Who knew? According to Apple News, along with the famous Punxsutawney Phil, two other groundhogs have the power to doom us to six more weeks of winter: New York’s Staten Island Chuck and Connecticut’s Chuckles X. They are apparently in cahoots, as all three (in the midst of an epic Nor’easter), predicted an extension to this year’s dismal grey winter.
My mom and dad moved from Nebraska to Puget Sound in the late sixties and their first February, Muth wrote me a letter describing her joy at seeing green grass, little white snowdrops, miniature daffodils and tree buds beginning to swell. Sure, there were days of dripping rain, grey skies, and damp wool jackets but still—there was hope. In the Midwest, the ground is frozen solid until late April, the tree branches are bare and smooth, winter storms push through without pause, and snow shovels remain at the ready. In Northwestern Washington, when January is finally over, we look for snowdrops, heath, tiny daffodils, and camellias to light up our grey winter landscape.
By now the commitment to hasty New Year’s resolutions has faded, the pandemic drags on, and—much like in Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day, every morning seems like the one before. Grumpy, self-absorbed TV weatherman Phil Connors woke up again and again to February 2, Sonny & Cher singing I Got You Babe, and the mundane details of life repeating exactly, day after day. Gradually, his unrestricted pursuit of doing whatever he wanted shifted to acceptance and he found joy in learning to play the piano, creating ice sculptures, helping the people in his life, and eventually becoming the man Andie Macdowell wanted him to be.
The pandemic has given me over three hundred mornings to examine the details of my life: cozy fires, sister chats, brisk walks, off-and-on swims, more time to read, The Durrells in Corfu, and sleep snuggles with the Sweetie. Not sure I’ve become a better person, but I do have a sharper appreciation of my life and my dear ones.
So…as long as its bleak and drippy outside, let’s look for a little bit of comfort in a hearty beef and pork chili.
Texas-style Beef and Pork Chili
- 2 ancho chilies (You’ll find anchos in the Mexican food area of a grocery store. They’re usually in a clear plastic bag by the Mexican spice rack. Split them, remove seeds, and roast over a burner or in a skillet. When soft and dark, they’re done. Cover them with 1 cup boiling water and let stand until they’re soft. Blend and strain. Reserve liquid. You can also make great chili powder using Anchos, just roast them as above but don’t cover them with water. Instead, let them cool, then them whiz up in a spice grinder.)
- 2 # beef, cubed 2 # pork, cubed
- 3 T. flour
- Sprinkles of cumin, coriander, oregano, mild chili powder, salt, and pepper
- Good glug of oil
- 2 onions, diced
- 2 T. garlic, minced
- 1 T. cumin
- 2 t. coriander
- 1 t. celery seed
- 2 t. oregano
- 1 t. marjoram
- 3 bay leaves
- 1⁄8 t. allspice
- 1⁄8 t. cloves
- Some canned chipotles (if you like some heat)
- 2 T. tomato paste
- 4 c. chicken or beef stock
- 1 cup beer
- Strained Ancho chili liquid
- 1 large can crushed tomatoes
- 1 T. minced canned chipotle peppers in sauce (add more to taste)
- If you’re a bean lover, add a can of drained pinto beans—just don’t tell a Texan. (“There’s a saying in Texas: “If you know beans about chili, you know chili ain’t got no beans.”)
Dry beef and pork cubes, sprinkle with some cumin, coriander, oregano, chili powder, salt, and pepper, then dredge in flour. Brown in hot oil. Add onions and garlic, sauté until soft and light brown. Add measured spices—brown. Add tomato paste, stir, and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add stock, beer, strained Ancho chili liquid, tomatoes, chipotles.
Bring to a boil, lower to simmer and cook until meat is tender 1 1⁄2-3 hours. If you like soft, creamy beans in your chili, add them early in the process; if you like the beans firmer and to hold their shape, add them in the last hour.
Accompany chili with salsa Fresca, grated cheese, sour cream, sliced olives, diced avocado, lime wedges, and crunched up Doritos.