Monday, January 31, 2011

HOW TO: make a thick, no-bean chili

Growing up, chili was a Christmas Eve dinner tradition. My mom made her recipe--a thin version made with ground beef, beans and tomato juice as the primary liquid. And I grew up thinking I didn't like chili.

And then somewhere between college and now, I realized that I what I didn't really like was the beans and the thinness of it. I tried a can of no-bean chili, and it was just okay. But I knew that it would taste a lot better if I made it fresh, with what I wanted.

But up until last week, I had never done so. I realized that I had talked all this game about how "I love thick chili with no beans" but had never put it to the test. Saturday I made my first pot of chili.

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Also, this was the first culinary adventure where I wasn't using a recipe. I did some research, but nothing had everything I wanted. So I picked up some tips, and some techniques, and decided to invent my own recipe. Here we go.

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Dave's Chili Recipe

1.5 pounds of lean beef stew meat

1 poblano
2 jalapenos

1 onion
1 red pepper
5 cloves garlic

Liquids & Spices
3/4 cup Pace Picante sauce
2 tbsp Gates bbq sauce
3 cups chicken broth
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne powder
sprinkle oregano
sprinkle cinnamon
sprinkle chipotle hot sauce

I gathered everything I thought I might need. But the focus is on the meat. I thought about doing a two-meat or even a three-meat chili, but wanted to get the basic recipe down first, before I went crazy. Chorizo or italian sausage would have to wait. Plus, the smallest stew meat container I could get was 1.5 pounds, and that seemed like plenty of meat.

So the first step is to get your pot on a medium-heat burner and cut up your stew meat into half-inch chunks. Brown your meat with olive oil. I should have done in it multiple batches to get a better browning action. I had no idea there would be so much grease coming out. So drain your meat, then season with salt & pepper (I like using Lawry's Seasoned Salt if you have it).

Then I added 1.5 cups of chicken broth, and turned the heat down to low. I probably would have preferred beef broth, but I already had the chicken broth on hand, so that's what I used. Right away I cut up my poblano and two jalapenos. I had more jalapenos but figured I could always add them later and I had no idea how hot this was going to be. And I wasn't going for the spiciest chili. I wanted to get good depth of flavor. So I added the diced peppers to the broth and beef, infusing the flavor in the liquid from the beginning.

Also I figured, what's the point of making chili if you're not going to use fresh chiles?

(total time elapsed: 30 minutes)

Then I diced my onion and red pepper. For the garlic cloves, I left them in big pieces--4 per clove. I poured in some medium Pace Picante. I added a little Gates sauce and the rest of the spices. Here's what it looked like once I added everything.

(total time elapsed: 1 hour)

Then comes the easy part: just let it simmer on low. I only stirred it maybe once every 20-30 minutes. When I came back 1.5 hours later, a lot of the liquid had cooked off. You can see the residue on the side of the pot how much the chili had condensed. So I added another 1/2 cup of broth, took this next picture, and had a cup to sample.

(total time elapsed: 2 hours, 30 minutes)

At 2.5 hours, the flavor was perfect. Consistency was the way I wanted, nice and thick. The veggies were definitely cooked through. The only thing that needed work was the meat. It was just a bit chewy, and I knew it needed a little more time.

So I added another cup of broth and teaspoon of chili powder and let it simmer some more.

(total time elapsed: 3 hours, 15 minutes)

Here it is at the end of the cooking time. The meat was fairly tender. I could have keep the meat going, but I didn't want to leave the veggies going any longer and have them turn to mush. Going into this, I was prepared to let it cook 6 hours, but hadn't thought about how my ingredients would hold up.

Here's how I served it:

So how did it taste? Delicious. Exactly what I was going for, a nice depth of rich flavor. Spicy, but not overwhelming. A complex heat. Honestly it turned out better than I expected. And I liked having the Trader Joe's frito-style chips there for a crunch.

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Thoughts For Next Time

So this kind of stew meat needs 3-5 hours to simmer. If I added some kind of sausage, it wouldn't need that much time. The chiles/veggies only needed about 2 hours, so don't be in a rush to add them right away. As for my ingredient choices, I don't really need to change a thing. I might try beef broth, and I could experiment with my chiles. And you could use whatever veggies and spices you want, though I think the onion, chili powder and cayenne powder are non-negotiable.

It's conventional wisdom that chili is better the next day, after the flavors have had time to blend in the fridge overnight. On Sunday, I had another bowl. It tasted just as good, but not better to my palate. As far as I'm concerned, "making it a day ahead" is an old wive's tale.

