Winter In The South Of France

After a multi-day deep freeze that paralyzed this part of France, it’s now sunny and blue and raining icicles all over the garden.  There’s still quite a lot of hard crunchy snow on the ground,

enough to make even a tough little French cookie like Zazou try to figure out how to keep her princess paws dry.  It’s melting now, but tonight it’s going down to -7°C, which I expect will delight those who enjoy le patinage and have their ice skates handy by the front door.

It’s just the kind of weather that makes me crave chili, that least-French and most-American of winter foods.  I can make a chili-like dish here, but it can never be the real thing, as too many ingredients are fundamentally different.

When we were living “back home” on Bainbridge Island, looking down over the Puget Sound and Rolling Bay, I created this chili to soothe my winter soul.  I’d love to cook up a big pot of it tonight and laugh in the face of that  -7°, but since I can’t, perhaps you’ll make it and flip a rude gesture towards the south of France winter gods on my behalf.

This recipe will outrage traditionalists of every stripe, but honest, it’s delicious.  The ingredient list is long, but since it uses canned beans it comes together in a jiffy.  If you feel like making your own beans, you can’t do better than to get your beans from Rancho Gordo.  There are a lot of American foods I miss, but Rancho Gordo beans are very close to the top of the list.

And if, by some chance, you make this and decide that you are indeed one of those outraged traditionalists, that this chili has too much garlic, too many tomatoes, or, for crying out loud, beer and chocolate and basil, if by some fluke of nature you really don’t like it, please just pack it up and send it on over here to me!

Abra’s Rolling Bay Red

3 T olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
10 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
1 lb ground chuck
1 lb ground pork
4 T chili powder
1 T ancho chili powder
1 T ground cumin
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp salt
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 12 oz bottle Mexican beer
1 6 oz can tomato paste
2 oz semisweet chocolate
1 14 oz can black beans
1 14 oz can pinto or kidney beans
chopped white onions, grated Cheddar, and nacho-style pickled jalapenos for garnish

Heat the oil and sauté the onions, peppers, and garlic until the vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Add the beef and pork and sauté until brown, breaking up meat with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder, ancho powder, cumin, basil, oregano,  thyme, and salt. Stir to blend and fry spices slightly. Mix in crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, beer and tomato paste. Add chocolate and stir until melted.  Add beans.  Simmer until thickened and flavors are melded,  stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes.

Garnish with chopped onions, grated cheddar, and nacho jalapenos.

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11 Comments on “Winter In The South Of France”

  1. John DePaula Says:

    Looks absolutely delicious to me!

  2. david Says:

    Hi, you mention you experienced a multi day deep freeze in the south of France. Can you post the area you live in in the South since I live in the south of France on the coast we have only had rain and then blue sky over the last week. I have even gone for a swim last wednesday. It is cold but not freezing for the last week.
    Curious,
    David

  3. Abra Bennett Says:

    We’re in Uzès, in the Gard. You guys down on the coast are about the only people in France not buried under snow right now!

  4. Nico Says:

    Looks quite interesting, but I am afraid I do not know what chuck is. Could you post the French word for it? My English is not bad, but not good enough for this one.

  5. Abra Bennett Says:

    Hmm, chuck is a cut that doesn’t exist in France. It’s much fattier than any beef I’ve seen here, maybe 23% fat, and it’s a tough cut that needs braising, when it’s not ground. Do you have any idea what that might be called here?


  6. MMMMMMMMM that is GGOOOODDD Abra ………… I do love Chili Con . Also hot homemade soup does it for me …….. All the Best for today xx

  7. Nico Says:

    Could you perhaps post a picture of the piece before grinding? Or give an idea of where in the animal it is located? Might help. You see, I am not French, and not only English but French too is a foreign language for me…
    This is allways a problem when travelling between countries: not only the languages and the names change, even the cuts are not the same.

  8. Heinz Says:

    I think chuck should be “épaule” in France. Épaule is devided in 5 cuts. These are: “filet d’épaule” , “gras d’épaule” , “épais d’épaule” , “couvert d’épaule” and “palette”. I don’t know which of those is the closest to the chuck cut.

  9. Nico Says:

    Heinz, reading the description of Abra and the names of the “épaules” you are giving I think it might be the “gras d’épaule”. Sounds quite greasy to me.
    This blog is one of my favourites just because of this. Abra’s writing (and picturing) standards are high and the comments add a little extra.
    Thanks for it all Abra (& Co)!

  10. Abra Bennett Says:

    I have never ever seen gras d’épaule for sale anywhere. Heinz is absolutely right about it being the shoulder, though, according to this diagram http://www.chigourmetsteaks.com/choosing_beef.php Nico, so is Flemish your native language?

  11. Nico Says:

    Yes, it is.


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