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Framed for a crime I didn’t commit, my days were numbered. I’m asked, “What would you like for your final meal?” I respond… “Capitol Punishment Chili!” With meat so electric it disintegrates on chew, and a slow-burn Shiner gravy only fit for Texas, just give me the chili, forget the pardon.

Making great chili is a balancing act of flavor and technique, let’s look at a few chili essentials!

• A great chili is smooth, not overloaded with one pepper or spice.

• A slow burn at the back of your throat is essential, it shouldn’t be severe. If it’s too hot, you can’t taste the chili.

• You want a smooth gravy without little particles of gritty meat.

• The meat should be tender, three chews and it disintegrates.

• Fresh spices are key, the old ones in the cupboard will lose their flavor.

• Chili swimming in grease is not attractive and you’ll just end up with a carton of antacid.

• Spices should be added at periodic steps to form a base flavor and a bright flavor.

Chili recipes come in all flavor compositions, with or without onions, tomatoes and beans. I prefer a classic Texas style, saving the beans for a side dish. It’s time to prepare some chili, get your measuring spoons, a large pot, and a few beers. It never hurts to queue up some tunes as well, this is festive food!

Capitol Punishment Chili Cost: about $25 Serves: 6 hearty bowls

Prep Time: 2 hours

Step 1 ingredients:

• 2.5lbs beef chuck ground – 20%-30% fat • 4 tbsp.clarified  butter • 3 cups. Beef Broth • 8-oz can. tomato sauce • 4-oz tomato paste • 2 medium yellow onions – small dice • 4 serrano chilies, split the middle and remove seeds • 5 dried ancho chiles, shake out the seeds • 24oz-bottle shinerbock for the recipe, buy some more to drink • 8 cloves garlic, mash them with the back of your blade • .5 tsp cayenne pepper • .25 tsp salt • 2 tbsp. chili powder

• .25 cup adobo sauce, canned

Step 2 ingredients:

• 2 tsps. ground cumin • .25 tsps. cayenne pepper • 1 tbsp. chili powder • 1.5 tbsp. cocoa powder

• 1 pkg. Sazon Goya

Step 3 ingredients: • 1 tbsp. chili powder • 1 tbsp. ground cumin • .25 tsp. cayenne pepper • 1 tbsp. brown sugar • 1 tbsp. chopped oregano

• 1 tbsp. chopped cilantro

Bring your pot to medium heat and add butter plus onions. Keep stirring this mixture for about 20 minutes until the edges of the onion begin to brown. Add the garlic and continue to saute for approximately 5 minutes, be careful not to burn the garlic.

The onions are almost caramelized and the garlic is soft and aromatic. It’s time to add the beef, beer plus all the Step 1 ingredients. Continue to simmer and stir gently breaking up the beef for 5 minutes. Cover the pot and let simmer on low for 1 hour. This is a good time to clean up or maybe have another beer.

So you’ve patiently waited an hour, the aromas are killer, what’s going on underneath that lid, time to see…..

At this point the chili aroma has probably captured the attention of your neighbors. For now, ignore the knocks on your door, it’s now time to remove the skin from the ancho chiles. Don’t skip this step or you’ll think you’re chewing on saran wrap later. Note from the photo above, the skin easily peels from the ancho chile, just drop the flesh back into the pot as it will melt into the gravy. Don’t forget to squeeze and discard the green serranos. It’s now time to add your Step 2 ingredients then cover and simmer for another 20 minutes. Lift the lid once again and add your Step 3 ingredients. Cover and simmer for an additional 20 minutes. It’s the moment of truth….

Wow, the aromas of garlic, shiner, chilies, beef, cocoa and general goodness permeate the airspace. The gravy is thick, smooth, rich, gently biting and burning, and somewhat magical.

For an alternate description on why I love this chili….

“Shoot, this chili is so magical you’d think David Blaine stirred it with a wizard”s staff! With Texan Shinerbock rising through the gravy, delicate ghee sweetening the bowl, slow-burning chiles hitting your palette and hints of cocoa leaving you spellbound, it’s ok to hover over your bowl repeating…. “my precious”.

Drooling aside, if chili was a person it wouldn’t be winning any beauty pageants. This is our chance to apply a little make-up and some window dressing for the final presentation. Chili always needs a companion, sometimes cornbread, a biscuit or grated cheese.  I whipped up some fluffy thin biscuits and sliced an avocado to temper the spicy chili.  It’s perfectly fine to go buy the tube of biscuits that pop, making them from scratch can be somewhat labor intensive. Below is one way to re-imagine how we serve our chili. I call them “Capitol Punishment Biscuits.”

These are extremely simple, tasty and flaky, I liken them to Jamaican patties without the curry. Just roll your biscuit dough into a thin 4-inch circle, then add 2 heaping tablespoons of chilled chili to the center. Now top with another dough circle and seal the egdes. Brush and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes! I would recommend a cool sour cream and chive dipping sauce. Your friends now love you that much more. As far as a general chili presentation here’s another take…

The chili heat is perfectly balanced with cool and creamy avocado slices and a few dollops of sour cream. I had a little leftover Shinerbock to cleanse the palette between bites. So there you have it, my take on chili! There’s no such thing as a “best chili” although this one is pretty badass! You can tailor chili to your own personal flavor, why not try ground lamb or chicken, even tofu, or Guinness instead of Shinerbock, there’s also a vast array of spices at your disposal. This is one of those dishes which lends itself to creativity and personal touch, making it a perfect contender for competitions. Hope you get a chance to try it and share it with friends, we’d love to hear your thoughts! After 5 bowls, I’m ready for a week of healthy fusion smoothies. Stay tuned!