I like chili (one wonders if I would make something that I don’t like – I would speculate not…) It’s especially good this time of year. When things start to get cold (see how I avoided that whole chilly pun there?) it’s a deeply happy thing to sit down to a warm bowl of chili.
You’ll find many variations of chili; with meat, without, with beans, without, chili verde, white chili, vegetarian chili, it goes on and on… You could likely start a fist fight in Texas if you put the wrong thing in someone’s chili. As far as heat is concerned that’s a personal thing. Some people pride themselves on eating five alarm chili – some actually say they enjoy it. I believe this is for masochists. That’s just me though. I like to actually taste my food rather than having it burn the inside of my mouth like I was being accosted with a red-hot poker. Again that’s just a personal preference. This is somewhere around a one to two alarm – call it one and a half for sake of averaging and such mathematical things. It’s spicy enough to let you know you’re not eating something boring without causing irreparable damage to your taste buds.
This recipe is a bit of an amalgamation. After some repeated attempts my other half (that’d be the Andrew part of name) settled on this as the ideal chili – at least for him – I like it too. A basic chili consists – in it’s most rudimentary form – of chili peppers, onion, garlic, and cumin, and some sort of chopped or ground beef. This is not a rudimentary chili. This is an everything but the kitchen sink kind of chili. But it’s got balance…perhaps even poise if you’re into such things. I just like my food to taste good and it does that with reckless abandon.
So what do you need for such a chili?
We cook the whole thing in one pot – an enameled dutch oven looking thing. It’s heavy, retains a ton of heat, and prevents hot spots and burning. There is nothing more unhappy in this world than a burned chili. I have been there.
We start with bacon. You can decide how much you’d like your arteries to snap shut. We got some nifty stuff that looked fairly artisan – but two or three slices from the case is about a buck. Good deal. Start by getting this going in the bottom of your chosen vessel.
Brown that up and then set it aside to rest because it’s tired…it’ll still be there when you come back. You want it to look something like this….
You’ll need about 2 pounds of beef at a minimum. Feel free to use more. You can use whatever you like. I tend to use a bit better cut of meat and cube it into bit size bits – this tends to cut down on the amount of time you need to simmer your stew. Old time-y chili (like chuck wagons and Oregon trail old time-y) used stuff that was dried out and resembled shoe leather. It is not 1889 and there is a Safeway down the block from our studio, so I use actual meat. You can use stew beef, ground beef – whatever you like really. You don’t even have to use beef – lamb, turkey….whatever makes you happy. But you’re going to need to brown whatever it is. This does not lock in flavor as you have been told thousands of times over. Someday I’ll post some food myths and why they aren’t true. Suffice it to say you’ll get some tasty Maillard Reaction – “browning” to you and me – and that’s tasty stuff – and cuts down the cooking time overall. It also makes a nice brown layer of goodness at the bottom of the pan. Yum. You may want to toss all that cut up meat (please don’t do this with ground beef) in a zip-lock and toss it with a little flour. It’ll brown up a little nicer. By no means necessary. My pan is a little crowded I know…you should brown in small batches. I did not. The world did not end. There’s still little bits of browning meat goodness in there…that’s all you want. This is about half-way through. Just make sure they’re brown on all sides. Then yank it all out and set it aside. If you’re using ground beef and it’s not particularly lean – you may want to drain off some of the fat. Or you may not – no judgements here. At this point you can add a little bit of red wine if you want, it’ll de-glaze the bottom of the pan, and hey – it’s wine. What’s not to like. Half a cup give or take, drink a glass yourself if you’d like. No one’s looking.
We use two kinds of meat – the beef and sausage. About a pound of sausage should do you. You can use whatever you like for sausage – or none at all. What you see below is some sort of spicy chicken sausage, like jalapeno or the like. You’ll need to brown this too. We cut it up before hand and dropped it in the hot pot. It cooks up nicely and if you think the pieces are still too big it comes apart readily with a light application of a wooden spoon once it browns.
Once that’s all browned up, feel free to toss the beef back in.
