Saturday, January 24, 2009

Henry Chili

Mimi mentioned that they made a huge batch of chili today. This is good news because Bobo is feeling better and he is up to a cooking project. As you will see this is no small project. For a while I thought Michigan winter might be winning but I think my parents have risen to the challenge. They are battling winter with the big guns - Chili. Before you email me asking for the recipe I will grant your fervent wish. But first a little Henry culinary history.

Twenty to thirty years ago my family got the chili bug. We tried many recipes and made endless pots of chili. In order to further our quest for the ultimate chili they purchased a paperback cookbook of chili recipes. It had many kinds of chili and one was my favorite - Texas Jailhouse Chili. It was no bean - true to Texas. Very good. I think it was a bit out there for some midwest tastes but good none the less. It was one of the great ones out of many tried. We ate a lot of chili over many happy occasions and created some traditions. Of course we ate chili on Sunday while watching football.

I make chili very year and use the recipe Mimi and Bobo perfected. This year while preparing to make the big batch, I started thinking about that old cookbook. I went on-line and after searching and searching I finally found the Holy Grail - that very same cookbook from the 70's. I was so excited. I clearly thought I'd found the answer to the vital questions of life. I proudly called Mimi and Bobo and after announcing my incredible find Bobo said, "If you wanted that cookbook we would have given you our copy". Bobo always manages to plant my feet back on earth! So much for finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Mimi and Bobo were chili researchers extraordinaire. Bobo pursued this as diligently as he does most things in life. Mimi made sure everything was there and at the ready for chili cooking. The pot of chili "gold" at the end of their rainbow was a chili blend. Two recipes rose to the top of the pile. One was the recipe for Chasen's chili and the other was Polly Bergen's recipe. Polly Bergen is a star of "B" movies and TV. She appeared on the TV series The Winds of War and most recently played Lynnette Scavo's alcoholic mother on Desperate Housewives. Chasen's was a famous Hollywood restaurant that catered to the stars. Dave Chasen's chili was beloved by many. Elizabeth Taylor would call Dave at the restaurant and have the chili shipped to her wherever she was. My Dad was never a fan of Elizabeth Taylor but the one thing he agreed with her about was the chili.

Henry Chili

3 cloves minced garlic
2 T. vegetable oil
4 lbs. round steak ground
6 large onions chopped
4 large green peppers chopped
3 1 lb. cans of tomatoes
4 1 lb. cans of red kidney beans
2 6 oz. cans of tomato paste
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 C. parsley
1 1/2 tsp.ground cumin
1/2 C.+ chili powder
1 tsp. vinegar
3 dashes of cayenne pepper
3 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. ground pepper

In a BIG pot heat oil and saute garlic. Add the round steak and cook until it is no longer pink. Pour off some of the fat in to a large skillet and saute the onions and green peppers until tender. Put the vegetables into the pot with the ground round. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Cover and cook over low heat at a gentle simmer for 1 hour. If too dry add additional tomatoes.Simmer some more.

This makes a large amount of chili but it's one of those things that just gets better with age. I always freeze some and enjoy through the winter. I have even doubled the recipe to be sure I could make it through the winter.

More recently I've taken a few liberties with the recipe. Sometimes I cut the steak into small cubes for a different texture. I've use fire roasted tomatoes and cooked pintos from dried beans. I also took the chili powder and used half ancho and half chipotle powder but that is just me. The Texan Miss Lee says this is the best chili she's ever eaten. Now that's a worthy endorsement!

I would crawl across the desert to eat this with my wonderful family and be overjoyed to share this with them and others I love. It is a shock and awe experience!

1 comment:

  1. if miss texas lee likes it, it must be good. i love your recipes for recipes. that is because the story behind the recipe is so delicious. why a family dish is developed is so interesting.

    i make sloppy joes the way my mom cooks them. in some mysterious amounts, i use pickle juice, leftover coffee, and other 'on the spot' ingredients. but one thing you will neve find in my or in shirley's sloppy joes... green peppers. after all, that is not part of the traditional treat.