Today never dawned–not really. From the time I left my house until the night set in, the world was bathed in that eerie, half-light–an unending twilight. There was no sun, there were no impressive thunderstorms, just a vague, shiftless gray and a steady, freezing rain.
I hate days like today when I have to be a part of them. As the day “dawned” (if you can call it that..), I peered through my car windshield and just wished to be back home, wrapped up in an old sweatshirt and my funny, homemade quilts, reading a book and drinking coffee. Today was the sort of day designed for scuffling around in house slippers and watching Netflix. Today was not the sort of day for fighting the good fight with students more anxious to be on vacation than I am.
Today was, however, the sort of day to make chili.
Chili is one of those dishes that “sticks to the ribs,” as they say, it warms you up from the inside out–your own personal defense against the bitterly cold (and cruel, depending on the situation) world outside. It is a dish designed for the northern tier, where I live. I am amazed that anyone south of the Mason-Dixon has ever even eaten chili. As any good Northerner will tell you–chili just doesn’t taste as good when it is 75 and sunny out. Chili is a dish you make on days like today–when sleet is blowing in 40 mph winds because the clouds can’t make up their minds and commit to either snow or rain. Today was definitely a chili day. (It was also a chilly day, for the record.)
It’s probably good that I do live in the frozen north, because I LOVE chili I love it. I must have a million different chili recipes, and I spend all the long winter months mulching through them like locusts through the harvest. I have white chili, chicken chili, CrockPot chili, spicy chili, mild chili, vegetarian chili, chili with stew beef, chili with ground. Chili with black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, no beans. Then there are the variations of dishes to be made with chili: chili pie, chili-polenta casserole, and chili chip dip. I am basically like the Hallmark Card Company of chili recipes. I have one for every occasion.
So, needing to clear out my fridge and fight the evil of lingering winter in one fell swoop, I naturally skipped all of these recipes and trolled up a new one on the internet. Originally, I thought it would be a great chance to give a shout out to another blog…until I realized that I had literally changed every ingredient in either essence or quantity. (I also added about three other things.)
It started out when the grocery story I went to was out of the kind of ground beef I wanted…so I got ground turkey. Then they only carried pinto beans in a larger can–what am I going to do with half a can of pinto beans? So I used it all. Then I threw in the green pepper I had before it could go bad…doubled the garlic…added cumin…doubled the amount of beer it called for (so much easier to just use a whole bottle) and switched from a stout to a cream ale (because it’s what I had…) Then I added a can of tomato sauce, and those chipotle peppers in adobo sauce…because they were there…and suddenly I had a completely different recipe.
Chili is a great place to experiment with flavors, I think. It’s hard to screw it up to the point it’s beyond consumption. It’s got a basic flavor outline to follow, and then you can sort of go nuts–add your cinnamon or cocoa or whatever you like. Plus, if it goes really wrong, you can always add cheese…or sour cream…or chives or whatever. (Or mix it with some Velveeta and serve it with chips and then nobody will notice.)
I like doing that. I like going off book in a recipe. I feel like that’s where you really learn to cook–how you figure out what steps you can skip or modify and what you can’t. What flavors blend well together. How long is really the time you should simmer that pot. (With chili, of course, you know the answer is the longer the better…) It’s empowering. It’s creative.
Plus it’s a great way to fend of the Winter Blues.
If you’d like to try out my new Invent-a-Chili, you can check it out on the drop down menu under the “Recipes” tab. It’s easy. Also yummy. And please, feel free to completely change it because of what you’ve got in the house… 🙂