One of the best parts of the return of fall is that I can start making Chili again. I’d make the stuff all year round, but there just seems to be something wrong about simmering a pot of meat on my stove for an entire day while it’s 95 degrees outside and the air conditioner is on. Don’t get me wrong: I’d do it, but I’d feel at least a little guilty.
But now it’s cooler outside than inside.. and along with long sleeve shirts and light jackets, the forces of nature are demanding that I bust out the dutch oven, and begin making a giant cauldron of boiling meat and spices that will provide me with a fantastic dinner for as many people want to show up, as well as lunch for the next several days.
Here is my chili recipe. There are many like it, but this one is mine. First, full disclosure: I like my chili a bit chunky with tender hunks of meat and a medium level of spice. Every time I make it, I try to add a few variations: more beer. Less meat. Different spices. But this recipe is usually where I start:
The day before, I toss a bag of dried pinto beans into a pan of water with a few cloves of garlic and a ton of salt. I’ve tried a lot of different tactics for my beans, but this is usually the one that gives me the beans I want. Nothing is worse than tacky crunchy beans, but if you simmer your pot of chili all day with a can of baked beans, you end up with mushy goo and that is a crime against the gods of chili…
I start off by dicing an english roast into about 1/2 inch cubes. I’ve tried other cuts of meat, and i’ve tried letting the butcher slice them up for me, but I’m pretty particular about the size of my meats. To big and you’re chewing hunks of meat for hours on end. To small, and you’re eating soup. That’s not gonna fly in my kitchen. I have teeth and I wanna use ‘em! I want a roast with enough fat in there too. Nothing lean here. I will pay the penance for this chili at the gym this week. For sure. Promise.
I chop up some onions… which makes me cry like a 4 year-old who just learned that he won’t be getting a sucker for desert because he kept shoving his little brother even tho Dad said STOP like a hundred times. Sometimes I wear goggles but then I feel like an idiot, and I have enough things in my life to make me feel bad about myself. While I am chopping, I get my dutch oven going on the stovetop with a bit of oil. In there goes the ground pork, the diced roast, a small palmful of salt, and my chopped onions. This gets stirred occasionally for about 10 minutes until everything is nicely browned up.
After that, I throw in the beer (usually it’s 10am, but it’s still completely acceptable for the chef to drink some of the beer. Or to just open a second one for the recipe when the first one disappears due to the strange rapid evaporation weather effect that exists in my kitchen. But don’t be greedy: it’s 10am, there’s no reason to kill the whole sixer. Save some for dinner), the garlic, the tomato sauce, the spices and the peppers which deserve a little bit of consideration here:
I’ve tried a lot of peppers over the years, from jalapeño (which are boriñg!) to the time that Wolf gave me a single habenero pepper from his garden which, I can only imagine existed on the sunniest hillside in hell. The heat was so blistering that I was unable to eat more than a small bowl.. but 24 hours later the whole batch had mellowed out and become perhaps the single best batch of chili I ever made. Chili is often better the next day, but I’m hungry now. Usually I mix and match the chili peppers depending on what I can find at the grocer that looks fresh. Serrano and Habenero are good. I find 3-4 peppers is usually enough to make a pot hot enough that I’m happy, but cool enough that the wife doesn’t complain. I know she’s going to put about 30% cheese and sour cream in her bowl anyway.
If you like things a little hotter, try replacing some of the chili powder with chipotle powder. But tread lightly here. A little goes a long way. Also, if you check out the ethnic aisle in your grocer you can usually find chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Sometimes I’ll seed and dice up a couple of those and throw them in. This is spicy stuff, but it’s also smoky, so you want to be a bit sparing with it or you’ll just be eating burnt.
Once everything goes in the pot I simmer for 4-5 hours. Then I crack open a few cans of stewed tomatoes (excluding the liquid). This is big fun because I can squeeze the ‘maters in my fingers which usually squirts a big mess all over the kitchen which I deny creating and try to get my wife to clean it claiming ignorance or blaming the children. This makes me very popular, but since I’m making dinner I can usually get away with it. Finally, a quarter cup of brown sugar. For the last hour I generally simmer with the lid off to boil out a bit of liquid and thicken it up a little bit.
Garnish with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and green onions. Also serve with corn bread (I just use the cheap little blue box and a muffin tin) Today I think I’ll bake an apple pie since I still have a bag of them from a recent trip to the orchard and who doesn’t love pie?
Rob’s Ultimate Chili Recipe
- 1 bag pinto beans (soak for 24 hours in salty water & garlic)
- 2.5 lbs English Roast (1/2 inch cubes)
- 1 lb Lean Pork (Ground)
- 2 Large Onions (Chopped)
- 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 12 Cloves Garlic (Minced)
- 3-6 Chili Peppers Diced (Serrano, Habanero, Jalapeno, Chipotle)
- 15 oz Tomato Sauce
- 1 tbsp Worcester Sauce
- 12-24 oz Beer (1 bottle Guinness)
- 6 tbsp Chili Powder (or substitute some with Chipotle powder)
- 2.5 tbsp Cumin
- 1/2 tsp Dry Mustard
- 1 pinch Oregano
- 25 oz Stewed Tomato (1 big can or 2 little ones)
- 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
- Soak beans for 24 hours in salt water & garlic
- Brown meats & onion in dutch oven w/ salt & pepper for 10 minutes.
- Add garlic, peppers, tomato sauce, worcester sauce, beer, spices.
- simmer with lid on for 4-5 hours
- add stewed tomatoes & sugar, simmer 1-2 hours (remove lid if to wet)
- Serve in big bowls, Garnish w/ Cheddar, Sour Cream, Green Onions
Hope this pot turns out. If not, there’s always next week. And the week after that. It’s hard to mess up chili, and usually even the failures are pretty awesome.