Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chili tacos, God, and Scrabble

Despite my true and penultimate love for Chinese food, sometimes there is nothing better than tacos. Actually, scratch that -- sometimes there is nothing better than CHILI TACOS. Maybe it's because of that all too common second-generation American experience of loving the food your mother makes, but secretly craving the foreign simple foods of your American classmates that involve cheese and cream and tomatoes. Actually, this craving was satisfied every now and then when I was a kid; I remember my Dad making his 5-alarm chili and serving it to us on rice with sour cream -- which I totally thought was normal up until maybe 2 years ago when I found out that it wasn't. I didn't even understand what "5-alarm" meant at the time but I just remember being so freakin' excited whenever the house filled up with the smell of chili. I would stuff myself silly and be in pain from a full belly. Even so, that hasn't stopped me and to this day, there is something about the ground beef and beans and spices and cheese and sour cream that go on top of a bed of lettuce blanketed by crunchy crispy taco flour that titillates my food senses.

Unlike Chinese food though, this craving only hits me on occasion so chili tacos have kind of become a "special occasion food" in my book but when I satisfy this craving, it is so entirely gratifying. The craving hit me a few days ago along with the hankering for a good Scrabble game so I invited my best friend (an equally hardcore Scrabble fan) up for a Sunday evening of chili tacos and competition. This was, of course, highly anticipated for several days. I've been overwhelmingly busy and/or lazy so haven't cooked in a while and have been living off of frozen dumplings (which are, in and of itself, still amazing). Since tomorrow we have President's Day off, I felt at leisure to make a nice meal.

This morning I overslept and missed church. Disappointed at this and my annoying inability to wake up for anything other than work, I downloaded a few podcasts of some Jim Wallis sermons, popped in my Ipod, and headed out to run some errands. Call me a multitasker but this was awesome! I shopped for groceries and was hit by a good dosage of social justice preaching. When I got home, I turned on another sermon, poured myself a glass of Stonecap Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and started on the chili. Usually I cook in silence but this time it was great to hear these heart-moving sermons as I chopped and minced away. Jan showed up and the chili simmered for a while on the stovetop and we competed in a good Scrabble game (good because I won) as we munched on Trader Joe's veggie stix. When our stomachs were hungry from the intensity of the game, we relished in chili tacos and red wine. Mmmmm, life is good.

1/2 red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound ground beef
4 tomatoes, chopped with seeds and pulp
2 cans tomato paste (6 oz.)
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 bag frozen corn
4 chilis (whole, with a slit in the middle)
cilantro, chopped
soy sauce
olive oil

In a large pot, heat olive oil. Saute onions for 5 minutes then add garlic. Add ground beef, stir thoroughly and cook until beef is about 2/3 done. I usually add some soy sauce for taste b/c who am I kidding -- I'm Chinese and I can't resist adding soy sauce to everything. Add chopped tomatoes, stir, turn heat down to low, and cover. Let the tomatoes break down and then add tomato paste. Let this simmer and then add beans. After 5 minutes, frozen corn is next followed by chilis and then salt, cumin, and cilantro to taste. Let this simmer for as long as you deem necessary for the tastes to kick in.

Serve as is OR -- even better -- serve as chili tacos. I use Whole Foods Blue Corn hard taco shells, shred up some romaine lettuce, and get some cheddar cheese and sour cream. Serve in taco form or, as I prefer, in a taco salad form. Compliment with a few glasses of wine and an ass-serving Scrabble game and you're golden.