Sunday, October 16, 2005

Beachcomber's Chili

Winner of the 2005 Sturbridge Lake Chili Cookoff for "Most Unusual Chili"

Here, to the best of my recollection, is how I made the chili this year. My cooking is a lot more chaotic than this recipe sounds.

1 pound frozen cod
1/2 pound frozen scallops
3 T olive oil
3 stalks celery
2 shallots
3 T freshly grated ginger
2 large tomatillos
3 poblano chiles
2 cubano chiles
2 long hot peppers (the green ones)
2 seranno chiles (the green ones)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
two 15 oz cans of beans. I used cannellini and black beans. Kidney, chick peas, or navy beans are fine too.
Two 48 oz cans of chicken broth.

Set the fish and scallops out to defrost.

Roast and peel the chile peppers. The easiest way to do this is on the burner of a gas stove, but you can also use a cookie sheet on the top rack of an oven broiler. The skins of the peppers will blister and char. Rotate the peppers frequenty to try to get the entire surface to blister. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Cut open each pepper, removing the seeds and inner structures. The seeds hold most of the spiciness in the chiles, and I discard them, but some cooks like to use them for additional heat in the chili. Flatten the pepper out, skin side up, and then scrape off as much of the skin as possible. Discard the skin as it is a little bitter. Dice the chile peppers, and set aside.

I also roast and peel the tomatillos, but only to remove the skins. Try to keep as much of the flesh and seeds intact as possible.

Dice the celery, tomatillos, and shallots. Pan fry in a large frying pan with the ginger and garlic in a little olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced peppers, and heat for another minute. Add the first can of chicken broth, and the beans. Keep the chili at medium heat, but reduce the heat if it starts boiling too quickly. Stir occasionally, to make sure that nothing is burning to the bottom of the skillet. The chicken broth needs to be reduced to thicken the chili. Let simmer for a few hours. For the cookoff, I did one can the night before, transfered the chili to a sealed container in the refridgerator to allow the flavors to blend, then added the second can of broth about two hours before I planned to leave for the cookoff.

When defrosted, dice or fork shread the cod. Slice the scallops in half 'the long way' to thin them out, then cut each piece into quarters. Pan fry the fish for a few minutes in the olive oil, until cooked. You can either pan fry or broil the scallops. I added the fish and scallops to the chili right before transfering it to the serving pot, since I didn't want to overcook the fish by stewing it for several hours.

Possible substitutions:
You could use a little onion instead of the shallots.
Replace the tomatillos with small tomatoes.
Substitute a vegetable broth for the chicken broth.
Use different combinations of chili peppers

Chili isn't an exact science; don't be afraid to add or remove ingredients. I think what makes the base of this recipe work is that a lot of broth is reduced to be the base of the chili, and that it uses a couple of kinds of chile peppers. Poblanos are a warm heat, but provide a smoky flavor to the chili. The ancho is the dried version of the poblano. I think that the cubanos are medium heat, but the flavor they provide is in a different direction than the poblanos. The serranos are hot, and provide heat to the chili. Jalapenos are a medium heat pepper, and could be used instead of the seranos. The smoked form of the jalapeno is called a chipotle, and can be found in barbecue sauce (adobo sauce) in the mexican food section of supermarkets.


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