Stage 1. Open a beer.
Begin with some white button mushrooms, quartered so they are meatier when you bite into them. Get the heat going until they steam out their water. Add more oil and begin to brown them. You can, of course, use other mushrooms; portobello and crimini come to mind. Check the score. Victorino, HOMER! First Inning!
In one-pot meals, you're building flavor, so be patient. The next stage is to add onions. I dice a little, and slice a little, just for variety.
When they've started to caramelize a little, add some minced garlic and cook it until you can smell the heady aroma of the garlic, mushrooms and onions together.
If you're going to add tomato paste, now is the time. I do, and just a tablespoon. Stir it in and cook for a couple minutes. Check the score, replenish beverage.
Stage 2 Now it's time to add the meat. I like to use a meatloaf mix, 1/3 each ground beef, pork and veal, about 1 1/2# total. Just dump it right on top of the veggie mixture. Don't stir yet! Add your spices and herbs next. While many people have many favorites, these are the ones I use. Dark chili powder, smoked paprika, chipotle powder, ground cumin, kosher salt and dried thyme. I know there will be some of you screaming "heresy!", but I add the tiniest dash of cinnamon, too. NOW stir her up and put a lid on the pot. I like my meat chunky. By putting the lid on, it steams the meat into the chunks you left it in before putting the lid on. Naturally, the more you stir, the more the meat will break up. The other reason for the lid is that all that steam stays in the pot and is added flavor.
Once the meat is cooked, you'll notice a good bit of liquid in the pot. For the love of Pete, don't strain it off! I've seen people do this- probably from following sloppy Joe recipes from the 70's- and if the reason is because of reducing the amount of fat, just buy leaner meat. Start thinking about what you're going to drink. If you like your chili hot and spicy, stick with beer. Otherwise, earthy, fruity reds are a great way to go. I started with Leinenkugel Classic Amber and then chose a Monastrell (that's mouvedre from Spain) called Wrongo Dongo (yes, that's not a typo) from Jumilla, 2008. Purple, fruity, dry and earthy. Put a little chill on it.
Stage 3 Add a can of chopped tomatoes (24 oz.) and two cans of your favorite beans; I use cannellini. Finally, add about 2 cups of chicken stock (or water) and a couple bay leaves. I also put a couple whole dried red chili peppers. Stir it up some more, put the lid on and bring it to a simmer.
When is it done? Well, you want those flavors to wed, but you also want the right consistency; not too soupy, not to thick. I simmer for about 1/2 hour and then take the lid off and simmer for 15 more minutes. This reduces and thickens. Just stop cooking when it looks good to you. How you finish it is up to you. Grated cheddar or even asiago or parmesan is nice. Cornbread is par for the course, but I prefer a crusty sourdough for mopping up that goodness.
Enjoy the game!!
Warning: make sure you aren't still eating in the 9th inning. You'll find yourself jumping up and down and could spill something. Also, if Lidge is pitching, you could get upset stomach.
Whewwww. Off to L.A.!!! Go Phils!