This time of year, I end up making a big pot of chili about once a week. It’s great, because it keeps well (in fact, it gets better as it sits in the fridge) and it makes for a quick and easy to reheat lunch. A couple of people have asked for my recipe, and I keep saying, “Oh, I’ll post that on the blog!” and I never do — so here we are.
I don’t really have a “recipe” for this as much as a decision tree — “chili” as a dish composes a very wide variation of preparations, so there’s a lot of room to play around. Generally I’m working in the ground-meat-plus-tomatoes section of the chili realm, so that’s what I’ll focus on here. My decision tree was heavily inspired by both Ürb’s chili con carne recipe and The Clothes Make The Girl’s “My Favorite Chili” recipe.
- Meat: you want around 2 pounds of ground meat of some sort. I generally use a pound of chorizo pork sausage and a pound of whatever strikes my fancy and/or is on sale at the grocery store that week. I’ve tried beef, chicken, turkey, and more pork, and it all works. Still on the todo list: buffalo, lamb, ostrich…
- Tomatoes: I use Muir Glen organic canned tomato products; you could use fresh but that’s generally more washing, slicing, and dicing than I’m looking for. You want somewhere between 20 and 40 ounces of tomatoes and juices. I generally use one 28oz can of whole peeled plum tomatoes, roughly chopped plus one 14 oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes with garlic OR two 14 oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes with garlic and/or green chiil OR one 14 oz can of diced tomatoes plus one small can of tomato paste
- Beans: Some people have strong opinions about beans in chili; I tend to alternate between with beans and without. Depending on taste, add in one or two cans of black and/or pinto beans. Drain beans before use and rinse well. You want to rinse them until all the can juice is gone and the foamy stuff has rinsed away.
- Other veg: One or two medium to large white, yellow, or sweet onions, roughly diced. Red onion would probably work too, if you have some you need to use up. A seeded, diced yellow or green bell pepper or two can provide some color and texture. Garlic to taste — which for me is somewhere between 4 and 10 cloves, minced. I also generally throw in 2 to 6 hot peppers — jalapeños, seranos, poblanos all work well. Make sure to remove all seeds and cut into a fine dice. You may want to wear gloves for this step.
- Other ingredients: Depending on how much liquid you like in your chili, and what your tomato composition was, and how long you’re planning on simmering the chili, you may want to add some additional liquid — any where from 14 to 28 oz of a combination of beef broth, water, and/or wine generally works well.
- 2 to 4 heaping tablespoons chili powder
- 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- salt to taste (i generally give a pretty good sprinkle)
- black and/or red pepper to taste
The basic procedure here is: brown the meat, add in the veg, mix in the spices, add any additional liquid, bring to a boil, then drop to a simmer. I generally do this all in one pot, a 4 qt cast iron Dutch oven. If you’re planning on a long simmer, make sure you have a lid.
- Brown meat: if you’re using a low-fat meat, add a tablespoon or two of coconut or olive oil to your pre-warmed pot, then brown the meat. Since I almost always have a pound of chorizo in the mix, I generally start cooking that first, and then add the other meat once some fat has come out of the pork. You could stop and drain the meat at this point, but I don’t — all that fat is going to help fill you up on small portions.
- Add veg: chuck all your vegetables in the pot and stir it up
- Add spices: toss in all the spices and stir everything up well
- Add extra liquid: if you’re adding in extra broth, water, or wine, it goes in now
- Bring to a boil: I generally just crank the burner all the way up. Give it a good stir every 3 or 4 minutes, particularly if your pot isn’t well-seasoned yet
- Drop to a simmer: Once you’ve been at a boil for a minute or two, crank the burner down, put the lid on the pot, and let it be. You can stir it up every hour or so if you think you need to, but it’ll mostly be okay just sitting there on the stove
You can simmer this anywhere from 2 hours to overnight — I’ve gone as high as 25 hours once, due to a scheduling mistake (started chili going when we had a previous dinner engagement that evening, and just let it go until the next day). For longer simmers, depending on what you put in, you may want to adjust the liquid levels to keep things from drying out — you can always chuck in a cup or two of water. As it gets closer to serving time, if you find it’s too liquid for your tastes, uncover and elevate heat as needed to reduce.
Serve with grated sharp cheddar, raw white onion, additional hot sauce, and/or sour cream, to taste. Goes well in a bowl, over hot dogs, or with tortilla chips. Keeps well, can be frozen.