If cooking can be called a science, it is an inexact science. Some people would have it otherwise - a quarter-of-a-teaspoon of this and an eighth-of-a-teaspoon of that but these are the same kind of people who enjoy balancing checkbooks. Of all the dishes we're going to make together, this is one of the least exact.
A few years ago, a national magazine had the temerity to publish "the world's best chili recipe." Sheer nonsense. There is no one best chilli recipe; there are dozens, hundreds. Fortunately, however, we will be serving this one in the company of the world's best coleslaw recipe.
The Staples: Make sure these are on hand: vegetable oil, fresh garlic, chili powder, celery salt, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, oregano, cayenne peepper, salt, eggs, flour, sugar, mustard and cider vinegar.
The Shopping List: 1 pound of dry kidney beans; 2 pounds of chuck steak, not counting the bone; 4 medium-seized onions; 1 large can of Italian plum tomatoes; 1 head of fresh cabbage; 1 small container of sour cream (or yogurt); bear; crackers; fruit in season.
The Night Before Soak the beans overnight in cool water. There are some people who would tell you that you can get away with opening a can of pre-cooked beans, but don't listen to them.
Early in the Day: Bring the beans to a low boil and then cut the heat back, allowing them to simmer until tender, about 3 to 4 hours. One way to test for tenderness is to blow on a bean and see if theskin breaks. (Caution! Since this looks at least mildly ridiculous, don't let anyone see you doing this.)
Also Early in the Day: As the beans are simmering, you can make the cooked dressing for the world's best coleslaw. This is a little tricky. If you bomb out, try it a second time. If you bomb out a second time, you may want to consider mayo with a splash of vinegar.
Melt 1/4-stick of butter in a saucepan over low heat. (Danger! Very low heat, or else the eggs will scramble.) Add two beaten eggs, a large spoon of suger, a large daub of mustard and a half-cup of cider vinegar. Keep stirring gently over low heat. In 10 minutes or so it will thicken all at once and you will remove it from the heat. (Danger! If you don't remove it at once, you may want to feed it to the dog while it is still warm.) Add a small container of sour cream (or yogurt) and put dressing in the refrigerator to cool.
3:30 p.m.: Now, while the salad dressing is cooling, turn your attention to the chili itself. Chili sauce, like spaghetti sauce, lends itself to experimentation.
Begin by cutting the chuck steak into chunks and dusting the chunks with flour. (The easiest way to do this is to put both meat and flour in a brown paper bag and shake.) Cook the meat in a small amount of oil over medium heat until it turns brown. Chop up the onions and mince the cloves of garlic; add this to the meat and cook for five or 10 minutes - just until the onions start to turn brown at the edges. Stir in half the tomatoes. Then large pinch of cumin seeds, another of oregano, a healthy dose of salt and cayenne pepper, and then the chili powder itself.Try two tablespoonsful. Taste. Oh, add another one. (Caution! It is always easy to add chili powder, but not to subtract it.) Simmer the sauce over low heat until the meat is tender, at least 2 hours.
5:30 p.m.: Now add about half the precooked kidney beans. And taste. At this point you can add more beans, more tomatoes or more chilli powder - let your taste be your guide.
Grate or chop the cabbage. Add the dressing along with a small handful of caraway seeds. You have just made the world's best coleslaw.
There is nothing to do after this except serve the chili hot and the slaw cold, accompanied by enough beer to give your palate an occasional rinse. Why beer? Because wine with chili is about as appetizing as wine with pretzels.