The only downside to making a thick chili like this, is that it doesn't go as far as you'd think. I had a pound and a half of meat and 3 cups of broth and it basically made three big bowls. It's not the live on this for a week portion that it might suggest.

So that's my chili. No beans. No water. And hardly any tomatoes (just the bit of picante). Mostly Texas style. Just how I wanted it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

i'm still alive

All I have to say is I hope the Bears think about what's best for the league on Sunday. They realize that their team stinks and if they squeak by the Packers because it's sub-zero in Chicago, that they will get their asses handed to them in the Super Bowl, right?

I mean, it's not worth the embarrassment of losing another Super Bowl. But bigger than that, people everywhere are counting on an entertaining Super Bowl. It's all some people have. Please, don't ruin that again. You already let Grossman disgrace the biggest game on earth, don't let Jay Cutler do it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Top Ten of 2010

282 posts entered. 10 leave.

First up the honorable mentions:

The Late Show

Funny Screenshot

South America Recap

Dave Beats Kirat in Tennis

10. Greatest Fantasy Football Game
A Monday night miracle.

9. Homemade Pizza with Animated Gif
A post that combines cooking, photography, and crude animation? Sounds too good to be true.

8. If I had a band
A funny, fleeting thought.

7. Fixing NFL Overtime
My proposals, which I think is simpler than the actual new rule.

6. Matt's Bachelor Party pictures
Even without my camera I was able to capture the essence of the trip.

5. I Hate Favre
A timeline of that old gasbag.

4. My First Par on a Par-4
Three of the best golf shots of my life on one hole.

3. How To: Make the Best Fucking Steak
Had to have one post to represent the new DSLR camera.

2. 27th Birthday Weekend
Barbecue, hoop city, a Chiefs win in person. What more could I ask for?

1. The Chiefs 2010 Season
Looking through last year's archives, I guess 2010 wasn't too shabby. But just as Obama's election summed up 2008, and this youtube clip summed up 2009, I'll probably remember 2010 for the Chiefs' surprising playoff run.

divisional gambling

Last week I was 2-2 ATS and 1-1 on teasers.

My first instinct was wrong, only because the Saints lost: Saints -.5 AND Colts +7.5 AND Packers +12.5.
However because the other two games were close, the opposite was right: Seahawks +20.5 AND Jets +12.5 AND Eagles +7.5.

So let's see if we can't middle a teaser...

First choice: Falcons +8 AND Bears PK AND Pats +1
Opposite: Packers +12 AND Seahawks +20 AND Jets +19

Monday, January 10, 2011

What does playoff experience look like?

The idea for this post came out of yesterday's postgame thoughts. The Chiefs are a young team that got our first playoff experience for most of our players, including our quarterback and Haley as a head coach.

So what does getting this experience look like? Where could we dream of being in a few years if we build our team the right way?

Here are some case studies:

Indianapolis Colts

It took Peyton Manning six unsuccessful trips to the playoffs before winning the Super Bowl in 2006. Four of those years, they lost their first game. They built a 3-6 playoff record and only advanced to the conference championship once.

New York Giants
It took Eli Manning and the Giants two losing trips before going all the way. They were 0-2, losing both in the Wild Card round. And the first one was ugly.

Pittsburgh Steelers
For the Roethslisburger-era Steelers, they only needed one trip to the playoffs before winning in 2005, going 1-1.

Following their win, they slid to .500. Then they got back into the playoffs, losing for a year and then won it all again.

Baltimore Ravens
Flacco's Ravens have had success right away, going 4-2--all in road games--in their first three years. We'll see if this leads to a Super Bowl eventually or not.

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And, not shown, but last year's winner, the Saints, did lose in the NFC Championship game two years before winning the Super Bowl. So for the last five years, the notion of getting playoff experience does hold up, unless you're Tom Brady.

The Beauty of Calcutta

Where as most brackets/fantasy are usually decided by the final game, Calcutta only puts more on the line.

And this year it worked out so all 4 divisional games matter for Calcutta. We could have an all-Niraj or all-Mark Super Bowl.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Chiefs Playoff Week: Season's Over

They were right.

All the pundits and Baltimore fans who said the Chiefs hadn't played any good teams. Who said that Baltimore's defense was too good. Who said the Chiefs were one-dimensional. Who said that KC got exposed in Week 17 and that this wouldn't be a close game.

Obviously, Baltimore was the better team today. But there's no doubt they are the better team in general.

Last night, the Colts lost. But if the Colts and Jets played 10 times, I think they would each win 5.

I think in 10 chances against the Saints, the Seahawks maybe only win 3. Yesterday happened to be one of those 3.

