Published Dec 8, 2004

Around this time of the year, when it turns cold and wet (for Los Angeles), there’s nothing like chili to warm the bones. And those bones I do like to warm, with my patented chemical warfare chili.

It’s not that my chili is filled with preservatives — I’m an all-natural guy — so much as the cooking process for this chili will drive burglars out of your home. And maybe friends.

Step 1: Chili Powder

Combine 2 parts cumin, 1 part ancho chile powder, 1 part new mexico chile powder, 1 part cayenne, 1 part oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.

My chili contains something for everyone: meat, beans, and tomato. And it’s pretty tasty. The basic concept starts from one realization. Some people say that chili is a soup, but who wants a watery chili? Others say that chili is a stew, but stew is chunks of goodness, separated from each other, in a liquid medium. Chili is neither of these; it doesn’t have clumps of texture or of flavor, and there’s no medium — everything is part of a single melange of flavor and texture. Chili, ladies and gentlemen, is most like a sauce. So, a sauce this is.

What’s the first thing you do when you make a sauce? Well, if you’re making a pan sauce, you deglaze; if you’re building a sauce from scratch, you make a mirepoix. Since this is the chili that has everything, we do all both!

Step 2: Brown The Meat

Caramelization = flavor! Mix two pounds of ground meat with 1/4-1/3 C of the chili powder. Brown in duch oven over medium-high heat; remove to plate covered with paper towels to soak up the oil. Deglaze with a small amount of chicken stock or beer. Watch out; this is one of the stages in which your housemates’ eyes will begin to burn and water.

Step 2.5: Make the mirepoix

Chop equal amounts carrot, onion, celery; you should end up with 1/2 — 2/3 the volume of the uncooked meat. Add a bay leaf and 3 chopped cloves of garlic, then mix in 1/8 — 1/6 C chili powder. Cook over medium-low heat, in a little oil, until the vegetables are soft and the onion is clear. This is the other stage in which those around you may begin to look like tear-gassed protesters.

Step 3: Combine

Add the meat back into the mirepoix. Add in 28 oz. beans of your choice (with all the liquid), 28 oz. crushed or chopped canned tomatoes (with all the liquid), 14 oz. tomato paste, some more of that beer or chicken stock. Mix well, bring to a simmer. If you really like a 5-alarm chili, add another 1/8 — 1/4 C of chili powder at this stage.

Step 4: Patience

As you cook the combination, the tomatoes and beans will release more liquid than you started out with. Rather than getting a watery chili, we’re going to put a splatterguard over the dutch oven and simmer the sucker for several hours until it’s all reduced down to a nice mixture with a relatively consistent texture and flavor — the texture and flavor of chili! The effect of the chili on those around you as you cook should moderate in this phase.

Step 5: Serve and eat!

Wait for the chili to cool a tad — it will be incredibly hot. Then taste it. Is it too darned spicy? Then serve over rice.

The best part, however, is tomorrow. Put the chili in the fridge overnight and the flavors will mellow and you’ll get a great, spicy, smoky flavor. Serve with cola or with a good, flavorful lager or hefeweizen.