Friday, October 11, 2013

Chili & Fire Prevention Week

This week's motto: Fire in the chili, not in the kitchen.  It's Fire Prevention Week. 

The leading cause of home fires and injuries is cooking.  (I always thought it was heating or electrical.)  In fact, two of every five home fires start in the kitchen.  So the National Fire Protection Association theme this year is "Prevent Kitchen Fires."

Some hot, fiery chili seemd like a natural companion recipe to a few simple tips and "best practices" to commemorate the week.  When making this recipe, you can put into use many of the habits of fire prevention in your own kitchen.
  •  The leading cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking and most of that involves stovetop cooking.  
    •  If you are simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and remain at home while food is cooking.  Use a timer to remind you to check on the cooking food.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire- oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels, long sleeves- away from the stovetop.
  • Keep a lid nearby when cooking to smother any small grease fire.  Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turning off the stovetop.  Leave the pan covered until it is complete cooled.  DO not throw water on a grease fire.  
  • If you decide to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and that you also have a clear way out.  Have someone call 9-1-1.  When you get out, close the door to prevent spread of the fire.  
Let's make chili and show off some fire safety know-how. 

Recently, America's Test Kitchen did some very clever things to develop depth and oomph in a vegetarian bean chili.  Recipes for meat-based chilies can benefit from the addition of one of those tricks: dried mushrooms, ground in with your chili powder. The mushrooms add extra umami flavor, a deep flavor component that will mature your chili quickly. 

Kitchen Fire Chili
Serves 4
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
1 tablespoon ground, roasted and seeded chilies*
1 teaspoon ground dired mushrooms (porcini, shitake, etc)
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2-1 teaspoon ground cumin
14-ounce can chopped tomatoes in juice
2 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
optional: cayenne

  1. Over medium heat, brown the meat in a wide, deep skillet.  Stir and turn occasionally to cook all the meat completely.  Pour off excess fat, leaving no more that a tablespoon (not necessary if using a lean meat; wipe any fat from the outside of the pan before placing back on heating element.)
  2. Lower the heat to medium-low and push the meat to the side of the pan. Sprinkle the chili, mushroom, oregano and cumin over the oil left in the pan and stir to coat and cook the spices for about one minute.  
  3. Combine the meat and spice mixture together and add the tomatoes, juice and tomato paste.  Stir to combine well.
  4. Cover and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes.  Check mixture after about 5 minutes and add water, a few tablespoons at a time, if mixture is becoming dry. 
  5. Remove from heat (and turn off stove top).  Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. 
  6. Taste and add salt, up to 1/4 teaspoon if needed.  This is also the time to adjust for spiciness-- adding cayenne or hot sauce to suit your taste. 
Flecks of mushroom color freshly ground chili powder
*To make your own pure chili powder, roast whole dried chilies in a 300˚F oven for 10 minutes.  A nice combination is two ancho chilies and two gaujillo chilies.  Cool the chilies, abut 5 minutes so they are easy to handle.  Break open, remove seeds, stem and any large membranes inside each chili. Grind the chilies in a spice grinder (coffee grinder used only for spices) or food processor.   Grind with the dried mushrooms to make an instant, house-blend of chili powder. 

If you use a purchased chili powder that already contains cumin, oregano and other ingredients, simple add the ground mushrooms to your chili powder and proceed with recipe. 

Note: Beans are optional in your chili and can be added with the tomatoes.  Use one can, drained, for every pound of meat. 

Serve chili scooped into bowls over warmed tortilla chips or rice.  Garnish with any combination of chopped avocado, black olives and tomatoes, grated cheddar or jack cheese, sour cream lime quarters and fresh, chopped cilantro.  Pass the extra hot sauce. 

Special thanks to firefighters everywhere, especially the members of The Thornhurst Volunteer Fire & Rescue Co, our local heroes.