My Chili

Posted on January 26, 2019 by psu

For a lot of years when I made chili about half the time it would end up tasting like tomato sauce with beans in it. There is almost no greater disappointment in the food world than something called chili that tastes like tomato sauce with beans in it. The secret to avoiding this is not so much in the particular mix of peppers and other spices you use, because if you use the spice mix wrong you still get tomato sauce and beans. The secret, I think, is practice and adjusting the seasoning in real time through the entire process of making the dish, instead of just at the end.

I talked about that a bit here, but I never gave the details of the chili recipe because I think at the time I figured that everyone knows how to make chili. But, over the years people have asked for the recipe so I’m recording it now so I can copy and paste it later.

Note: I’m not sure how much good the mechanical steps of this recipe will be to you. The reason is that I don’t really understand how this recipe works. I don’t really think about it. I just mix things together. So expect to tune this to your particular wants and needs. As with everything it’s only a starting point to true enlightenment.

Second Note: This is, of course, fake Yankee East Coast chili since it has beans and tomatoes and shit in it. Sorry.

Ok here we go.

Start with some approximation of these ingredients:

  • 5 or 6 dried peppers of various kinds
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 fresh jalapeno peppers. Or if you want you can use canned for pepper taste with less heat. I also like canned hatch chilis.
  • Maybe some thyme and oregano.
  • 1 large onion or 2 medium sized onions
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2lb of ground meat, I use a mix of beef (85% lean, not that shitty extra-lean stuff) and pork
  • 1 28 oz can of tomatoes
  • 1 can of red beans
  • 1 can of black beans
  • salt, pepper, ground cayenne or other hot pepper

For dried peppers I usually use milder dried chilis like Ancho or Pasilla or whatever. Lately I’ve been adding more heat by mixing in some of those little Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese red chilis too. In the past I also used to mix my own pepper mix with a couple of tablespoons of commercial chili powder, but I’ve done less of that lately.

So, toast the cumin seeds lightly before you grind them. It makes a difference. Then stuff everything into a cheap coffee grinder that you use only for this and pulverize it all.

Now get out your big cast iron dutch oven chili pot. I like the Le Creuset stuff. Dice the onion and garlic and sauté it on medium heat in a generous amount of oil or butter for a few minutes. Season with a good grab of salt, pepper and the dried herbs if you have them.

When the onion is soft, break up the ground meat into chunks and add it to the pot along with all the dried spice mix and the fresh chili peppers if you are using them. Also, add more salt and pepper to further season the meat

Let this cook until the meat is brown. At that point add the tomato and the beans and whatever else. Season this mix again. Also toss in the ground cayenne now if you want that particular kind of heat. Bring the mix to a simmer and cook between half an hour and all day. I usually let it go long enough to reduce it down by around 25-30% and give it a nice dark color.

When it looks right and tastes right you are done. Serve this however you would serve chili. Maybe for football game food.

Variations: You can cook your own dried beans for this if you want. But it doesn’t really make it better. You can also use other meat mixes. Lamb is a nice twist. If you must you could probably make this with like beans and giant mushrooms and carrots or something for the vegetarians in the world, but I don’t see the point in that. Make them a nice Indian dal instead, it will be better than this without meat.