Good Mother Sierra Chili

Sierra Canyon Chili Cookoff

A Sierra Canyon tradition……homemade chili tasting!! Taste your way through 9 different chili’s…and prepare to be dazzled! Our contestants plan to tantalize your taste buds with their favorite Chili recipes. Your $5 Tasting Fee includes a salad station, tasting of all entries, soda, beer, water and a small bowl of “non-contestant” Chili prepared by Sierra Canyon’s own Don Chess. Sign up at the front desk today!

Number 2 in your program, Number 1 in your mouth.

Goodness gracious…!!! I happened to read that just after I made Southwestern Black Beans with Chicken Soup; a recipe I got from the Reno Gazette Journal (RGJ) By Nancy Horn, chef, co-owner of Dish Cafe. That was good; used a tablespoon of Chili Powder and other interesting spices. I thought that with subtractions and additions this could make a fine chili.

Out with the potatoes, out with the chicken, in with some cubed beef, in with some spicy Italian sausage. Out with the onion/celery/carrot mirepoix, in with a chili friendly onion/celery/green bell pepper mirepoix. Interesting that her soup used no tomatoes, but tomatillos. I went with that.

I’m not new to the chili game. It’s one of my favorite soups — and I’m a soup guy. Back in Ought-Seven, about this time of year, I posted an essay called CHILI: My Top Five.

Since then, I’ve found a couple others that I like a lot, but — feeling in an adventurous mood — I wanted to go with this whole new concoction.

I did a test recipe, ate it, then tried it on son Brian and his wife. It was a few days old by then, but with chili, that’s a good thing. I liked it a lot for the second time. Brian observed that it had good chili flavor and was spiced just right — both of our sons are “supertasters” — but the meat chunks were too big… they shouldn’t be much bigger than the beans.

some ingredients: mirepoix, cubed chuck steak, Spicy Italian Sausages

my test batch with cilantro

carol’s serving gussied up with cilantro, grated cheese, and sour cream

That was good stuff as noted, and passed the Brian test a few days later.

I had some Whole Food Spicy Italian Sausage left over, so I experimented with lil-tiny meatballs.

making lil-tiny meatballs out of spicy italian sausage

Take a sausage, remove the casing, cut in half lengthwise, cut each half into rough cubes and roll between your thumb and forefinger to get a lil-tiny meatball.

browning the balls

Not so hard, and they browned nicely. (I ate my test samples with some leftover roasted celery soup. Yum.)

I did my shopping, and the Monday before the Wednesday cook-off in mid-afternoon started
roasting tomatillos and garlic and chopping the mirepoix.

based on Southwestern Black Beans with Chicken* ?By Nancy Horn, chef, co-owner of Dish Cafe, printed in RGJ
Recipe For 1/2 pound beans:

First Thing:
Soak 1/2 pound beans in a large bowl, covered with cold water, leaving 3 inches of water above the beans for six hours or. overnight. Ms Horn’s original recipe was for Rancho Gordo Midnight Black Beans. For this cook-off, I used Rancho Gordo Good Mother Stollard beans — hence, the name of the chili. Cook the beans by your favorite method in water to generously cover until done.I cook my beans in the Rancho Gordo Manner.
Second Thing:
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Toss 5 tomatillos, papery husks removed but unpeeled with olive oil and kosher salt in a stainless steel dish. Toss  4 or 5 unpeeled garlic cloves with olive oil and kosher salt and wrap in a piece of foil. Put that packet on top of the tomatillos. Roast about 1 hour, or until everything looks brown, is starting to smell nutty, and the garlic is sizzling in its packet.
Make a mirepoix – Peel and chop a large onion (200g), 1 green bell pepper (150g), 1 1/2 stalks celery (120g), 1 leek, white and light green parts. (reserve about 1 Tbsp each for the beans)
Cube 1/2 pound beef, make 1/2 pound tiny Whole Food Spicy Italian sausage balls.
In a large Dutch oven [red 5Q] over medium heat, heat about 2 Tbsp oil and brown the beef pieces. Work in batches and remove as they brown and set aside on a plate. Repeat with 1/2 pound uncased tiny sausage balls. When all the pieces are browned and seared and removed, lower the heat add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil, add the mirepoix, season with kosher salt and black pepper. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften and brown a bit, about 5 minutes.
Add 1/2 pouch Frontera New Mexico Taco Skillet Sauce, 1 Tbsp New Mexico chile powder, 1 Tbsp cumin, 1 Tbsp Mexican oregano and 1 bay leaf and sauté until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Add the roasted tomatillos, break up with a wooden spoon and stir into the vegetables. Squeeze roasted garlic cloves from their skins onto a cutting board and mash with flat side of a knife or a fork. Add to pot, along with 1/2 Mexican beer and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the beef back to the pot and allow to simmer gently for about 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’ll probably need to add liquid, but take it easy.
Add the cooked beans and some of their liquid, and the browned Italian Sausage balls to the pot. Cook for another 10 minutes or so.

chili was cooked on the stove, sat for more than a day in its pot, then warmed and transferred to a crock-pot for *the big show*

To finish:
Soak 1/2 bunch cilantro in ice water for 30 minutes, then chop.
Add the juice from 1/2 lime and the chopped cilantro  Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper, if you like.

cilantro soaks in ice water

At the Lodge, there were 11 contestants…

I’m number 2.

During the tasting, I received many positive and encouraging comments, but I did not win a prize.

I did get to eat a lot of good chili.

One thought on “Good Mother Sierra Chili

  1. You get an E+ for effort “blue ribbon”. I would love to eat your chili, but not cook your chili. Too labor intensive for me. Loved the addition of spicy Italian sausage idea. Mmmmm good. I’m with Carol on how to gussie up chili. I might also add a few crushed tortilla chips. Just a suggestion…..


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