EVENT: Steph’s NYC Homecoming
VENUE: Phoebe Parents’ Apartment, Upper West Side
PARTY SIZE: 10
TYPE: Raucous Chili Dinner Party
MENU: Ali’s Southwestern Artichoke Dip; Chips and Salsa; Classic Chili Con Carne; Arugula Salad with Cilantro-Citrus Vinaigrette; Cornbread
Chili and I go way back. As far as BGSK is concerned, all the way back to our second post ever, when Keith and I hosted our first ever chili cook-off. It’s become my go-to for entertaining a large group of friends—which to the dismay of my aging self and this site, is not something I do quite as much of anymore now that Caitlyn and I don’t live together. But for festive occasions that call for a crowd, like, say, my 25th birthday, it’s a formula I continue to rely on. (A formula you can follow with this menu).
So when my friend Steph was visiting a few weeks ago, in the spirit of nostalgia and making her feel right back at home in New York with all her friends, you can guess what I cooked. Without Rodrigo, Steph’s n husband, accompanying her, I knew I could go a little rogue and depart from my usual chipotle deliciousness that had been the key to getting Rodrigo to put on his big grin.
This time I decided to make real chili—the down and dirty kind. i.e. the kind that resembles the inside of a taco bell chalupa, and is usually topped with shredded Cracker Barrel and Fritos. Only my version was nothing like that.
I stuck with the basic model of classic chili con carne: ground beef, kidney beans, and chili powder. I was pleased to find in my research that few chili con carne recipes included beer or whiskey, which, until becoming gluten-free, I would have considered a prerequisite for a good bowl of chili. Luckily I didn’t have to skimp on my other must-have ingredient: bacon. But the key to this recent experiment was really in the chili powder. I’ve been using a great ground ancho chile and it’s proved to be the perfect level of heat to complement the mild, fresh kick of jalapeños without melting your face off.
Even without Rodrigo there to help, we quickly polished off the whole pot. Though the dinner went fast, friends stayed long—like, too long. As Josh and I unplugged the iPhone speakers and sponged off the table with people were still sitting around it, it not only occurred to me that I should do this more often, but that I’m getting old, and going to need to start my parties earlier.
I celebrated my 26th birthday yesterday. And though I did not do it with chili, I am excited to be adding yet another year to my quarter-lifedom with another virtual bowl of this new and improved version.
From my kitchen, looking forward to another year of good friends and hot chili, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Classic Chili Con Carne
Makes 8 servings
Since Chili Con Carne doesn’t have any booze in it, it’s gluten free.
6 ounces bacon, chopped (or more, if you are prone to snacking)
2 medium red onions, finely chopped (1/3 cup reserved for garnish)
3 pounds ground beef
2 jalapenos, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp chili powder (i used ground ancho chile)
2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
3 tsp salt
One 28 ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes
2 cups beef broth (plus more if needed)
2 15-ounce can kidney or pinto beans (or one of each), drained and rinsed
1 lime, juiced
Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish
In a large Dutch oven, brown the bacon over medium-high heat. When the bacon pieces are brown and have rendered their fat, remove to a plate. Add the onions to the pan. Saute until tender, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. Push the onions to the sides of the pan and add the beef to the center. Turn the heat to high. Brown the beef, breaking it apart with your spatula, until it has a nice color to it, and most pieces are cooked.
Add the jalapeno, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until the spices are fragrant, about two minutes. Pour the tomatoes and the broth over the meat mixture. Scrape up any additional brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down to the lowest possible heat, cover, and cook for 1 ½ hours.
If the chili is sticking to the bottom of the pot, add 1 cup more broth. Stir to combine.
Stir in the beans and lime juice, and simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or heat as needed. Serve with cilantro leaves, shredded cheddar cheese, and finely chopped onions for garnish.