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The door buzzer goes, and a familiar forehead appears on the screen in my apartment. I let him in.
We won’t actually make physical contact, my mystery caller and me. He’ll simply leave the previously agreed package on the third floor, and I’ll come down from fifth to pick it up. Social distancing, y’all.
It’s very cloak and dagger, but that’s what it’s come to: a covert delivery of a very special chili, from the West Village to Hell’s Kitchen.
Chef James Mitchell makes chili like I could never make (and chili is about the only thing I CAN make). His recipe comes later – his gift to all of us. But what was particularly special about this delivery was the card that came with it. He was seeking no payment or thanks, he said, but, instead, urged us to pay the favor forward and do two good deeds, starting a wave of positivity and general niceness in the world.
Now, I’m not going to blow my own trumpet – that would be crass and also defeat the whole purpose. But let’s just say that in the last few days in Hell’s Kitchen, dogs have been walked, homeless people have received sandwiches, lost packages have been tracked down and delivered, groceries have been picked up for someone in need, out-of-work bartenders have been generously tipped, and phone calls have been made to check on the vulnerable. All thanks to a single pot of very good chili.
It’s that simple, friends. Will you do something selfless for someone today?
TELL A FRIEND
Since the COVID-19 crisis hit, we’ve moved from a monthly print publication to a daily newsletter, as a way of connecting our newly isolated community and bringing, we hope, a ray of hope in the midst of uncertainty and fear. If you’ve enjoyed hearing from us every day, please forward this to a friend and ask them to sign up. We’re stronger together.
NEW YORK STORIES
Meet Mario Perez – full-time student, favorite brunch server, and Hell’s Kitchen Hero. Read his story, and find out how he and his young fiancee are adapting since they both lost their jobs. His – and other hero stories – are all at w42st.com.
THEY SAY IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY
Our friend Carla has seven birthdays in her friend group this month. Whaaa? How are you marking your special day when you can’t physically be with the people you love? All ideas welcome – the more creative the better. (If you were about to say: “Zoom your mates,” you’re automatically disqualified!)
DO THESE THINGS
Fun for First Saturday
If you’ve ever been to Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturday, you’ll have an idea of the intoxicating energy it can produce. It’s so powerful, in fact, that not even social distancing can stop it. First Saturdays are going online, for the first time in 21 years. Sing, dance, and be joyous – from 5pm.
You still have a few hours to catch Donny Osmond as Joseph in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (with a wonderful appearance from Joan Collins!). The musical maestro Lin-Manuel calls A-L Dubs is releasing filmed versions of his musicals, starting with Joseph, followed by Jesus Christ Superstar next week, and more to be announced. Find out more.
Spring out on Sunday
Every week, on Facebook, Instagram, and You Tube, Rockefeller Center will bring family entertainment to your living room, including live music, puppet theater, and DIY lotions and potions. Find out more.
You’re having a virtual movie night with friends. You need something everyone will enjoy, not too many people have seen before … and make it uplifting, OK? Life is tough enough right now.
Full disclosure: five of us have been thrashing this out for literally days. So if you could help a sister out, I’d be grateful. Movie suggestions now please.
THAT CHILI RECIPE
3lbs beef (NOT GROUND)
6 sweet onions
2 heads garlic
2qt low-sodium beef stock
3 cans dark red kidney beans
3 cans red kidney beans
Aquafaba (the water or brine) from two of the cans of beans
2L cans crushed tomatoes
1L can whole tomatoes
2L cans whole tomatoes (drained)
1 can chipotles in adobo
5 bay leaves
“Ground beef should NEVER be used in chili,” says Chef James. “It’s impossible to get a nice browning, and braising meat that has already been pulverized is just a soggy mess. Grab whatever you would use for a stew. I opt for a big piece of chuck I can cube myself but if there is a sale on London broil or generic stew cubes, that works great.
“Once you have your meat cubed, it’s time to season. Kosher salt, cumin, and cayenne — coat your meat in a bit more than you think you need, but go easy on the cayenne (we will be adding plenty of heat later). The fond (that’s all the yummy juices) created from the browning process will flavor everything else, so this is when you need to be heavy handed. And patient. Let that spice blend sit on the meat for at least one hour. Overnight is ideal — we all have nothing but time now, baby!
“Get a good Dutch oven real hot – three to five minutes of medium-high, dry heat. Pour in a bit of neutral oil. Brown your meat in several batches. Do not crowd the pan – this will cause your meat to steam and get rubbery.
“Do a super rough cut of your onions. They should stew for a while and you do not want them to disintegrate. While the flavors in a chili should meld, there needs to be some variation in texture.
“Cook the onions over a medium-low heat in your beef drippings. Add a little salt — this time less than you think you need. Stir onions approximately every five minutes until they turn translucent and just start to caramelize. Do not go too far down the caramelization path, otherwise you risk turning it into onion jam.
“Crank your heat back to medium high. Add your tomato paste and cook out for about two minutes. Lower heat to medium-low and add your garlic. Add chipotles. Stir for one minute. Dump everything in, reserving half your beans and whole tomatoes. Once it reaches a slow boil, lower your heat to low-low.
“Stir approximately every 30 minutes. Let that go for at least three hours but as long as five. Ninety minutes before it comes off the stove, add the remaining beans and tomatoes. Salt to taste, and top with whatever pleases you.
“In the coming days, make yourself a farmer’s egg in chili for breakfast.
“This sounded odd to me when it was first proposed but is shockingly amazing — a cold chili sandwich.
“And try it with spaghetti like those weirdos in Cincinnati.
“Most importantly, share it with someone you love.”
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