Once, a very long time ago, I lived in NYC where the take-out was plentiful, delicious, and convenient. I had a kitchen drawer dedicated to various menus from local restaurants (doesn’t everyone in NYC?) with standard orders attached to my favorites. It was easy! It was fast! I could eat Thai one night and Southern BBQ the next night! Ordering a meal took far less time and energy than actually cooking it.
Then I moved away, became a poor grad student, and realized I needed to learn how to cook.
That’s how I started cooking chili. It was one of those things I loved and always wanted to make.
At first, chili seemed crazy hard. Have you ever read a chili recipe? So many ingredients! Too much chopping and dicing! How many steps now? Plus, an overly long cooking time! It didn’t seem easy or convenient.
But you know what? Now, chili is one of those basic meals that I cook ALL THE TIME. It can be one of the basic meals in your cooking arsenal as well.
For the novice chili cook, the basic method/formula/recipe can be broken down into 5 steps:
- Cook the vegetables with salt and spices
- Add meat and brown
- Add tomatoes, beans, liquid
- Simmer for 30-45 minutes
- Thicken (optional – not pictured)
Here are some helpful guidelines:
- Sweat out the vegetables for a long time. Longer than you think. I put the timer on for 15 minutes, keeping an eye on the vegetables so they don’t burn. Also, cook the spices with the vegetables. Don’t add them at the end! It takes time to develop flavor.
- BROWN the meat. DO NOT let the meat “steam” with heat that is too low. Of course, you don’t want it to burn either.
- Simmer on low until the color changes to a deep, rusty red. You will also see pools of fat floating around the surface. Don’t be alarmed! This may take 30 – 45 minutes but it’s the key to making extra-good chili. Just keep checking and stirring.
Before the long simmer:
After the long simmer:
- Thicken the chili with a slurry of masa flour and water. I used to thicken chili with tomato paste but this method gives so much more flavor. *Thank you Pioneer Woman for this genius idea!* (sorry, no picture)
- Make it look festive with toppings laid out in individual bowls. I like to serve chili with tortilla chips, Fritos, or homemade cornbread on the side. People can help themselves and you can enjoy the homemade chili you just made
Homemade chili is not as hard as you think! Homemade chili is within your reach! If I can make chili, so can you!
A hearty and meaty chili recipe that is sure to please a crowd.
- 2 lbs lean ground beef
- 2 large onions small dice
- 2 stalks celery small dice
- 1 large carrot small dice
- 1 bell pepper small dice
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 T. chili powder
- 1 T. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. paprika smoked, if you have it
- 1/2 tsp. ancho chili powder optional
- 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder optional
- 2 chipotle chili peppers, in adobe sauce chopped
- 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 bottle beer you can replace with 1 cup additional chicken stock
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 19 oz cans red kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 1 19 oz can pinto beans drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup Masa Flour
- 1/4 cup water
Heat a large stockpot over medium heat. Put 3 T. neutral cooking oil in the bottom of the pot. Add vegetables and garlic. Sprinkle spices and salt on top of vegetables. Mix around with a wooden spoon, being careful not to let it burn. Sauté until soft and slightly brown, about 15 minutes, lowering heat if you need. Add a little more oil if it starts sticking too much to the bottom.
Raise heat to medium-high. Add ground beef. Break up meat with a wooden spoon until no pink remains, about 5-8 minutes.
Add tomatoes. Add beer and chicken stock. Add kidney beans and pinto beans. Add the chopped up chipotle peppers in adobe sauce. Mix and bring to a boil.
Lower heat and simmer with lid partly on/off. Stir once in awhile so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Simmer for about 30 minutes, on low heat, until the color deepens to a darker red.
Now it’s time to make the Masa flour slurry. Mix the Masa flour and water in a mug. Mix well until there are no clumps. Ladle a spoonful of the chili liquid into your mug and mix well. Put it back into the big chili pot and mix until well combined. Simmer for 5-10 minutes more.
Taste and adjust seasonings with more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve with avocado, grated cheese, sour cream, cilantro, green onions, etc. I also like to serve tortilla chips, Fritos, or cornbread on the side.
Chili does require a lot of chopping. If you are feeling lazy, you can pulse quartered vegetables in a food processor. Pulse the carrot separately, as the other vegetables are softer and will be processed more quickly. Also, watch carefully while you pulse. You want the veggies to be chopped into small pieces, about the same size, not pureed.
This makes a generous amount of chili. Ten large portions, with plenty of leftovers. Make sure to use a large stock pot or your pot will overflow with chili goodness. Alternately, you can halve the recipe to serve 5.