Saturday, October 30, 2010

Babler Chili

My husband's extended family holds a picnic at Babler State Park in St. Louis every October. Aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandmas and great-grandmas everywhere, hugging hello then claiming a picnic table for their branch of the Waldschmidt family tree.  Each family brings a pot of chili. There’s no contest or judging. That’s just always been the main food. After twenty years plus of attending I can just peek into the pots, stir, and tell which family brought which chili. The recipes don’t change much over the years.

Except ours. One year John decided to make chili. But he wanted it to stand out from all the other chili. So he made a Chicken White Bean Chili. You would have thought it was Thanksgiving and we had brought Osterich. Everyone ooh-ed and ahh-ed. It created quite a stir. So henceforth John would spend one day a year making a non-traditional chili for the Babler gathering. (Oh my God! Such a production – but that’s another story.)

This year we drove nine hours to St. Louis to attend Babler. I did not want to relinquish my kitchen and my sanity so for the first time ever I made the chili. Cooked and froze it in Ohio and threw it in the car.  I was inspired by the flavors of fall that just itch to be used.

Fall Harvest Chili
Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you. It's mostly spices. This goes together in a few minutes and then simmers on the stove. Perfect for a day of watching football or the World Series.1 pound of round steak, trimmed and cut into small cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bottle of pumpkin ale
4 cups of Butternut Squash, cubed and cooked
½ can pumpkin
1 14 ounce can of zesty tomatoes
1 can of Rotel
1 14 oz. tomato sauce

(I kept these separate because you would be afraid to make this chili when you saw how long the list of ingredients is. Feel free to eliminate, substitute, and add.)

1 T. ground Aleppo pepper
2 T. chili powder
1 T. cumin
1 T. salt
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cups of cooked beans

Season the round steak with salt and pepper and brown in a little oil in a large pot. Remove from the pot and add the onions. Cook until translucent and starting to brown. Add the beef back to the pot and add all the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for as long as you have time for. You could simmer it for a half hour or three hours. The flavors will meld and change the longer you cook it. If you don’t want to eat it right away, cool and store in the fridge.

You could top it with sour cream, cheddar cheese and pepitas if you want to jazz it up. A perfect dish for a cold fall day.