Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Great Day for Chili

I had a request from a colleague for my chili recipe and since I had to type it anyway and it is such a miserable day I thought I would share it with you guys as well. It is easy and makes a pretty hearty dish with some homemade buttermilk cornbread. It makes a good batch and since there is only two of us I always freeze half as it will keep fine for a month. Enjoy.

P.S. You can make this vegan by substituting veggies for the meat...see at the bottom.

Beef Chili with Beans


2 tablespoons canola, olive or peanut oil (see below for using bacon instead of this oil)

2 medium onions, chopped fine

I medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into ½ inch cubes

6 medium garlic cloves, chopped finely

¼ cup of good chili powder

I tablespoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander(you can eliminate this if some folks don’t like the heat)

I teaspoon red pepper flakes

I teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (you can eliminate this if some folks don’t like the heat)

2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef or 2 or so pounds of lean chuck or top round cut up into ½ inch chunks and trimmed of most of the fat.

2 (15-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (You can also use other beans such as red, black or even pinto beans but kidney beans are what is usually seen in chili like this.

I (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

I (28-ounce) can tomato puree


Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, oregano, and cayenne and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and beginning to brown this should take about about 10 minutes. Cooking the spices like this really adds to the depth of the dish so don’t leave this step out.

Crank up heat to medium-high and add half the beef and cook, breaking up the chunks with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink and just beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the remaining beef and cook, breaking up the chunks with the wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Adding the beef in two stages like this reduces the amount of moisture released at one time and prevents the meat from boiling instead of frying. Nowadays it seems all the meat has extra water.

Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, and stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove the cover and continue to simmer 1 hour longer, stirring occasionally (if the chili begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, stir in ½ cup water and continue to simmer), until the beef is tender and the chili is dark, rich and slightly thickened.

Good choices for condiment’s include diced fresh tomatoes, diced avocado, sliced scallions, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro leaves, sour cream, and shredded Monterey jack or cheddar cheese. The flavor of the chili improves with age. If possible, make it a day or two in advance and reheat before serving.

Leftovers can be frozen for up to a month.

Here is a variation that will add a little smokiness to the dish. Instead of the oil use 8 slices of breakfast bacon cut into ½ inch pieces and cook in the Dutch oven until reduced and starting to crisp. Drain off all but 2 or so tablespoons of the bacon fat and make the recipe as above. Leave the bacon bits in the pot and finish the recipe.

Another way to add smokiness is to use dried chipotle pepper powder in place of the cayenne.

A note on spices: I am a sucker for quality spices and the best available are by mail order from Penzey’s. I use their regular chili powder.

Finally, for you vegetarians out there, this makes great vegan chili as well. Just substitute four or five cups of your choice of vegetables for the meat. Try a mix of zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, and corn (you can use frozen “niblets’) or whatever you like. I would tend to shy away from cruciferous things like broccoli or cauliflower as they don’t store well and their flavors don’t always play well with others.

Don’t forget the homemade buttermilk cornbread.

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