Impoverished Single Person’s “Chili”
Mr. Smith is Rhode Island’s most efficient driver. He can forecast door-to-door travel time between any two points within the Ocean State to within a minute, averages about two left turns per month, and has logged zero accidents in the thirty-two years I’ve known him. D’s knack for balancing quality with minimum energy and resource expenditure becomes wizardry in the kitchen, and this week he shares a recipe from his undergraduate days at Brown, during which he drove cab, impressed the hell out of girlfriends’ parents, and elevated bachelor cooking to an art. My father anticipates that “purists from Texas and other regions will argue with the name,” but since I don’t touch chili, ever, I wouldn’t know.
A suggestion from Mr. Smith: “this recipe will produce about two quarts of chili, or a dozen servings at maybe $0.80 apiece to go with rice or macaroni (or commando). The single impoverished person will eat two servings within an hour, keep two to four more servings in the fridge for the coming days, and freeze the rest in single-serving Ziploc bags.”
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large green pepper, diced
1 medium/large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb hamburger
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 or 2 15-oz cans plain tomato sauce
2 15-oz cans spiced pinto beans (drained unless seasoned)
some canned, sliced jalapeño peppers
1 tbsp chili powder
salt and pepper
1 medium yellow pepper, diced in addition to green pepper ($$)
1 C sauteed sliced mushrooms ($)
Put the oil in a cast-iron pan over medium-high and heat it until it’s hot. Sauté the pepper for 3 minutes before adding the onion and, once that becomes translucent, add the garlic and continue to cook until it just starts to brown (or, as my father instructs, sweat the garlic). Empty the vegetables into a large bowl and set them aside.
In the same pan, cook the meat over medium-high heat until you’ve eliminated all pink. Pour in the vegetables (and optional mushrooms) and combine with the hamburger. Add the crushed tomatoes, 1 can of tomato sauce, the pinto beans (and the water if it’s been seasoned, otherwise toss it), and 1 tbsp chili powder. Cook and stir until it boils, then reduce the heat to medium. If the chili seems too thick, add the second can of tomato sauce.
Proceed to add fiyah. Use a garlic press to mince 8 or so jalapeño slices and stir them into the chili. Taste and repeat until you’re happy. Mr. Smith confides that he occasionally adds a little cayenne pepper “to complicate the hotness.” Finish it off with salt and pepper, but “never garnish with cheese; that’s weird.” I, on the other hand, will just have the cheese (though after typing up this post, I might actually give it a shot without the beans).