the chills

a new year, an emerging winter with those telltale harsh blue skies and cruel winds. a year whose number is hard to imagine - 2012 - a clean symmetry to the numeral, a mystery to its contents. just shy of two weeks into this year, and the one we left behind already feels sealed. isn't it strange how our brains allow us to imagine time acting that way? january is a month that follows the last, but it doesn't feel as such - it's not just another chapter, but a new book completely. even the december whirlwind, so socially (and gastronomically) consuming, looks like a vague shadow now, even as our christmas tree still stands, green and proud, in the living room.

a very old ornament that belonged to my great grandmother, Nana Kane

one of the first meals of the year was prepared by dear Ryan: a massive pot of chili that fed us, like some modern miracle, for days and days and days. Ryan is a super good cook, but it didn't always used to be that way. but even back in his early 20's, when a sixer of pbr and a cheese hoagie counted as dinner, chili was one of those things that he somehow just intuitively knew how to make. how charming is it when men have a few solid, no-fail, feed-the-masses dishes in their repertoire? my dad's included pancakes, BLTs, and scrambled eggs. i still love eating eggs for dinner.

anyway, chili is one of those special foods that has a million interpretations, variations, an openness to each cook's trademark. chili is more a concept than an actual dish, one that can change with the seasons or the contents of the pantry. and, best of all, it never turns out quite the same but (barring scorched vegetables or horrendously ill proportioned seasoning), always turns out delicious.

a wide array of seeds and spices, plus beer and chocolate (!) are Ryan's secret flavor weapons in chili

on the day this batch of chili was made, january 2nd, we let it sit for hours on the stove. we even left the house to run errands, the giant simmering mass doing its thing over a low flame (leaving the house with even the smallest flame going makes me nervous, but i manage). when we came back, the spicy stew-y, tomato-y smells had occupied every room. hints of cinnamon in the bedroom, smoked paprika molecules haloing the TV. the rich fragrance of all the ingredients melding seemed to warm the house by a few degrees, and made the process of recovery from the new years extravaganza just a bit easier. and as the weak sun began to set, the chili was finally deemed ready, and we ate bowls of it on the couch, wrapped up in blankets. it was good to feel safe and fed, taking a moment of stillness before rocket launching into this year that lies ahead.

Ryan's Avocado Crema
(super good on chili, spread on a sandwich, or scooped onto a cracker)
~makes about 3/4 cup~
~takes 5 minutes~

1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup of sour cream
juice squeezed from half a fresh lime
dash of frank's (or other hot sauce) to taste
salt & pepper to taste
a few sprigs of fresh cilantro, chopped up

-in a medium sized bowl, mash the avocado with a fork.

- scrape the avo mash into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. add all the other ingredients and pulse to combine. you might need to scrape the bowl down once to make sure everything is mixed in.

- you can also skip the food processor and just mix everything up by hand. this a pretty unscientific process, but yields creamy, tangy, beautiful green crema that is the perfect foil for the deep flavors of the chili.


1 comment:

karinalane said...

Have you tried a flame tamer? They're supposed to diffuse the heat enough so you can leave the stove on low safely. Not that I have one.

I made chili last night! Huzzah!