Tips and hints from my kitchen and around the world.

Too hot/Cooling Off!
Too salty!
Using Dried Chiles vs. Chile Powder
Preparing Dried Chile Peppers
Skimming Grease
Meats and Stocks
Chips on the Side
Green Chiles
Adding Oil or Fat
Useful Kitchen Links

Too hot/Cooling Off! - if the chili's too hot for you, or you just need a little break from the heat, you can use ice cream, sherbet, or ice cold milk for immediate relief. I serve chili with giant frosted mugs of milk. Ahh!

Rosslyn Gallagher suggests sliced cucumber for this purpose. That does sound cool!

If you've made a batch of chili that's just too hot, and want to fix the whole thing, my readers have provided a few techniques (which I have not tested!) You can thicken the chili with flour and water (even if you have to add more liquid to the chili to have something to thicken), or you can make more chili of a mild type and mix with the original.

Pat Riley (on The Recipe Link BB) says:

If you get heavy handed with the chili powder in your Chili con Carne - dump in a can of crushed pineapple. It virtually disappears so no one knows that it is there, it leaves the flavor of the chili - but takes out the heat.
Too Salty! - if you added too much salt, you can dilute the recipe by adding more unsalted chili, or try Jillian Swanson's advice:

I have a trick for you to make it unsalty. Take a peeled whole potatoe and simmer it with the chili until it gets soft. I had to use 3 potatoes, but it worked ! We ate it the next day.

Using Dried Chiles vs. Chile Powder - Some recipes here call for preparing dried chiles such as ancho or New Mexico varieties. You can substitute a chile powder for these, but I don't know what an accurate equivalent would be. I think one tablespoon of powder per pound of meat is a good place to start. As with the blended chile sauces, add half of the total amount of powder initially, gradually adding more until it's right for you.

Chile powder is not the same as chili powder. The former is pure powdered chiles, while the later is chile powder plus a bunch of other spices (ie. "instant chili").

Preparing Dried Peppers - Most peppers can be re-hydrated by removing the stems and seeds, and soaking or simmering them in hot water for an hour or so. They can then be blended into a sauce using a little water or a stock for thinning. (Some people claim that leaving the seeds in adds to the heat sensation, but I've heard that the seeds don't actually contain much capsaicin.) Dried New Mexico or Anaheim chiles require more work...

The New Mexico/Anaheim varieties have smooth, tough skin. Do not try the soak-and-blend technique; you'll get a mess that resembles ground-up plastic! Instead, cut off the tops of the peppers to remove the stems and seeds and to expose the interior. Steep them for an hour in hot water. Then cut the peppers in half length-wise. For each half, carefully scrape off the inner pulp with a flat knife. Then scrape the pulp off the knife into the blender. Add a little water or stock to blend into sauce. This take some practice, but the rewards are great!

If you have a food processor, you can make your own chile powders. I don't do this, but it probably amounts to, ``put dried peppers in food processor and press the `powder' button.''

Seasonings - I don't mention salt, black pepper, bay leaves, and that sort thing, because you should use them according to your own taste and experience. My recipes are just a starting point.

Skimming Grease - If you cover the simmering pot and leave undisturbed (some people are compulsive stirrers), the grease will be easier to skim. I never used to skim, but I do now in deference to my advancing years and clogging arteries. It shouldn't taste different, but it does. Sigh. The best approach to this problem is to grind your own low-fat cuts (see next section).

Meats and Stocks - This is an area where you can let your imagination run free. Common meats are beef round, chuck, and roasts. Other (sometimes more costly) alternatives are sirloin, skirt, chuck tender, and various cuts of pork. If you want to learn stocks, go to the most excellent Cajun cooking site: The Creole and Cajun Recipe Page. Emu, ostrich, venison, buffalo, water buffalo, moose, and elk are interesting to use, but each call for special knowledge of cooking game meats (which I don't *yet* possess). Go here for some guidance.

These meats can be ground or cubed. My beef skirt recipe calls for strips. I bought a small meat grinder so I could select and trim my own ground meat. Believe me, spending a few extra bucks on some yummy sirloin is well worth it.

Many competitive chili cooks use chicken broth in their chili. I have, and I think it definitely improves a meat that can't quite stand on its own. My only observation is that it seems to lower the refrigerator lifetime of the chili. (I cool and refrigerate my chili from hot simmer to cold without lifting the lid. This allows a lifetime of several weeks if you spoon out cold portions.)

The best option is to cool with closed lid, then spoon into freezer bags and freeze. Everyone seems to agree that freezing does not harm, and perhaps helps, the taste.

Chips on the Side - You can make great tortilla chips without oil. Put four corn tortillas on a lightly greased plate and microwave them on high power for 5 minutes (or whatever works for your MW), turning once. Watch out! The plate will be mighty hot! Yum! (Fritos are still my favorite.)

Tomatos - I mention canned tomatos in some of the recipes, and canned Italian plum tomatos are a pretty good option, but there is no substitute for home-grown tomatos. Period..

Tomatillos - tomatillos are small green Mexican tomatos. They have a tart/sweet flavor, and a paper-like husk. To prepare, remove the husk and rub under running water to remove the tacky residue from the skin. Remove the stem and either chop fine or blend.

Green Chiles - Fresh green chiles are preferable to canned, but not available everywhere. If you can find fresh, roast them all over to remove the skin before using. You can use a broiler or hold them over a flame. Put in plastic or paper bag after roasting and let them sit a few minutes before skinning. Here in Austin, a local cafe has a green chile festival every fall, and sells fresh-roasted chiles by the pound. These can be frozen and used for months.

Most of my recipes have green chiles because I can't help myself. Except for the Rojos Y Verde, you can leave them out. (But Theresa will think you're a wimp!)

Thickening - Many cooks thicken their chili with masa or wheat flour, or with corn starch. My recipes have plenty of chili pulp, so no thickening is required. I think thickening softens the flavor somewhat, which may be called for if you're feeding Aunt Edna. So, if you must, mix a tablespoon flour with 1-2 tablespoons cool water and stir into chili for last twenty minutes of simmer. (Repeat after ten minutes if still too thin.) Reader Scott Hudson says:

I found the best roux to be bacon grease and flour. Just use about 1 cup of grease and flour to thicken and stir into the boiling chili slowly until the chili ``seizes''.
Urk! I can already feel my arteries seizing! An alternative is offered by John Condon:
I have found if you throw some frozen french fries into your chili as it cooks, this will thicken your sauce. As the fries break down they release the starch in the potatos and this thickens the sauce without flour.
Finally, George Blackstone suggests using a little arrowroot to thicken, and he stresses the ``little''.

Adding Oil or Fat - some meats such as venison are so lean that the spice flavors are not conveyed properly. Unless you're making a super-low-fat chili on purpose, taste can be enhanced by adding a little oil for these meats (a tablelspoon or so should do it).

Alcohol - the evaporation of alcohol during cooking can leach the aromatics from your chili. If you use an alcoholic drink for flavoring, perhaps ``pre-cooking'' it can ameliorate the effect. When in doubt, relax.

Prepositions - From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put. - Churchhill

Useful Kitchen Links - A few useful tidbits from around the web:

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