I apologize for posting two chili recipes so close together, but this chili is very different from my classic chili and was simply too good to pass up sharing with you. My Mother is the one who turned me on to this recipe, when she made the original version about a week ago. I have made a few updates, but this southwestern inspired chili is so hardy and flavorful that it is equally good with or without the sausage and makes a fabulous vegetarian meal.
This is quite simply, the best traditional chili that I have ever had. My Mom has made it for as long as I can remember from a recipe she got many years ago at one of Vermont’s finest sources of specialty smoked and cured meats, Harrington’s of Vermont. This chili has just the right amount of spice to it, enough so that you feel the heat on your tonge, but not so much that your mouth burns, and it has an excellent bean to meat ratio.
Last November, when we were living in Boston, we had a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving with a group of friends. I think that there ended up being twelve of us squeezed into the kitchen of our apartment. Once we sat down, no one could get up. Despite the fact that quarters were close, everyone had a great time and a great meal.
My dear friend Tallo (who writes her own food blog, La Cucina Francesca) contributed this amazing squash soup to our meal, which I was instantly in love with. It continues to be a favorite of mine. As a child, I would never eat the squash served at my Grandmother’s Thanksgiving holiday table because I hated the stringy texture of the mashed squash that she always served. This pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving made me realize that though my Grandmother would be appalled to hear me say it, what you decide to serve at your holiday table does not always have to follow family tradition, especially if only half the people at your holiday table will eat the dish in question.
At this time of year, carrots become abundant at farm stands. So when I went to buy some last week for my carrot cake, I went a little overboard and bought an entirely unnecessary amount because they were just so lovely. As a result, I found myself with a ridiculous number of left over carrots in my fridge.
One of my favorite quick little side dishes to make is slices of carrot, lightly steamed and tossed with ginger and a touch of butter. However, I knew that if I decided to go that route with this batch of carrots, I would be eating them for weeks. So, instead I decided to turn that carrot and ginger flavor that I love into soup, since soup is always on my mind as the weather gets cooler.
I always buy too much corn on the cob. Whenever I go to the farm stand to pick some up for dinner, I always get at least a dozen, even if it is only Nate and me eating it. But I never let any of it go to waste! Most often I freeze it, as I discuss in my post on Preserving the tastes of summer, to savor in the deepest depths of winter in one form or another. But I also love to use the left over corn on the cob in other dishes, two of my all time favorites are this Sweet Corn Chowder and my Warm Corn, Radish and Green Bean Salad (post to come).
Most soup recipes, and especially chowders, call for heavy cream or whole milk. While this ingredient makes soup creamy and delicious, it also jacks up the fat content of the soup. As a result, I most often use whatever milk I happen to have in the fridge, usually skim, rather than the ticker and creamier alternative. In addition, I usually add a little flour or puree a bit of potato or something, depending on the soup, to make up for the creaminess of the whole milk. While this may not be for everyone, I highly recommend at least trying it once or twice, with whatever lower fat milk you want, because I never seem to miss the cream.