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e_moon60

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Fast Fixes for Chili Problems [Dec. 12th, 2012|01:12 pm]
e_moon60
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Chili problems come in various types:  it's too hot, it's not hot enough, and not-enough leftovers you don't want to just pitch out.  Leftovers large enough for another bowl for everyone in the house--not a problem. 

If chili is too hot, and you have room in the pot, this is a time to ignore the beans/no beans Great Chili Divide and add a can of beans.  Beans dilute the heat.   I'm in the "no beans" chili camp, but if I had company coming and had accidentally dumped in a whole bottle of one of the hot elements...you bet I'd add beans.  The beans will need some simmering time to do their best, so simmer another 20-30 minutes.  Eat a bean and see what you think.

A big handful of saltine crackers crushed and stirred into the chili will also tame a moderately too-hot chili (and definitely will tame one that's just a tiny bit more than you wanted.  Bread does not work as well as crackers. 

If you don't have room in the pot, or don't want to add beans,  I just discovered two new ways to use chili that may help. with either leftovers or too-hot chili. 

  1.  Baked potato and chili.    Bake your russet potato while warming the chili and grating/shaving/dicing some cheese.   When the potato is nicely baked through, split and break up the interior a little.   Now add chili, put your cheese on top, and stir potato, chili, and cheese.   A dollop of ranch dressing (and I suppose sour cream or crema would work as well)  also takes the heat out and tastes really good with the potato.   I had this for supper last night, and not because the chili was too hot--we didn't have enough chili left.  But I noticed the chili didn't have any bite left.    (You can also--if you have boiling potatoes and not baking potatoes--boil up some potatoes, break them up with a fork, and put the chili and cheese and whatever else over them in a bowl.)


  2. Cornish pasty-inspired chili pasty.   I had some leftover pie dough, still flexible...so I spooned some chili (maybe 4-5 tablespoons?) and some grated cheese onto one half of a sort-of-circle of pastry, folded it over, made the twist closure, and put it in a 350F oven.   This time I used the last spoonfuls of cold chili so I could clean the pot for the next batch and it wouldn't be cluttering the fridge.

If chili isn't hot enough, that's the simplest to fix.  Gauge the amount of "not hot enough" that's in it, and add (in increments...once it gets closer to "enough" it's easy to go over the line to "too much")  any of the relevant peppers whose flavor you like.  I've used a bit of cayenne, or jalapeno, or Serrano.  If you don't have good fresh peppers available, dried will do, and so will canned. 



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Comments:
[User Picture]From: pickledginger
2012-12-12 07:19 pm (UTC)
A cobbler-y sort of dish with a cornbread topping can be nice as well. (Chili in pan, batter on top, bake in medium oven until done.)

And diced sweet potato goes pretty well with chili and can help cool things down.

But I agree, beans are probably the most efficient solution.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-12 07:34 pm (UTC)
I've never tried sweet potato with chili...thanks for the suggestion.
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[User Picture]From: lillian13
2012-12-12 07:22 pm (UTC)
Over rice works well as an extender too.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-12 07:34 pm (UTC)
Yes, and I've added some cold leftover rice to a pot of chili just to consolidate things. It's tasty.
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2012-12-12 07:39 pm (UTC)
Lemon or lime juice will also cool down a dish that people find too hot; the acid works against the alkalinity of capsaicin, to neutralise it.
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[User Picture]From: pickledginger
2012-12-12 07:51 pm (UTC)
Neat! I bet a splash of OJ would do the trick.
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2012-12-12 08:09 pm (UTC)
Orange might interfere with the other flavours, though. Lemon tends to brighten inherent flavours, rather than impose on them (and lime of course is classic with chilli anyway).
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[User Picture]From: EClaireMcLean
2012-12-12 07:44 pm (UTC)

Chili

It's indeed chili time. Made venison/beef/pork chili yesterday. One of the favorite stretchers around here is frito pie. (Make a nest of fritos, ladle in some chili, top with grated cheese and chopped onions if desired)

I have discovered a wonderful invention for crock pot cooking. The Reynold's wrap folks now sell crock pot liners (near the cooking bags, ziplocks, etc.) that make cleaning up blissfully easy.

I freeze about 2/3 of each batch of chili so I cook no beans. Cornbread can thicken and cool the heat about as well as crackers.
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[User Picture]From: badgermirlacca
2012-12-12 07:59 pm (UTC)
My solution to "too hot" is always to add a teaspoon of honey. It cuts the capsaicin.
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[User Picture]From: tuftears
2012-12-12 09:23 pm (UTC)
Yum! The chili pasty sounds delicious. :9
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-12 10:09 pm (UTC)
It was, she says smugly. I'll do that one again.

