This Christmas, I was most fortunate to receive the wonderful gift of the Cook’s Illustrated magazine. I first found out about the magazine through my former boss (and fellow foodie) Samantha, of the wonderful organization The SAMFund (if you know a 17-35 year old cancer survivor in need of cash, pass that link along), and for that I will remain forever grateful (and full of delicious food).
Cook’s is a scientific approach to the art of cooking—each recipe presented has been carefully researched and tested. How do you get a perfect thin crust on your pizza? What makes cookies come out unevenly cooked? What is the best kind of paring knife? All of these questions are answered in the January/February issue of the bimonthly magazine.
As is this one: How do you make the best, most delicious chili? The article walks the reader through a thorough round of testing before settling on some firm fundamentals:
- Don’t use canned beans, they get too mushy.
- Make your own chili powder/paste, if possible.
- Your secret ingredients should be cornmeal, molasses, cocoa powder, and beer.
This weekend, I tried out the recipe on a crew of willing victims/testers. Little did they know I would deviate from the recipe, in classic Sarah form. Unable to bear the danger of getting chili oil on my hands from dried chilies (and having a hard time finding the ancho and arbol chilies called for), I went for the less-recommended substitution of commercial chili and cayenne powder. While it would’ve been fun to make my own paste, this method was easier and faster.
I also opted not to cook my chili in the oven. Although “opt” is really not an appropriate verb. More like, “went to the hardware store to get that ceramic Dutch oven I’ve always wanted and then nearly fainted from the price tag.” While I still want that Dutch oven, I don’t think $269 is an appropriate amount of money to spend on it. I’m sure the internet will yield one for cheaper. Maybe if I get a good deal on my Kitchen Aid, I can spend the rest of my credit card points on that. (Mmm, fantasy kitchenware shopping…)
However, those two variances aside, the chili came out GREAT! It didn’t taste overly tomato-y or greasy, it tasted smokey and meaty. Definitely never using ground beef in a chili again—pieces of tender blade steak were so good. We served it with some cornbread, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and cilantro. And some beer.