But for the Chiefs against a tough 12-4 team with playoff experience? At home, I think the Chiefs win 1 out of 10, maybe 2 out of 10. For that to happen, the Chiefs need to get about all the breaks. The penalties, the interceptions, the fumbles, the mental mistakes. The Ravens are a great team, and set a benchmark of where the Chiefs would like to get to one day.

I know the Chiefs really are more of an 8-8 team than a 10-6 team. They had an easy schedule (facing Buffalo and Cleveland while the Chargers faced New England and Cincinnati). But it was still a great improvement from 4-12. If they can continue to grow, maybe two years from now, they're still alive headed into Divisional Weekend.

The thing was, I knew the Chiefs weren't a Super Bowl caliber team. I really just wanted one playoff win. (Sure if the Chiefs made it to the Super Bowl and lost I would be disappointed, but just one win would have been great.) To get that last-playoff-win-in-1993 monkey off our back, which is now an NFL record for most consecutive playoff losses. To give those fans a playoff win at home.

But hey, they weren't good enough.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Chiefs Playoff Week: Regular Season Recap

Coming into this season, Vegas and most experts were certain that San Diego was destined to win the AFC West again. Football Outsiders projected the Chiefs to win, so there were some notions that the Chiefs or Raiders could be a sleeper pick, but the smart money was on the Chargers.

Before week 1, hosting San Diego at New Arrowhead on Monday Night, I knew that if the Chiefs had any hope of having a winning season or being in the conversation for a playoff spot, they needed to win this game. Every factor was shaping up in KC's advantage (SD is a slow starter, big crowd for new stadium and MNF, the only home game against division champs, weather, etc.)

The Chiefs came out had 3 big plays and won the game. After the game I wasn't convinced that this win would ignite a march to the playoffs. But that's exactly what it did.

They had another ugly win on the road over the Browns. And then after blowing out the 49ers they were the last undefeated team in the league. But could they translate 3-0 into a playoff spot?

As it turns out, San Diego finished at 9-7. Getting into the playoffs meant getting 10 wins. And that's exactly what happened. Which means that this season EVERY WIN MATTERED.

When the defense came up huge against Denver in December. When the Chiefs ran all over the Seahawks in Seattle. When Chiefs fans turned the Edward Jones Done into Arrowhead East. When I saw them blow out the Cardinals in person. When they crushed the Titans to clinch the division. But perhaps most importantly, when they won in overtime on Halloween over the Bills.

NFL Sound FX happened to be recording the Chiefs during that game, which I probably already posted, but is so good that here it is again.

If Todd Haley doesn't call that timeout in overtime, the Chargers are division champs.

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A great year for the Chiefs. Set some franchise records. Here are the stats:

#1 in rushing yards
#5 in turnover differential
#11 in points allowed

Matt Cassel second only to Tom Brady in TD/INT with 27/7

When you look at running backs with 100 carries this year: Charles blew away the league in rushing. He averaged 6.38 yards a carry. The next highest was 5.60; only 5 others finished above 5.0. Notable names: Foster 4.94, Peterson 4.59, Jones-Drew 4.43, Johnson 4.32, Gore 4.20, Turner 4.10, Rice 3.97, Mendenhall 3.93, Best 3.25.

Charles does in two carries what Ray Rice does in three.

Tamba Hali was #2 in the NFL in sacks.

And then you've got Dwanye Bowe, #1 in receiving touchdowns. Set a franchise record with receiving touchdowns in 7 straight games.

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But Hoagie Central takes you deeper.

I graphed the Chiefs performance. But what does this tell us? Let's go deeper.

Aha! I added average lines for both the Chiefs and the Chiefs opponents. So using this data, I can apply a rudimentary grade for the offense and defense, to see if they performed above average or below average.

Week 1: Offense -1, Defense +1 = Win
Week 2: Offense -1, Defense +1 = Win
Week 3: Offense +1, Defense +1 = Win
Week 4: bye
Week 5: Offense -1, Defense 0 = Loss
Week 6: Offense +1, Defense -1 = Loss
Week 7: Offense +1, Defense 0 = Win
Week 8: Offense -1, Defense +1 = Win
Week 9: Offense -1, Defense -1 = Loss
Week 10: Offense +1, Defense -1 = Loss
Week 11: Offense +1, Defense +1 = Win
Week 12: Offense +1, Defense -1 = Win
Week 13: Offense -1, Defense +1 = Win
Week 14: Offense -1, Defense -1 = Loss
Week 15: Offense +1, Defense +1 = Win
Week 16: Offense +1, Defense +1 = Win
Week 17: Offense -1, Defense -1 = Loss

A lot of ways to dive into this data.