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-12 10:12 pm (UTC)
Normally, I'm a traditional Texas-chili cook, and the heat doesn't bother me. No beans in mine and if it doesn't make your nose run it's not even close to hot enough. (I use Red Eye chili mix, made locally, and add Ro-Tel and sometimes additional heat beyond that.) My therapeutic chili--taken at the start of a sore throat or cold--is intended to cauterize every mucus membrane and thus shorten if not cure the misery right then and there. It's so hot it makes your eyeballs sweat.

But someone I know made a batch of chili she thought was too hot.

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[User Picture]From: msminlr
2012-12-12 10:29 pm (UTC)
Another thing to do with "not-enough" chili leftovers is to start a container in the freezer marked "saving to make nachos with".
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[User Picture]From: ladymurmur
2012-12-13 03:19 pm (UTC)
A dollop of sour cream is my go to "too hot" solution for chili.

Crumbling in a corn muffin can also help.
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From: otterb
2012-12-13 04:53 pm (UTC)
Another use for not-enough leftover chili is as an omelette topping.
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[User Picture]From: princejvstin
2012-12-13 07:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks.

I've also diluted too-hot chili with sweet barbecue sauce--which might make me unclean in Texas ;)

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-13 11:21 pm (UTC)
I dunno about unclean, but I would not touch chili that had a sweet taste to it. You don't want the explanation. Or maybe you do. Chili at one time was what you made out of meat that had, um, aged. Not in a cold room. If it was really gone, it had to go out to whatever animal in the local food chain would eat it, but if it merely had an unfortunate aroma, it went into chili and bubbled away for 8 hours or more in a mix of spices that would finish off any bacteria surviving the searing heat of browning and the long simmering. Meat was expensive, not to be wasted, even if it had a whiff.

If it tasted at all sweet, then you'd miscalculated whether that meat was salvageable.

There's a story one of my granddad's friends told me, about being held captive in Mexico during one of the outbreaks of hostilities, in a little adobe hut with a quarter of beef, from which one of the guys holding him would slice off a hunk every day to cook for the camp and their prisoners. As time passed, being in the hut with the meat became less and less tolerable, and eating it pretty much the same.
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[User Picture]From: amusingmuse
2012-12-14 03:15 am (UTC)
Fascinating! I've always wondered how people determined what could and couldn't be eaten before 'use by dates' and use so many days after opening happened. So if it's 'sweet' it's beyond the pale.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-14 05:51 am (UTC)

Squick-warning for some: talking about meat going bad

It's what I heard about, and learned from others...with beef, if there's a kind of sick-sweet smell...it's too far gone, and it shouldn't have a sweetish taste once cooked. Just a bit off before cooking...quick, get it into the pot, sear it a little, and then cook a long time with hot spices. This works for beef and for venison that was properly handled...game's tricky, because if not field-dressed properly, it may not be safe even with long cooking. Having done some home processing myself now, I know how easy it is to screw something up (too large an animal with too few people, or inexperienced people, deconstructing it, and someone's going to make a mistake from haste or inexperience and then you've got a problem.) But talking of a cleanly butchered carcass of an animal that was healthy, the big mammals can "age" some and still be edible with the right handling. If your ancestors ate meat, they ate some of it fairly ripe and survived. (I'm convinced, on no evidence but my own body's reactions, that some of my ancestors must've been cattle thieves back in the old country, eating a lot more beef than they could possibly have owned...)

NOT true of chicken or turkey, though...if they smell off at all, toss 'em. Same with fish--any off smell and they're not safe. Also, if cooked meat develops an off-odor, re=cooking it won't fix the problem--it's not OK.

Like most kids who had the opportunity to learn from adults who'd learned to cook before refrigeration, I learned what my elders knew about that--the nose was very important, both for detecting problems and for knowing when something was seasoned correctly, ready for the next step, etc. We had cookbooks, of course, but I also received oral recipes that included "When it smells like THIS, it's ready..." or "There's enough sage in the dressing when it smells like this..."

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[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2012-12-13 09:56 pm (UTC)
*Grin* In this country, chilli always comes with either a jacket potato or rice. And it always has beans in it. And grated cheese on top. Until very recently, fresh chilli peppers were unknown here - you could get dried (my grandmother used to soak these in cooking sherry, with excellent results - I recommend it!), but mostly if you wanted to flavour a dish you used powder. Even now, you can really only get generic "chilli peppers" or Scotch Bonnet peppers if you live in an area with "World food" shops (Jamaican, in this case). I tried them once - Scotch Bonnets, I mean - and didn't like them.
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[User Picture]From: purplebookfairy
2012-12-13 10:28 pm (UTC)
A chili without beans isn't a chili, IMHO. :-P
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-13 11:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, boy, that's throwing down the challenge.

