I had never tasted Chili till I landed on the shores of the United States. Once I joined 'corporate America', it was impossible to dodge the annual Chili Cook-Offs and I began pottering around with this recipe & that. And though for many years I made a decent Chili by no means would I call it a great Chili and we'd often devour bowls of it on many a snowy cold nights with an equally mediocre corn bread.
Then inspiration struck out of the blue and quite unexpectedly as it often does. I was reading an article about Mark Miller - for those of you have been following the blog, you know that he is a source of great inspiration to me when it comes to Mexican & Southwestern cuisines & I admire the man immensely for his many contributions. Well, there was a mention of how he created a signature Chili at the Coyote Cafe using venison meat . And that fueled in me a desire to make a Chili using a variety of meats & Chiles.
Having taken an interest in southwestern cooking, I have been reading more and more about Chiles and if there is one thing I am learning is that unlike Indian cooking where chillies are used for heat, Mexican and New Mexico Chiles are used not only for heat but for there incredible smoky flavors & scents that is characteristic in good southwestern cooking.
I must thank the state of Virginia & 'Pesky Pete' for the use of beer in my recipe. I used to work with this guy and if you know Virginians then you know that most of the men here take great pride in their meat, their beer & their chili. Now let me tell you, I like 'Pesky Pete'- he was and I'm sure is still a nice guy. Except that he often spoke with great conviction about things he knew very little about.
For example one day, he started arguing with me about Gandhi - now most people would probably stop a second & think - wait a minute this girl's of Indian hesritage so maybe, just maybe she does know a wee bit more about Gandhi than I do - not 'Pesky Pete' he began arguing with me that Gandhi's first name is 'Mahatma' - Between laughter, exasperation & anger I tried to convince him that 'Mahatma' was the title given to Gandhi which mean 'Great Soul - entomology of the word - Maha - Great, atma - soul hence 'Great soul' but his real name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
The guy wasn't buying it!
Which is why I call him 'Pesky Pete'. Now 'Pesky Pete' may not know his Gandhi but he sure knows his Chili and it was he who told me to start cooking my Chili in beer & beef stock. So for that, I will always be eternally grateful to him. Also the addition of black beans instead of pinto or kidney gives this Chili that unique southwestern flair.
With such great inspirations, I must confess that I now make a darn good Chili and won an award at a Chili Cook-Off at my husband's firm...yea!!!! (please picture me gleefully clapping my hands together like a little girl in pig tails)
So here goes - Southwestern Chili : Warning - Not for those souls who define 'spicy' as a dash of pepper! Now, I don't consider this Chili hot but lets just say - it has a spine!