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Chili Saturday

We received a cookbook called "Killer Chili" from our friends Jeff and Lauren as a housewarming gift a few weeks ago, and I've been trying to make time to cook one of the recipes included in the book. Up until Saturday, I'd figured on "Pablano & Grilled Chicken Chili", but in the usual chaos that erupts when we go shopping with the kids in tow, we remembered that we were already thawing out one pound of ground beef at home so we switched recipes and chose "Sidecar Bar & Grille Chili," which is based on the chili served at the Sidecar Bar & Grille in Philadelphia, PA (of course). The recipe calls for 3 pounds of ground beef (serves 11, it says), so while we were at Wegman's we picked up an additional 2 pounds of ground beef (under Angie's protests that I'd be making "way too much" for us to eat), along with the rest of the ingredients (1 large green bell pepper, 1 large yellow onion, 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, 28 oz. of kidney beans, cheddar cheese and cilantro). At home, we already had most of the other required ingredients.

Angie took the twins over to Barnes & Noble so they could each pick out a book (compliments of the gift card we also received from Jeff & Lauren) while I watched Adrian and started prepping everything (dicing the veggies, doling out the proper seasoning amounts, etc.). It was a good thing she took the twins out, let me tell you. The recipe calls for forming the beef into "large thin, burgerlike patties" and then searing them in batches in "a smoking hot iron skillet." We don't have an iron skillet, so I had to use our frying pan. From the moment I tossed the first patty onto the pan, the smoke began! I had the hood vent over the oven cranked up on high, but I didn't realize how much smoke was being produced until two of our smoke detectors started going off. I turned around and saw Adrian (through the fog in the family room) trying to watch TV, but yelling over to me and pointing up in the air at all the smoke! I ran around opening all the first floor windows to help dissipate the smoke, but it was a few minutes before the detectors stopped freaking out.

Cooking the beef probably only took me about 20 minutes, but it seemed like forever since I was dealing with all the smoke. Plus, while you're cooking the beef, you're also sauteing the veggies and seasonings in a large pot on the stove. I was afraid that the veggies would burn, so I kept stirring them around every few minutes (even though they are only cooking over low heat). Once you put the beef into the pot, you add 2 cups of lager and bring the whole mess to a boil. After that, you add the crushed tomatoes and reduce to a simmer; then add the kidney beans. From there, you're home free - 20 minutes more on low heat and it's ready to serve. Total time in the kitchen for me: probably about 2 hours, from dicing veggies to the final simmering 20 minutes.

I really wasn't expecting it to be too spicy, but it had a really nice kick to it. Angie felt it was just a bit too spicy for her, though she ate the entire heaping bowl I'd given her (maybe out of encouragement/politeness?). The twins attempted to eat some on a soft taco shell, but they both only survived one bite before complaining that it was "too spicy" (and Dillon didn't like the sight of the beans in there either). We gave a little sample to Adrian on a nacho chip and he nearly passed out from coughing/gagging, so we cut him off immediately.

Later on, Ryan stopped by with Don and Cyndi so they all volunteered to try my first chili concoction. The verdict was unanimous: they all enjoyed it very much. Ryan had two bowls of it! In my haste, though, I forgot to add the cilantro at the end (I did put the cheese on, though). And Angie forgot to add sour cream (which she loves), and I think that maybe it might have toned down the spiciness a bit for her if she had.

Jeff had suggested that I add 1.5 teaspoons of cinnamin to the seasonings, and I decided to only add 1 teaspoon instead. With her first spoonful, Angie detected the cinnamin (I couldn't). Don said he could taste it, but felt that it was a good addition to the recipe. I don't think Ryan or Cyndi were able to detect it.

Next up: the grilled chicken pablano chili! Stay tuned...

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