Here are the Great Chili Divides I know about (only applies to US chili makers/eater, probably.)

1. Beans v. No Beans. I am firmly on the side of no beans. Beans (preferably refried beans) are a side dish, not part of chili, according to my background. Granted, when we were poor graduate students, I put beans in the chili to stretch it out. But once we weren't, no more beans IN the chili. Those who grew up with beans in their chili think beans are necessary. I know where they aren't from.

2. Tomatoes v. No Tomatoes. My good friend Ellen is of the no-tomatoes variety, which is odd because she grew up in the same part of Texas I did...but she married a guy from an area where tomatoes are harder to grow. No tomatoes. I am of the tomato camp: diced tomatoes, so they cook down to a subtle background and you have a "bowl of red."

That's four camps, and they can come in more combinations: no beans with tomatoes, no beans without tomatoes, beans with tomatoes, beans without tomatoes.

3. Ground beef v. chili grind or strips or chunks. This gets you into specialist territory. If you think of chili as having hamburger in it...no. At least it should be coarse-ground meat, and ideally fairly thin strips or small chunks. Lean meat, tough meat, meat with flavor.

4. Beef in chili v. game meat (mostly venison, but also elk or moose) in chili. Again, specialist territory. I personally prefer venison chili to beef-based chili, though range-fed beef is almost as good. Venison in a year when it's dry and the deer are not fat and tender. Fry a couple strips of bacon and cut it up, leave the bacon fat in the pan (iron pan or pot, it should be) and brown the venison, then start building the rest of it.

5. In New Mexico, so I hear, some people consider that chili is stewed chili peppers. No meat, no beans, no tomato sauce, and the rest of us are wimps. I have been faced with a plate (more plate than bowl) of what some New Mexicans call chili. They're missing a lot of flavor, in my opinion. Chili peppers do not lose flavor by association with other ingredients.

Every permutation and combination of chili lover is sure their chili is the real thing. I remember eating chili at Diamond Lou's in Quantico, Virginia, and startling people by putting two big spoonfuls of hot sauce in mine because it wasn't hot enough and it wasn't "real" chili (I didn't tell them that--though they knew about the hot sauce and it cemented my reputation as a Texan.) I remember eating what was supposed to be chili in the airport in Cincinnati, when flight delays had sent us all over the east trying to get space on an airplane to Baltimore...and it was nothing like chili at all. (Hamburger meat in catsup is the closest I can describe it. Bleh.)

So if you want your chili with beans in it--eat your chili with beans in it, but know that some of us chili lovers will have something to say in private. And for heaven's sake, don't leave your beans half-cooked.
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[User Picture]From: purplebookfairy
2012-12-13 11:23 pm (UTC)
I eat my chili with beans and tomatoes, but without meat. So, I don't do the chili con carne, just the other type. (I'm not going to tell what happens if I eat meat... My body doesn't agree with it.)

As for what I grew up with, it was no chili. Chili came into my life as a grown up, and I don't think I've ever had it with meat.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-14 05:55 am (UTC)
If your body doesn't like meat, then you can't eat it...and so your chili is chili for you. My body has a problem with many fruits and some vegetables, and I don't tell what happens then, either.

What kind of beans do you use in chili? If I were making chili meatless, I think I'd use a mix of beans, including at least black beans and red kidney beans, but probably also pinto beans. The different bean flavors (I use all three in bean soups, but then add a few other types) give a rich broth even without meat.
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[User Picture]From: EClaireMcLean
2012-12-14 04:22 pm (UTC)
I am a modified tomato in the chili cook. Ro-tel is one of the basic food groups for almost any chili or soup I make.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-12-14 07:07 pm (UTC)
Ro-tel is definitely a basic food group for chili, soup, stew...any combination like that. (And onion, and garlic, too.) I don't always put Ro-tel in the first pass of a hambone-and-beans soup, but in the leftover phase...yeah, it's what I think of adding. Give it some excitement. (Though the cayenne peppers you gave me from your friend's garden added plenty of, er, zip.)
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From: (Anonymous)
2012-12-15 11:29 am (UTC)
Too little leftover chili? Chili quesadillas! Only works with no-bean chili. Flour tortillas, mix of jack and sharp cheddar cheeses, and some chopped scallions. Fry in butter, cut in wedges, garnish with sour cream.
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