Sunday, January 3, 2010

Finding the Balance

One of the many things I love about vacation is the extra time I have to peruse blogs in search of inspiration, be it culinary, crafty, literary, or otherwise. Yesterday I discovered a blog written by a woman who gave up eating out for two years, choosing instead to eat food prepared almost solely with her own two hands in her New York City kitchen. This idea both fascinates and terrifies me. Eating out is one of my favorite luxuries and takeout sushi is one of my favorite pick-me-ups on days when my precious, darling students have been neither precious, nor darling. In any event, I lost a solid half hour exploring Not Eating Out in New York and reading random entries in Cathy Erway's culinary diary.

One recipe that caught my eye was Karol Lu's award-winning "I Love You, But I've Chosen Chili" chili. Now, I have no idea who Karol Lu is or how she names her dishes, but the recipe called for sweet potatoes, a bottle of beer, and three kinds of chili peppers; so I was sold. The problem, however, was that the mysterious Karol, while willing to divulge the basic ingredients of her magical chili, was apparently hesitant to get too specific about quantities or cooking times...she has a championship to defend after all. In her effort to protect the sanctity of her recipe, Karol even withheld one secret ingredient from the recipe.

I started working on the "I Love You, But I've Chosen Chili" chili around five and presented  it for dinner around 7:45. It turns out that I tend to be a little overzealous with the spices when left to my own devices, so there was a good twenty minutes devoted to attempting to find the appropriate balance of seasonings. The recipe called for chili powder, ancho chili powder, and chipotle chili powder. I went with about tablespoon and a half of each. This was way too much, fyi. Since I knew that recipe could benefit from the addition of some nameless mystery ingredient, I felt free to experiment. Some dark brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, a sprinkling of chocolate chips, and an hour of simmering later, the chili had the perfect balance of spicy and sweet. It was so tasty that I decided to whip up some corn muffins to keep it company. It was a triumph if I do say so myself.
So, today I learned that:  1.) recipes are not gospel, 2.) I can allow myself some freedom to experiment in the kitchen, and 3.) chili is not the most photogenic of foods.

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