At this point a lot of the veggies go in. I could tell you that I lovingly sautéed all the onions and peppers and garlic in a skillet before I tossed them in here, however that would be a lie. Instead we cut everything up and just dumped it in. I have done it both ways. I don’t notice a difference in taste. I’m sure the French would find this abhorrent and abusive. C’est la vie.
So instead I dump in all the tomato type product then all the veggies go in. You are more than welcome to use fresh tomatoes and cut them up instead of using canned type. If you choose to do so, you are my hero. I use 2 cans – (if we’re getting specific the 28 oz. size that Cento or Muir Glen makes – available just about anywhere) – ground peeled tomatoes. Add to that one can of tomato paste (6 oz. size). I use tomato paste in a tube generally; it lasts longer, but since we’re using the whole can – it’s a heck of a lot easier to dump the whole thing in rather than trying to figure out what 6 ounces of tomato paste from a squeeze tube looks like. At this point you can lower the heat from a medium to a lowish setting.
So one decent sized onion, 1 green bell pepper, 1 red bell pepper, 2 or 3 Serrano or Jalapeno peppers (it really depends on the size and I’ve discovered the time of year – sometimes these things are screaming hot and other times they are woefully un-spicy – I don’t know what gives.) 1 Poblano pepper, and a few cloves of garlic. I won’t bore you with pictures of each step – we’d be here all day.
You’ll need beans. Here you can play around a bit as well. As far as what I use, 3 cans altogether – 15 oz. variety. I use one can of pinto beans, one can of black beans – you can drain both of these, and one can of spicy chili beans (don’t drain these.) So you’ll be looking something like this….
No where does that leave us – remember that bacon we were letting rest – you can wake it up from its little nap and give it a good crumbling. Or if you’re lazy like me grab a big knife and chop it up.
So we’re looking something like this….
So now we need some spice….this being chili and all. So what do you need?
1/4 Cup Chili powder, 1 Tablespoon Oregano, 2 Teaspoons Cumin, 1.5 Teaspoon Basil, 2 Teaspoon salt, 1.5 Teaspoon Pepper, 1 Teaspoon Chipotle Pepper Powder (if you’ve got it – you can do half that amount of Cayenne pepper or maybe double flaked red pepper if you don’t have either…), 1 Teaspoon Paprika, 1 Teaspoon sugar. That’s the dry stuff – all together it’ll look something like this…
Aside from that there’s a little bit of wet spicy/flavorful kind of stuff. That’d be 1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and 2 Teaspoons of hot sauce – pick your favorite kind, and a few cubes (or equivalent) or bouillon (not all bouillon is the same – please check it out – the thick liquid stuff is better – some stuff has MSG in it – MSG makes stuff taste great but boy can you get a headache.)
Before you mix it all in, you’ll have a dark looking mess floating on the surface, kinda like this.
At this point…you need to let it simmer awhile. Low heat rules the day here. I keep my crappy electric stove on 2-ish. I leave it uncovered, it simmers down and thickens up. If it’s too thick you can add a bit of water, or broth….it’s its too thin you can add a little bit of tomato paste or let it cook down a little more.
Are you ready to eat? I just got in from a run and I’m starving….here’s what I’m looking at. A little bit of cheese sprinkled on the top, grab some homemade cornbread (pop over to the next post for that yummy tidbit) and here’s what you’re about to bite into…
So here’s all the ingredients in short format – so you don’t have to pick through and reread this 100 times.
- 2 pounds beef (meat of some sort)
- 1 pound sausage of your choice
- 1 15 oz can pinto beans
- 1 15 oz can black beans
- 1 15 oz can spicy chili beans
- 2 28 oz cans of ground peeled tomatoes
- 1 6 oz can tomato paste
- 1 large onion
- 2 – 4 cloves of garlic – depending on how much you like garlic
- At least 2 strips of bacon
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 red bell pepper
- At least 2 Serrano or Jalapeno peppers
- 1 Poblano pepper
- 3-4 cubes or teaspoons liquid beef bouillon
- ½ cup red wine
- ¼ cup chili powder
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons hot-sauce
- 1½ teaspoons Basil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon Chipotle pepper – (or cayenne or red pepper flakes – adjust accordingly)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon white sugar