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“You must be imaginative, strong-hearted. You must try things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul. What I say is true – anyone can cook… but only the fearless can be great.” – Gusteau, Ratatouille

I’m not sure how many times I’m going to reference that line, but I have a bunch and I’ll continue to do so as long as I am cooking. It’s undoubtedly one of the most motivating quotes I’ve come across and it doesn’t help that it’s from my favourite movie of all time.

Anyhow. Chili fest is later this afternoon. You could call this a prologue to the ‘fest, if you’d like.

I guess my tale begins earlier this week when I got a text asking if I would be making chili or cornbread for Chili fest. At first, I immediately wanted to write back that no, I wouldn’t be. Yet, I thought about it. I had never made chili before and this would be the best time to do so, right?

So began what I thought would be the hard part: finding a recipe. That night I sat cross legged looking through all the Food magazines that Rae had given me at Thanksgiving. After looking through most of the issues, I found what I was looking for, a chili recipe. I jotted it down and began to scribble things out, adding my own touches to the recipe and that night, I went to bed pleased with my decision.

Wednesday after work, I had some errands to run and on the way home, I could not help but stop at the library. I walked in empty handed and walked back out with the three fattest cookbooks I could find. Though they were heavy, I was like a cat with cream. Once home with the books on my bed, I opened the Bon Apetit cookbook. I figure, I’m subscribed to their magazine, this cookbook ought to be chock full of recipes that I can make later on in the future and maybe there would be a good chili recipe too.

That’s when I found it. Spicy lamb & chorizo chili.

Immediately I knew that’s what I wanted to do. But then I suffered a moment of waffling. It sounded delicious, but would it work? Surely because it made it into a cookbook (Bon Apetit’s of all cook books) it had to be good, right? Thursday I gave it some thought and tried to still the doubts I felt about it, but unfortunately yesterday morning my doubt was overwhelming.

I asked mum about where to get lamb and it resulted in a row between us, her argument was simple:

“Why are you going exotic? Nobody is going to eat that.”

Admittedly, her overtired, weary words stung. Nothing like a nonvote of confidence from your mother, someone whom you’ve looked up to and wish you could bake like, to really make you doubt yourself. I drove to work and tried to push it from my head, knowing that no matter what she said, I would come home later that afternoon with lamb in my car instead of ground chuck.

While working, I asked a bunch of co-workers about their thoughts on lamb and chorizo in chili. As it turns out, it doesn’t matter how old someone is, what ethnicity or race they are, or even their sex, if they’re ignorant to food they’re going to turn their nose up and make a face when I mention lamb in chili. But there was something that surprised me. I ran into people who had an eclectic pallet like myself, who had knowledge that there was more to lamb than a $40 cut, who said “it doesn’t matter what’s in it, but what it tastes like.” And those people, they not only advised me to step away from the ground chuck and sausage, they were enthusiastic about it. Yeah, if someone made it for them, they would try it, hands down. And that right there, the willingness to try something slightly different than the norm, it made me smile.

Surprisingly, the grocery shopping was the easiest part of the recipe, though at the time, I’d have sworn otherwise. I don’t normally shop at Stop & Shop because everything I need can usually be found at Big Y. It also helps if the guys at the butcher label their stuff correctly, too. But eventually, after an hour and a half of hunting through the store for lamb shoulder, chorizo sausage, hominy, chipotle peppers (in replacement of the ancho chilies), onions and garlic, Sydney and I were on our way home.

We were only home long enough for me to get my groceries into the fridge and then she had a nail appointment to go to. When I got back, I began to prep, knowing that I would be going out later that afternoon and wouldn’t want to be up all night prepping and preparing. With care, I coarsely chopped onions by hand, though we have this handy little chopper I always forget about. I undressed the chorizo, it being a lot more difficult than I originally figured. In the end though, I ended up cutting off the outside of the sausage as well, as even though the plastic was off, it appeared that the skin was holding it together as well. With it uncased and crumbled (and oh how oily my hands were after that!), I put away the sausage with the onions in the fridge. I cleaned my knife and my cutting board and pulled out the packages of lamb shoulders I had bought. I didn’t know where to start (and still don’t know how to “properly” get meat off of a bone) so I just cut. I was surprised when I was able to get as much lamb off the bones as I did and when putting everything away reserved some of the bones. Who knows, they might make a pretty delicious base for a glaze or stock.

Seeing as I’ll cover the kitchen fiasco that took place at 10 when I got home last night in my recipe post, we’ll skip that. All you need to concern yourself with is that when 1 am rolled around, I was turning off the kitchen light and looking back over my shoulder at the crockpot full of chili with a grin on my face before going and getting a shower. Because really, who wants to go to bed smelling like sautéed onions and garlic, chorizo and lamb, and chili peppers?

When I tried the chili this morning, it was some kind of wonderful, but like the kitchen fiasco, that’s for another post.

Anyhow! Cornbread and muffins need to be baked.

Xx Ciao

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