The offense had 8 games above average, 8 games below, as you might expect.
The defense had 8 games above average, 2 average games, and 6 below.

When the offense plays above average: 6-2
When the offense plays below average: 4-4

When the defense plays above average: 8-0
When the defense plays below average: 1-5

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Let's go deeper.

Obviously if both play above average: 4-0
Obviously if both play below average: 0-3
Also obvious, when defense was average: 1-0 with above average offense, 0-1 with below average defense.

What's not so obvious. There were seven games that features a above/below split.

When defense carried the Chiefs: 4-0
When offense carried the Chiefs 1-2

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So what does this mean? The Chiefs win when they hold teams to 20 or less. That might seem like an obvious statement. But the statement "the Chiefs win when they score more than 24" might seem equally obvious, but it's not true.

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I thought about handing out some game balls, but this was a team success. Haley has the team playing with heart. Weis got Cassel avoiding picks and utilizing Charles without running him into the ground. Romeo turned around a defense. The offensive line is better. We've got three stud skill position players on offense. Moeaki and McCluster had big plays. And between Derrick Johnson, Hali, Flowers, Berry, the defense is full of talent. I can't single anyone out this year. It was a season that exceeded all expectations, was tremendously fun to watch, and damn exciting to see a new Champion of the AFC West.

Yes, yes, I want to see a playoff win. That is the next goal for the team. But a division title was the first one. And if the season ends on Sunday, it was still a success.

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Let's just hope it doesn't. Go CHIEFS!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Chiefs Playoff Week: Seeding and Scheduling

It's not too often that the Chiefs are in the playoffs, and it might not last more than one week. So I'm going to make the most of it.

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One of the quirks of the NFL playoffs is that they re-seed the bracket after each round. What strikes me about this is that the winner of the 4-5 matchup doesn't know who they will face in the divisional round until the 3-6 matchup is decided.

Every year they schedule it so each conference has one game on Saturday and one on Sunday, and they never put both 3-6's or both 4-5's on the same day.

For example last year, the AFC had the 4-5 matchup first. The Jets beat the Bengals. But they didn't know their next opponent. If the Patriots won their Wild Card game, the Jets would go to Indy. But since the Ravens won, Baltimore was the worst seed and went to play the #1 Colts. Which meant the Jets as the #5 went to San Diego.

This year, the NFC has the 4-5 first. So the winner of Seattle-New Orleans will have to wait until Sunday to know if they are headed to Atlanta or Chicago.

It's a weird quirk and I have mixed feelings about it. If I was a fan of a 4-5 team (which I am this year) I'd want to know where my next game would be. But it's also fun to think about the Saints watching the Packers-Eagles game knowing it affects their fate. [For that specific example, Atlanta is tougher than the Bears, but the Saints play better in a dome and just beat the Falcons in Atlanta and lost in the playoffs last time at Soldier Field, so I'm not even sure who they'd prefer to play, if they had the choice.]

As for the Chiefs, both the Steelers and Patriots are tremendously tough matchups on the road. Conventional wisdom says the Patriots are the best team in the NFL and they're 8-0 at home...but, I'm not convinced they're the hardest matchup. The Steelers are so difficult to run against and are so good at blitzing that I don't think the Chiefs could muster 14 points at Heinz Field. They'd almost certainly lose at Gillette Stadium, but maybe they get into the 20's there.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. I'm just hoping for one playoff win.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Chiefs Playoff Week: Wild Card Gambling

It's not too often that the Chiefs are in the playoffs, and it might not last more than one week. So I'm going to make the most of it.

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Here are the lines as they stand on Wednesday:

There might be a problem with your bracket when you have a +10 point road favorite. (My solution: Keep the teams that get in the same (sorry Giants) and keep the conference set up (sorry TMQ) but seed based on record, not division champs. Seattle and Kansas City should be a 6-seed. This also helps put more on the line in Week 17. That would result in a #6 Seattle at #3 New Orleans, which seems more accurate. Furthermore, the 12-4 Steelers are #2 with a bye, the 12-4 Ravens are #5 and on the road? Sorry Chiefs, but you should be playing #3 Ravens in Baltimore.)

Anyways, here are my picks:

Seahawks +10.5
Colts -2.5
Chiefs +3 (homer pick)
Packers +2.5

And because I'm curious, I wonder if you could do a 3-team teaser and win going both ways. I'll show you what I mean.

Here's my natural first 3-team teaser, moving each line 10 points.

