Saturday is usually my day to make soup for Friends at Bulls Head Meeting, but yesterday, I was in New York City for the memorial meeting of a member of the meeting, Adam Pinsker. As a result, I didn't get home in time to make the soup. Fortunately, many other Bulls Head Friends were also present and they were very understanding.
This week, the weather here in the Hudson Valley has started to get wintery. Although we haven't had snow yet, as some other parts of the U.S. has, it has been cold enough to bring me into a mood for chili.
The soups I've been writing about on this blog have not been spicy so far because I've been cooking for a variety of palettes, but when I cook for myself it's all about the heat. I'm serious about my love of peppery heat and if it doesn't have burn, for me, it's not much worth eating. Making chili is a chance to really indulge my love of hotness.
I've done a bit of observation about hot food in myself and I've checked them out with friends. There is a lot more subtly to the experience of heat than simply the Scoville rating. It seems that different kinds of hot food effect different areas of the mouth. I feel jalapenos and other hot green chilies right in the front of my mouth, including the lips and the tip of the tongue. The red, ripe chilies such as cayenne and many used in Chinese foods are felt primarily in the back of the throat and seem to have a delayed and accumulating effect. Yellow banana peppers and those pickled in vinegar, I feel right in the middle of the tongue. Horseradish, fresh radishes, mustards, and wasabi hurt so good in the sinus cavities. I feel black pepper in the top of my palette and the back of my throat.
What I've noticed in dining with friends is that individual people seem to be more sensitive in different places to different kinds of heat. One friend who can barely tolerate paprika can dowse her sushi with wasabi. I, who can tolerate extreme levels of heat with red and yellow chilies, am only moderately bad-ass when it comes to green Serrano chilies.
What I aim for when I make chili is to tickle the heat sensors, no matter where you are most sensitive. So, I use green jalepenos, red cayenne, ground black pepper, hot yellow banana peppers, and wasabi powder to cover ALL the bases. I don't want anyone to feel left out from feeling the heat. Hence the name: Full Spectrum Chili.
One more thing before I get into the actually making of the chili. It's about heat, but it's not ONLY about heat. It has to taste good too.
Here's how I make it:
I heat a bit of olive oil in the bottom of my soup pot. Then I add 2 large cloves of chopped garlic, a large chopped onion and a pound of lean ground turkey. While it's browning, I break the meat up with my cooking paddle and cut up a large green bell pepper (see, not everything is hot). When the meat is cooked, I throw in the pepper. Next I pour in a large (28 oz) can of whole tomatoes with the juice. I used canned products in this pot of chili because it's winter and that's what's available. If fresh is available, I would use it. I break the tomatoes up coarsely with my cooking paddle and then add a large (28 oz) can of diced tomatoes and an 8 oz can of chopped green chili peppers, both with their juice and an 8 oz can of tomato sauce. These chilis are not hot, but add a wonderful rich flavor that complements the green bell peppers well. I drain and rinse 2 15.5 oz cans of red kidney beans and add them. If the resulting mixture seems too thick, I will add a bit of tomato juice or water at this stage, know that it will thicken more as it cooks.
The fun part comes with seasoning the chili. I don't measure anything, but throw these things in and taste often, knowing that the flavors will improve as they have time to mingle. The tasting is mostly to make sure it result is hot enough, but not too hot and that I haven't forgotten anything.
Here's what goes in:
- A couple of liberal dashes of Worcestershire sauce.
- A generous couple of tablespoons of ground cumin. This is essential for deliciousness.
- About the same quantity of chili powder.
- Ground or crushed oregano.
- 2 or 3 chopped fresh jalapenos or equivalent preserved green hot peppers. Use the seed and insides if you really like heat.
- One or more of these: crushed red pepper, ground cayenne, Tabasco sauce, or Sriracha sauce (also known affectionately as 'Rooster sauce').
- A good handful of pickled hot yellow banana peppers, chopped, with a shot of juice.
- A hit of dry wasabi powder.
- About 2 Tbs granulated white sugar.
- A couple really generous shakes of black pepper.
- Adobo seasoning. I use this instead of salt because it tastes better.
- A couple of spoonfuls of recaito base. You could add fresh chopped cilantro after cooking instead.