Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I have had an easy life. My parents, other family and friends have supported me through any hardships I brought upon myself or was unlucky enough to fall into. A couple big ones here and there, but there really have not been that many. I would like to think that some of that is due to myself, living life so that I don't get into those bad situations, make my own luck by making the right decisions on a large and small scale. The point is though, I have never really experienced things like being in crazy debt, living in a broken home, abuse, neglect, destitution, really, of any sort. I would be able to handle these situations, no problem. That is what I tell myself. I am smart, capable, and experienced, I do well for myself now and I think most people who know me would think that were things to go downhill I would continue to persevere and succeed. But do they really know? Do I? No.

For the first time in my adult life someone who I loved died. Sure I have experienced death in the past, like my grandparents dieing when I was in middle school, but I had no expectations of myself then. I was still encountering new situations all the time and learning how I reacted to them. Death is an inevitability. It is an absolute fact that everyone will die eventually, 100% sure I know that is going to happen. That makes me feel like I should be able to accept it and prepare myself for what it will be like when someone dies, that I had done that. But I surprised myself. I wasnt prepared to accept that I would never see her again. It wasnt an open, nostalgic, think of all the good times, why did it have to happen now, what could have been different, I think that is what I had prepared myself for. The absoluteness of it is what strikes me, the never, and so sudden. People talk about the death of grandparents or someone who is sick sometimes like, they had been sick, it was only a matter of time, it was their time. Like that makes it easier to accept. And sure, it is harder to accept the death of someone who is young and fit than someone who has lived a full life and been in a hospital for months or something like that, but it is an infinitely large step, from life to death, no matter who has taken that step.

I hear about people going to war and coming back a changed person, affected by the things that they saw, not being able to return to regular civilian life, suffering from PTSD. I like to think I could overcome that mental barrage and I would come back fine. People growing up surrounded by violence and hatred. I like to think I would have come out just as cheery and well rounded as I am. But I don't know, how can I? I can only respect those that have overcome such hardships and hope that I continue to live my cushy life and that I can persevere like I think I can when it comes down to it. It is not often that I surprise myself, but it is also rare that I have the opportunity to learn something new about myself. If you take what you can out of every situation you are put into, that is all you can do to be the best you can be, right? What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. What a stupid saying...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Classy Drunken Roasted Poblano Sparerib Chili

It is superbowl tradition among my friends to pair the "big game" with a chili cookoff. A winning tradition indeed. I am generally good at improvising a dish that pleases the palette and so I trusted my instinct as I walked around the grocery store, inventing my chili based on what was on sale and whatever inspirations I had along the way. The dish was started yesterday morning and I regrettably didnt write anything down, so I am going to give it a try from memory, I am not even going to try to remember amounts of spices.

  • 1/2 rack pork spare ribs
  • 1/2 lb ground angus beef
  • 1 lb thick cut bacon


  • 8 oz tomato paste
  • 12 oz Brawlings Brewery Pilsner (or some other lesser beer)
  • 1c water
  • 1/8 c vermouth, maybe less
  • several healthy dashes of Braggs liquid aminos (great stuff, you should get it if you dont have it)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • white wine vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lime


  • Tons of salt, I like using kosher salt
  • bunch of pepper
  • some cumin
  • a little more coriander
  • 1/8 c fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 poblano pepper, roasted with the ribs
  • ground cayenne pepper
  • oregano
  • chili powder
  • paprika
  • medium onion
  • 5 gloves of garlic
  • a drip of liquid smoke
  • For the bacon: brown sugar

Other Stuff

  • 1 can dark red kidney beans
  • sprinkeling of corn meal.
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • Tomato slices, parmesean and cheddar cheese
  • for the ribs: a little teriyaki, a little bbq sauce (Stubbs "Texas Butter", good stuff...), rosemary, oregano, salt

Start by cooking the ribs, I put the little bit of teriyaki and bbq sauce on them, and a dash of worcestershire, basically a dry rub though, rosemary and oregano, salt salt salt, pepper. Baked at 300 for 2.5 hours, I put the poblano in for about 2 hours with it, rotating it every now and then, letting it roast in the juices.

This is the second time I have mentioned brown sugar candied bacon in my blog, if you didnt take my advice before, well, you must give it a try. A mix of brown sugar, paprika, and cayenne pepper sprinkled generously over bacon and fried makes an irresistibly delicious plate of smokey candied bacon, and also makes a perfect topping for some chili.

Chop the onion and garlic (yes, chop the garlic, no need to dice) and saute it in the leftover deliciousness from the bacon that you have already eaten half of. Brown that beef after the onions are done, drain out as much or as little of the bacon fat before cooking as you see suitable, and you may want to consider leaving in some of the drippings in after it is browned to add to the chili, throw some spices in with it if youd like, definitely salt. When the ribs are done get all the meat off the bone, take out any gristle and give it a rough chop. The poblano should be ready to go too, chop it up pretty fine, take the seeds with it if you want to add spice, the heat from a poblano is a dull, smokey, kind of back of the tongue heat, or if you dont want any extra spice, the roasted pepper itself hardly has any spice to it without the seeds but still adds some great flavor.

Now, take all those other liquidities (the vinegar, worcestershire, hot sauce and stuff... use your judgement) and add 'em to a pot, medium low heat. The beans. The diced tomatoes. Drain them. Or dont. The spices are a free for all, a few dashes here and there of each, dont be shy with the salt, do be shy with the liquid smoke, really just a drop, give it a solid few tablespoons of chili powder. Destem and chop the cilantro. Add the beef and rib meat, the poblano. Sprinkle in some corn meal if it is too runny, skip it if you like the consistency, remember it will thicken as it simmers.

Simmer till the party, coming back and adding random crap every time you pass the pot. Like Vermouth... I really liked that addition though, it really went with the flavors.

To top the chili, we have already made the candied bacon, one of the greatest flavors known to man, chop that into little delicious bacon bits. I wanted to add another flavor that is definitely in the top 10 flavors of all time. Toasted cheese. That little bit of cheddar that oozes out of a grilled cheese sandwich and fries on the pan and makes the little pedestal of accidental deliciousness? You can do that on purpose. In an ungreased nonstick pan, cover tomato slices in a mixture of grated cheddar and parmesan (real parmesan), maybe a little salt and chili powder on there, and go cheese down onto the already hot pan. Let them fry until the edges get brown, almost burnt, and flip them onto a plate. I found it easier to do a bunch at once, let the pan cool, and then take them off after things had hardened up a bit.

Delicious chili topped with candied bacon and a toasted cheese encrusted tomato slice. Ladies and gentleman, you have yourselves an award winning bowl of chili. Just last night, as the winner of the 3rd Annual Denver Orphans Superbowl Chili Cookoff, I personally won a chance to win a quarter million dollars! For a bowl of chili! Turns out the scratch off won $10, but still... pretty sweet. Let me know how it goes.