Essentially, there are two kinds of dishes I cook. One is meant for flourish. It’s me testing my skills and meant to somehow gratify myself a little. You know, ta-da food. It’s complex or a bit difficult and will hopefully garner an ooh or an aah.
The other though is for a simpler ritual, casually familiar because of repetition and one that coaxes out or evokes memories. Maybe even make a new memory. These are not so much impressive as they are satisfying, nourishing, and even comforting. Like my clam chowder, roasting a chicken, or even my jambalaya.
My chili is also one of these.
Growing up, chili was mainly a thinnish stew of browned hamburger, a can of tomato soup, a can of kidney beans, some chili powder, and a lot of salt. I know in my heart it hailed from one of the trinity of cookbooks that came standard with so many kitchens back then: either the loose-leaf orange book (it’s not orange anymore though), the red-and-white plaid book, or the shorter white book. You know the ones I mean. And I’m not disparaging them, quite the opposite, they taught more than one generation to cook at home against the tidal wave of convenience foods, so they at least deserve our respect.
But it wasn’t exactly chili.
Over the years, I’ve looked at literally hundreds of chili recipes. Every spiral-bound church, lodge, and PTA cookbook that came my way. Newspaper clippings from one cook-off contest or another. And I’ve tried all the mixes, envelopes, cans, and frozen bricks that caught my eye — even if they did contain things like textured soy flour, oatmeal, sodium tripolyphosphate, or tofu.
Chili is one of those recipes that every family claims to make better than anyone else, often with a secret ingredient or two that, when revealed in whispers, makes your eyes dart around the room looking for Alan Funt to appear from the shadows (or whomever hosts Candid Camera’s doppelganger these days). And I’ve been to cook-offs where almost all of the entries were good and to me there was no clear winner just different recipes.
Homemade chili is easy. Nothing fancy here, just my go-to recipe fiddled with over the years.
First, the meat. You’ve got options depending on what you have on-hand. One to two pounds of ground beef (chuck, sirloin, and hamburger are all fine). Sometimes I use ground turkey and sometimes no one even notices. Just use good quality meat. If you need to defrost it in the microwave at the last moment, it’s okay, you’re going to crumble it.
All of the other ingredients are ones I tend to keep on hand in the pantry.
A can each of organic pinto and kidney beans. The organics are getting very easy to find — even Bush’s has them in our local store now. Plus the store brand organic is really quite good.
A can of organic diced tomatoes and a small can of organic tomato sauce — also getting very easy to find.
I can often get these in bulk at Costco too.
And spices. I do love this combination of spices.
I hope you’ll give it a try. If you do, take a picture and be sure to tag #suppertimeblues, I’d love to see it!
Chili on a Rainy Day
Everyone should have a quick and easy go-to chili recipe in their pocket. This one can usually be made out of ingredients you already have in the freezer and pantry.
- 2 lbs ground beef (chuck, sirloin, hamburger, or even turkey)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped if you don't have fresh use 1/2 tsp garlic power
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 3 tbsp chili powder Yes, it's a lot. It's chili.
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup masa harina (corn flour)
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Brown the meat breaking it up into crumbles. Drain if needed.
Stir in the chopped garlic and let it cook for a couple more minutes.
Add the spices, tomato sauce, plus a tomato sauce can of water. Mix well.
Lower the heat and simmer covered for 30-45 minutes or until the meat is tender and the flavors have been absorbed into the meat.
Dissolve the masa harina in 1/2 cup of water and then stir gently into the chili to mix well. (This not only thickens the chili but adds a bit of corn flavor.)
Stir in the diced tomatoes and the beans.
Cook uncovered until heated through and the liquid is reduced to the desired thickness.
Optionally, top with chopped onions, shredded cheese, jalapenos, sour cream, or tortilla chips.
We often serve chili over cooked spaghetti. A take on Cincinnati 5-way chili. This stretches it very well if you have a lot of mouths to feed.