3 or 4 pounds beef (such as shank, round steak, flank steak, or lean chuck)
1 or 2 beers for marinade
1⁄4 cup canola or other vegetable oil
1 or 2 onions, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced, or 1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 to 4 seeded jalapeños (more if preferred)
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 or 2 tablespoons paprika (Texans will want to use 4 to 6 tablespoons dried red chile powder in addition to the paprika)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 chicken bouillon cubes
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans (15 1⁄2 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Can be made in the average jail cell with minimal equipment. Trim the beef of fat and cut into thumb-size pieces. If you don’t have any thumbs, use your neighbors’ for measuring purposes. Do not drink the marinade but use it to soak the beef for at least 2 hours.
In a skillet on your hot plate brown the beef in the oil. If the meat was gray when you started, try for new meat and start over. Some jailhouse cooks, especially in Texas, like to throw in onion while browning the meat. Also, in New York City’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, some of the old-time Guidos drop in some garlic here.
Purée jalapeños in 2 cups water. In a large pot combine the browned meat, puréed jalapeños, and the marinade. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Add cumin, paprika, cayenne, and oregano (but unless your neighbors, like Vinnie the Hook and No-Knuckles Sal, are expected for dinner, go light on the oregano—say, 2 teaspoons—or your chili will taste like marinara sauce).
Bring to a boil, add the bouillon cubes, salt, and pepper and simmer for 1 hour, or until the meat is tender. (If the chili is allowed to cool, the fat will rise to the top. If you are a health nut, spoon it off. For the best taste, leave it alone. If you want health food, eat a freakin’ salad.) Add pinto beans and serve. Serves 3 or 4 felons, or 6 to 8 normal eaters. (Remember, before eating, always wash your hands and say your prayers because God and germs are everywhere.)
Adapted from Eat, Drink and Be Kinky, by Mike McGovern. Published by Simon and Schuster, September 1999. $12. Reprinted by permission.