Saints -.5 AND
Colts +7.5 AND
Packers +12.5

But what about the opposite way?

Seahawks +20.5
Jets +12.5
Eagles +7.5

I doubt the Seahawks lose by 3 touchdowns even to the Saints. I could see the Packers winning by 10, and the Colts getting to 14, but honestly, this opposite teaser looks just as likely as the first, and there's no reason that both couldn't hit.

Chiefs Playoff Week: Watching in 2010

It's not too often that the Chiefs are in the playoffs, and it might not last more than one week. So I'm going to make the most of it.

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How I watched Kansas City from Chicago in 2010:

Niraj's: Chargers (W)

My own TV: Colts (L), Broncos (L)

My computer: Browns (W), 49ers (W), Jaguars (W), Bills (W), Raiders (L), Seahawks (W), Broncos (W), Chargers (L), Rams (W)

At Arrowhead: Cardinals (W)

At sports bar in O'Fallon: Titans (W)

Missed the game out of the country: Texans (L)

Missed the game traveling during holidays: Raiders (L)

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Lesson to be learned here, I definitely don't want to miss the game or watch it on my own TV.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Chiefs Playoff Week: Chiefs Playoffs History

It's not too often that the Chiefs are in the playoffs, and it might not last more than one week. So I'm going to make the most of it.

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Before we can look forward, we must look back.

As historically decent as the Chiefs have been, it's surprising how little success they've had in the playoffs.

Things started well enough, winning the AFL Championship in 1966 before losing Super Bowl I. And then they won Super Bowl IV.

And it was downhill from there. During the 70's and 80's, the Chiefs only managed two trips to the postseason, losing both games. That included a 15-year drought.

They found success in the 90's, my formative years in Kansas City, winning 3 games and a berth in the AFC Championship.

However between 1997 and 2010, there was only one division championship, no playoff wins.

The last time the Chiefs actually won a playoff game was 17 years ago.

This weekend, let's hope that Kansas City will be partying like it's 1994.

Chiefs Clinch Division!

Editor's Note: I took a holiday from blogging, mostly because I need the home-field advantage of my own computers. So I'm a little behind on handing out the Chiefs game balls from week 16. So just imagine this is December 27th.

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The Kansas City Chiefs are the AFC West Champions. The last time that happened was 2003.

This year was the greatest one-year turnaround in franchise history. They reached it by having the 3rd best first half in franchise history.

Here were their possessions in the first half against the Titans.

Field Goal
Missed Field Goal
Pick Six on defense

31 points in 30 minutes--game over.

Cassel goes for 314 yards and 3 scores just weeks after his surgery.
Charles scores twice on passes. Bowe goes 6 for 153 with a 75-yard score.
Eric Berry scores his first NFL touchdown.

Limit the Titans to 3/12 on 3rd down. Chris Johnson under 60 yards.

The Chiefs came in and kicked ass. And thanks to the Chargers bumbling on the road, that's the division.

The Chiefs will host a playoff game. Again, first time since 2003. Am I awake?

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#3: Dwayne Bowe

The Chiefs were already up 17-0 but facing a 3rd and 19 from their own 25. Most teams including KC usually, dial up a draw play or something to get about 10 yards. Cassel goes deep to Bowe who cuts through the entire Tennessee defense, taking it 75 yards to the house. 24-0 and it's over. PUT IT ON THE BOARD!

#2: Jamaal Charles

There's a secret in the Kansas City rushing attack. They're billed as a two-headed monster. Thunder and lightning, smash and dash. But Thomas Jones has lost what he had early in the season.

Jones is averaging 3.7 yards a carry. Charles is at 6.4.

The vaunted running game is really just Charles. He makes this team go and he made big plays to get the Chiefs up 14-0 early.

#1: Matt Cassel

Cassel came to kick ass today. He started something like 10/11 and was on fire stretching the field. And now he gets to play in the playoffs for the first time. Actually, first time for Bowe and Charles as well. Let's hope they show up like this.

Fantasy 2010: Year-End Wrapup Screenshots

BS SB II: The Aftermath

All hail my reverse jinx! Okay fine, I won't take all the credit for Mark coming up short in the playoffs again. Harlan did his part. And Mark is still a dynasty, just more of a Buffalo Bills kind of dynasty.

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Yeah, yeah, I make jokes because I don't make the playoffs. Jokes are all I have. Like this one: any time you start two running backs that combine for 7 points, you deserve to win the championship.

Seriously, my teams always blow. Sometimes it looks like I'll back into the playoffs, but I never deserve it.

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