side.