Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Utah Brainbreaker Chili

It's one week to the beginning of most bird seasons here in Utah, which feeds right into the big game seasons. In my redneck world, hunting seasons mark the real beginning of fall, and all the wonderful cold-weather foods associated with it.

Now I hate reading 9 pages of background before a recipe, so I'll just give you the vitals right now. The story comes afterward, you can read it while the pot simmers.

The first thing to know is a batch of this chili is sized for a 3 gallon stock pot. Scale your own batch up or down based on knowing that. Second, seasonings are a very personal matter. This recipe works well, but if it calls for an item you don't like, delete it. If you think of something tasty to add, by all means do so, and then let me know about it, because I want to try it too!


2 quarts of your favorite stock
2 16oz cans of stewed tomatoes
2-3 cans of tomato paste (as needed)
1-1.5 pounds of bacon
1-2 pounds of andouille or other sausage
2-3 pounds of cubed beef or pork
1 bulb of garlic
lime juice (about equal to the juice of 10 fresh limes)
bay leaves
chopped fresh cilantro
chili powder
dried mustard
dried minced onion
1 16oz bag of pearled barley

Start with your stock pot on medium, with the tomato sauce and stock. In a skillet, brown your meat in the following order: bacon, half the pig or cow, sausage, and the remaining beef or pork. Between each round, transfer your meat to the stock pot, but don't lose any of the grease. The bacon and sausage grease will help brown the other meat. After your meat is browned, crush as much garlic as you like and brown it in the grease. After the garlic caramelizes, transfer it *and* the grease to the stock pot.

Add the lime juice, bay leaves, chili powder, dried mustard, and cilantro, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let it simmer covered for at least 2 hours. If you want a bit more heat, hit it with some ancho or chipotle powder. If you want a bit more smoke, add some smoked paprika.

After 2 hours, add the stewed tomatoes and barley. Add dried onion to taste, and simmer covered for another hour or so. You'll know it's ready when the barley plumps up and has an al dente texture.

While it simmers away, here's the story.

One of my favorite hobbies is giving Texas and Texans a hard time. It's all in good fun, and since Texans are almost religious about beans in their chili, it's a fun point to poke. I happen to love beans in my chili, but my wife an I can't agree on which beans to use, so years ago we experimented with barley and loved the result. When I tell people I put barley in my chili, you can actually see their brain try and shift gears. It's a lot of fun to witness, hence the Brainbreaker name.

Observant folks will note that there are zero fresh peppers in my chili. My body has a real nasty disagreement with all peppers, even bell peppers. Once they get powdered, I'm fine with them, but fresh they cause raging indigestion. We have to get our heat from cilantro and various dry seasonings.

If you prefer fresh limes, they work great. I've done it in the past, and the results were very tasty, it's just prep work I can avoid by using lime juice.

Also, I'm aware just how much meat is in my chili, and how un-blue-collar it may appear. I use the cheapest meat I can find to make this, because it will cook down and be tender even if it starts tough. Also, remember that this is a 3 gallon batch, which will feed a very mighty family, or can be frozen and stored for an entire winter. It reheats nicely, and maintains a good texture, unlike some foods when they're frozen. You could also substitute game or any other cheap meat you have available to you.

Cooking is mad science. Take this recipe and play with it, and let me know what you change. I'd love to taste test a whole array of variations on this theme.


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