Chili Willi

It’s flooding outside right now, because apparently Texas only has two modalities of moisture: dust bowl, tumbleweed, ant-crusading, hell-like cracks in the Earth drought, or hahahaha you can’t go outside, all the dirt is washing out of your flower beds onto the pavement, if you drive you’ll likely drown, insistent flooding. Special, no? I’ve been told that the reasoning behind this is even more spectacularly bad–the ground gets so dry during the drought that it physically can’t soak up the water from the floods. Simply stunning, mother nature.

But here’s where it gets even more thigh-slappingly humorous: if you elect to drive during the floods, and if you end up getting carried away by the 97 degree rapids that swirl around the major highway systems, you don’t get rescued so much as you get fined. $500. Seriously. So you must either drown, or pay up. Those are your flood-driving options. But who’s dumb enough to see a sign that says “flood waters, turn around” and continue to drive on through in a Geo Metro or whatever?

Possibly me. Because every time I see their signs that say “watch for ice on bridge” I burst into paroxysms of laughter so severe that I have to pull over to the side of the road, lest my mirth causes me to crash into the Alamo. And that’d be fine, except for I’m not going to lay eyes on the Alamo. Ever. Ice on bridge? Yeah-effing-right.

But the good news is that when life hands you flood waters (proving that God promised no more floods to everyone except for Texas, which also explains why I’ve never seen a rainbow here, when they show up every afternoon back home), you should take advantage of being stuck indoors and make something hearty and cold-weathery. I mean, it LOOKS cold outside, so you can almost delude yourself if you keep the doors closed and the AC on and turn off all the lights. And delete the WeatherBug app from your iPhone.

And given that I purchased and canned a full bushel of fire-roasted Hatch chiles a couple of months ago, I settled on green chili (chili verde). This time, you’ll even get a recipe for it. I HIGHLY recommend that you give it a shot, since it’s delicious and fiery and cheap and makes incredible leftovers. I’ll give you the vegetarian green chili, though you’d be more than welcome to use the meat adaptation I’ve included if you aren’t a vegetarian, and if you like it meaty. We did veg, since it was one of our two veg days this week.

Super-easy green chili (serves probably 6 as a main course, or two people plus plenty for cheesy green chili dip)

2 lbs whole anaheim or hatch green chiles (you may toss in some poblanos, if you wish)
1 (27 oz) can of chopped, fire-roasted green chiles
1 large or two small onions, diced
1 lb fresh tomatoes, chopped, or 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 T butter or oil
2 T flour
2 C veg or chicken stock
2 t ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Method: Set the oven to broil and allow to heat up for a few minutes. On a cookie sheet (without parchment paper), lay out your peppers. Put them in the oven, and watch them carefully. You want the skin to blister and turn black in spots, but not to burn the flesh of the pepper inside. Turn them occasionally to blister on all sides. When they’re done, remove them and place them immediately in a plastic bag. Seal and set aside.

In a stockpot, heat oil or butter over medium-high heat until it starts to shimmer. Add onions and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure they don’t burn. Add cumin, 2 t salt, and flour and stir constantly for 1 minute to cook out the raw flavor of the flour. Add tomatoes and stir for 1 minute, then add stock and stir the brown bits up from the bottom of the pan. Allow the mixture to return to a simmer.

While waiting, remove the chiles from the bag. They should have been sitting about 5-10 minutes at this point, and the skin should slip right off of them. Peel, stem, and seed the peppers, leaving as many seeds as you like to achieve a higher spice level in the final chili. Dice the chiles fairly small–a big hunk of chile can overpower a bite with spice if you’ve got spicy chiles. Add the diced chile flesh, plus any juices from the plastic bag, into the pot and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, taste, and adjust salt as necessary. Keep in mind that you’ll be reducing this by about 1/3, so your salt level will be more concentrated than it currently tastes.

Allow this to simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour, adding stock if it reduces by more than 1/3. Taste again for spice and salt, and adjust as necessary. Serve it up!

Serving suggestions: Serve it in a bowl topped with shredded jack cheese, chopped cilantro and fresh, warm tortillas. Or, toast a tortilla, cover it with black beans and cheese–I used cotija and queso fresco– and then pour green chili over the top to make a fantastic tostada of sorts. Leftovers can be made into green chili cheese dip by heating 4 cups of chili with 1 lb of shredded jack or mozzarella, stirring periodically until it’s all melty and combined. Serve that with tortilla chips and Broncos football and your guests will be so thrilled that they’ll buy you a pony.

To make this meaty, replace the butter/oil with one of the following:

Bacon–render the bacon until it’s crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Use the bacon drippings to cook the onions and garlic as in the recipe above and continue as written. Then, at the end, stir in the crispy bacon before serving.

Fatty pork–This is the most traditional way to make green chili. Just brown the pork in the butter/oil until it’s got a delicious, caramel-colored crust. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe as written.

Pork fat–Use this instead of butter or oil and continue as written.

Aruba, Jamaica, Oooooh I wanna take you to Bermuda, Tostada, come on pretty momma!

Green chili is really traditional for New Mexico, as opposed to Old Mexico (Texas), but is delicious regardless, and works well with Old Mexican flavors and breads. I recommend making a triple batch and then freezing portions in ziplock baggies. That way, if you have a burrito or tamale or enchiladas, you can just reheat the chili and pour it over the top of your meal as a sauce. Your belly will thank you, and probably so will your thighs if you use the vegetarian version–it’s very low in calories and has several servings of fruits and veggies.

Also, chances are much higher that you’ll be invited to board your friendly neighborhood ark if you’re carrying something as delicious and fragrant as green chili.

4 thoughts on “Chili Willi”

  1. Woooo….If I had a bowl of that chili cheese dip, I might actually be able to sit through a football game. That's brilliant. I'd be so focussed on chili, cheese and chips that I wouldn't even NOTICE people shouting and cheering all around me! Good thing there are several months for me to perfect this food-substitution-for-boredom strategy before Superbowl.

    Also, your tortillas look really good. Did you make them yourself? Please say no, considering that I posted about how to alter store bought ice cream this morning.

  2. Man, Texas just keeps sounding worse and worse. We get rain, but it's never so…intense. I like to call it "shit mist" because you can never find the right setting on your windshield wipers to deal with it. Actual solid RAIN is not so common as everyone thinks up in these here parts.

    That aside, I LOVE chili. Yours looks good. I like your idea of using it as a sauce on stuff. Stuff is always better with sauce.

  3. That was highly entertaining. My borther once said (while living in TX) that if the world needed an enema – that is where they would put it. All colon jokes aside – I made some really delicious traditional chili (beans, meat etc) the other day that I put honey bbq sauce into – dont ask me why – it was impulse – and it was delicious. It gave it a nice smokey taste with this sweet kick at the end that was just delightful.

  4. Tsk Tsk Kristie, You have to TADD those flooded roadways.

    Get used to the crap ass rain amounts too–we're heading into an El Nino effect which usually, at least for the Austin area, means every day in November will be cloudy and rainy, and not nearly as cold as you're expecting because you come from Colorado where clouds in winter usually mean that it is cold not 80 degrees with 98% humidity.

    Also, with the ice, it does occasionally happen. Maybe once a year the bridges will get iced over, and then it will be High-larious because the Texans do not know what Ice is and they will shut down the entire city so as to make sure that no one will be on those iced over bridges…thus making their signs pointless.

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