I got into one of those moods to make something in the kitchen yesterday — a rare mood, for which Krissy is thankful, since when I get in the mood to make something in the kitchen, usually the kitchen explodes toward entropy in fairly short order. But what can I say, I had a hankering for chili. I told Krissy I was going to make dinner, and after the near imperceptible emotional war on her face — the “how nice, he’s making dinner so I don’t have to” expression and the “please God let my kitchen survive this” expression going mano a mano for about 15 milliseconds — she said that would be fine. Off I went to the grocery store.
Here’s what you need to make John Scalzi’s Entirely Random Chili:
1. One really big white onion, somewhat coarsely chopped, because, well, I don’t handle kitchen knives all that well.
2. Four large ripe tomatoes, only slightly less coarsely chopped.
3. One small package of Orzo or other small pasta (you want no more than a cup)
4. One pound italian sausage — not ground beef. The sausage should be ground but not in sausage casings.
5. One pound thick-sliced peppered bacon.
6. One regular-sized can of chili beans.
7. One regular-sized can of starter chili sauce (I used the Tabasco brand one)
8. 3-4 cans of basic canned chili, two with beans, two without. You ask, why bother with these cans of chili? Well, if you want to just build out your chili starting from beans and tomato paste, go right ahead. But the reason I do it this way is that even when I’m ambitious, I’m lazy. If there’s a canned chili you find marginally acceptable, why not use it as a base?
All right. First you dump the canned chili, the starter chili sauce and the beans into a bag-ass pot and you let it simmer. You chop up the onions and tomatoes. The tomatoes go directly into the chili. The onion you sauté first in olive oil (this keeps you from having onion breath so insanely powerful that you melt your pets’ hair), adding a very small dash of garlic powder. Once they are lightly cooked, in they go into the chili.
Then you fry up the italian sausage, and make sure that you don’t get any clumps that are too large. Once it’s fully cooked, put it into the chili. Chop up the bacon into smallish chunks and fry up in two batches. I like my bacon fully cooked but not crumbly crisp, but, you know, do what you want. Drain the fat but don’t be obsessive about draining every last drop; dump into the chili.
Lastly, add in the orzo and mix throughly. Let the chili continue to simmer for the suggested cooking time of the Orzo. Now, eat. It serves, God, at least eight. Garnish each bowl with cheese, sour cream and pepper/peppers to taste.
This chili is not particularly hot, since I’m not a huge fan of chili that tries to assassinate your tongue on it’s way toward the stomach, but if you are then I suppose adding in the chilies of your choice would not be a bad thing at all. For me, this chili has two things going for it: One, it’s got a lot of savory meat (the Italian sausage and peppered bacon plus the base “meat” from the canned chili), and two, it’s a really thick chili — the orzo really helps with that. Chili can have either the consistency of a soup or a stew, but I have a hard time with soup-like chilis. I think a good chili needs to have a substantial portion of the chili stick on a spoon when you turn the spoon upside down. Otherwise, you’re just doing it wrong.
I don’t know if this recipe qualifies as “true” chili, or just a weird-random chili-like stew. But one, ask me if I care, and two, whatever it is, it’s good eatin’.
Best of all, I did not destroy the kitchen making it. Score one point for me.