I cook most of the meals around here. Usually it's something simple that I know by heart, but sometimes as desire or necessity dictates I make something up as I go.
Mad ScienceIt's science because I'm using what I know from recipes I've made before, keeping some things consistent and varying others. It's mad because I don't measure anything or collect any data on my results. But I do learn from experience and I'm here to share what I know to help you cook chili like a mad scientist.
Chili is a fantastic one-pot meal that can be almost infinitely varied depending on what spices you have on hand. Here's the method to the madness:
Step 1: The protein
- Any kind of ground animal is the obvious choice, but there are so many more options.
- Tofu: go with the firmest you can find, chop into cubes or crush in your fist (more satisfying). If you want tofu to have a more crumbly texture you can freeze it: drain as much water out as you can, freeze through, thaw all day (or nuke it till it's soft again), then smash it to bits.
- Tempeh: it frys up crisp and crumbly, just break it up.
- Seitan: also called wheat meat, it's made entirely of gluten. Look it up, it's easy to make.
- Nothing: you can skip this step entirely and put in a lot of beans for protein later. Maybe even start with some sturdy vegetable like carrots. Do some science to it.
Step 2: The spices
Ground chili peppers are traditional, and i guess it's not technically chili if you don't use chili =)
However you can use whatever spices you want, you just gotta use a lot, several tablespoons at least. Be careful though; if you're main spice is very hot, you want to mix it with something milder so you don't create ultra-chili.
(I once used all ground chili instead of a mix. I called the result ultra-chili. It was inedible by itself but I used a small amount as a starer and added a whole pot of other ingredients to it to cool it down to regular chili temperature. Remember even your 'failed' experiments can be useful)
Put your chosen mix of spices in a bowl and add water till it's a sauce of sorts, then pour it into your pot.
Step 3: The body
Right now you've got incredibly over seasoned protein so let's add a liquid medium for your chili to be suspended in (science!).
- Tomatoes: canned with the juice, or fresh chopped or crushed (you may need to add water)
- Coconut milk: for a Thai curry sort of feel
- Soup: I have used cartons of blended soup like pumpkin, or sweet potato.
- Other: think of an interesting combination? go crazy =)
- Too hot: Add a base like coconut milk (or any other milk)
- Way too hot: Divide your chili in 2 and add more of the other ingredients to spread the heat out
- Not hot: Add cayenne pepper (carefully)
- Not enough flavor: This is of course relative, but try a little salt and/or black pepper.
- Too thin: Ladle some of your liquid into a bowl and add any kind of flour (wheat, masa, even corn starch) until it is pancake batter consistency. Then pour that back into the chili and keep simmering for a bit. Or you can just let it simmer uncovered until enough water evaporates
- Too thick: More of your body, or just plan water can be added.