When the weather reports last week threatened a few days of snow, I decided to make a big pot of chili to welcome the change in weather. I also wanted to be prepared with large batches of food to have for heating up outside on the rocket stove or in the disco in case we lost power, as has happened with winter storms in the past. Just a few years back, Fort Davis was without power for nearly a dozen days because of snow and ice, if legend rings true.
It was hard for me to get excited about cooking chili while still wearing sandals and tank tops outside, so I was excited to get this batch going. It felt good to be preparing for the pending change in weather. I was even thinking that if our water froze, we could melt snow for drinking. It takes an awful lot of melted snow to make water, and I was really hoping it wouldn’t get to that point, but just in case, I was mentally prepared. I’d grind coffee beans and have it at the ready since no electricity means no coffee grinding. No worries, right? It could be like camping, I suppose. I can handle some snow.
For our first chili of the season, I bought a little over two pounds of round steak, and cut it into small pieces. I put it in our largest crockpot with diced onions and secret spices, and cooked it all day – for at least eight hours – so that it would be ready for dinner when the flurries began to stick on every surface outside. I love having leftover chili with eggs and tortillas for breakfast, or just eating it with tortillas. My husband prefers his with cornbread, if he has his say.
As the flakes were falling and I was about to serve steaming bowls of soul-warming chili, I got a case of the dropsies. Butterfingers. Yep, I managed to drop it… and not just a spoonful or a bowl. I dropped the entire stoneware pot filled with undoubtedly the best chili ever.
I had chili all over my new winter boots, my jeans, every surrounding surface within a two-foot diameter of the drop zone. Ugh. Of course, I took pictures, but I’m not sharing them. It’s much too heartbreaking. Or hilarious. Maybe someday. Just not yet.
((NOTE: Enough time has passed that I can share a few photos of it. I cooked it inside one of our buildings-under-construction and brought it over to the tiny-house-on-wheels… so the spill actually happened outside, as I was attempting to open the door with my pinky finger.))
And the worst part is that while it seemed to happen in slow motion, just before it happened, I knew it was going to happen. I’d managed to remove the very hot stoneware pot using a kitchen towel, not my normal potholders with grippers on them. Why? The world will never know. And as soon as I felt it slipping from the towel, I knew it was all over. And was going to be all over. And so it was.
There were about three bites that remained stuck to the inside of the stoneware, and they just added insult to injury because they were melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Nothing was salvageable. At least my stoneware didn’t break, but if it had, replacements of all sizes are available on the internet.
My husband, in an effort to be supportive, told me he really didn’t want chili anyway. Through tears, I managed to squeak out, “But it was the best chili I’ve ever made.”
The next day, I made beef stew. I’m still not ready to make chili again. We ate our delicious beef stew for days, without any power outages.
Luckily, I never had to melt snow for drinking water.
My Favorite Beef Stew
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 pounds stew meat (I used round steak because it was on sale and it was delicious – cut it into half-inch chunks)
1 whole medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups beef stock (or 4 cups water + 4 beef bouillon cubes, or enough Better Than Bouillon to make 4 cups)
2 cups water (additional, if needed)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
5 whole carrots, washed, unpeeled, and roughly sliced
5 whole New potatoes (the red ones), quartered (New potatoes stay firmer than Russet potatoes when cooking in stews and soups)
3 stalks celery, chopped
Minced parsley (optional)
Heat oil and butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Brown meat. Add diced onions to the pot. Stir and cook for two or three minutes until softened, then add garlic for another minute. Pour in beef stock, then add Worcestershire, tomato paste, salt, pepper (I like to place a fresh rosemary sprig in at this point, but it’s optional. We have lots of rosemary). Stir to combine. Cover and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. The liquid should cook down to a thicker state and tenderize the meat. If it gets too thick/reduces too much, you can add additional water as needed.
Add carrots, celery and potatoes, then cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes. (If stew gets dry, just add a cup of hot water at a time to replenish the liquid.) Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Printed with the permission of the Alpine Avalanche
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