Friday, October 28, 2011

It's Chili Outside

It's actually getting cool here in Arizona, so it's time for chili.  Now offering a recipe for chili is a very risky business.  If you have a recipe you adore, don't let me stop you!  If you think beans in chili are an abomination, that's OK by me!  But if you need a good basic recipe, this is for you.  You don't need to buy overpriced "chili kits" in the grocery store.  Just a few basic spices--and some chili powder (purists are cringing)--will produce really fine results.  I like Gebhardt Chili Powder, by the way, but the choice of chili powder can also be fightin' words.

Chili is really simple to make, and it can actually be fast.  My recipe suggests that you cook it for two hours (six if you use a crock pot), but if you only have half an hour or 45 minutes for it to simmer, it will still be good.  No worries about under-cooking it, either:  the beef is essentially cooked when it's browned.  The longer cooking changes the texture of the chili (it'll be--how shall I say it?--smoother, more amalgamated) and allows the flavors to come together more.

So here goes.  My friends from Texas need not read on.

(click here for a printer-friendly version of the recipe)

1 large onion, chopped
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 - 3 tablespoons vegetable oil--enough to coat the bottom of the pot lightly
2 lbs. 80% lean ground beef
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, with their juice (don’t drain the tomatoes), plus one can of water
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon smoked paprika (you can use regular paprika if you like, but smoked adds an interesting depth of flavor)
1and ½ tablespoons ground Mexican oregano (
if you only have Greek or anonymous oregano, it won’t be the end of the world)
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
1 or 2 teaspoons salt (start with 1--you can always add more later)
generous grinding of fresh black pepper
optional:  2 15-oz. cans kidney beans, drained

1.  In a dutch oven or large saucepan, sweat the onions in the oil over medium heat.  Then add the garlic and cook briefly (do not let the garlic brown, or it will become bitter).

2.  Add the ground beef, breaking it up with a fork, and cook until it looses its raw, red color.

3.  Add the spices and cook briefly. 

4.  Add the tomatoes, then fill the can with water and add that.  Add the tomato paste.

To cook on top of the stove:  bring to the boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for approximately 2 hours.  Stir occasionally, and add a little water if the chili seems to get too dry.

To cook in a crock pot:  place everything in the crock pot, set the heat to low, and cook for 6 hours or more.  Stir occasionally, and add a little water if the chili seems to get too dry.  

Taste and add more salt if needed before serving.

Optional:  In the last half-hour of cooking, you may add 2 15-oz. cans of kidney beans, drained.

Serve with garnishes as desired:  grated monterey jack cheese, sour cream or yogurt, crackers, tortilla chips, hot sauce, etc.

This will serve four hungry people.  My college roommate liked to serve chili over rice--that can stretch it further if you like.

Make something hot:  we can all use a little warmth now and then.

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