Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hot Bowl of Chili on a Cold Winters Day

This is a very simple recipe for good chili!  I'm sharing my secret ingredients.  Well not all of them.  I'm giving you the basics and you can add any other "secret" ingredients that you desire!

First start off with a pound (2 pounds if you want to freeze some for another night) of lean ground beef, turkey or you can leave the meat out altogether and throw in some tofu.  Ground that up, seasoning as you go with salt and pepper.  You want to season each layer so you are not dumping a bunch of salt in at the end.  If you do that, all you will taste is salt.

So as your first layer is browning, chop of a medium onion, a green pepper and a few cloves of garlic.  I love garlic and I use a ton of it.  Again you can use any variations that you prefer.  I happened to grab a sweet vidalia because I love them.  They don't tend to cause my eyes to tear which most onions will do.  I'm also using a green bell pepper, but you could use red, yellow, orange or all four.

When your first layer is finished browning, add in the peppers and onions.  I sweat these out for about 10-15 minutes making sure that they are good and soft.  I will also season this layer with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder.  Remember that as you season your layers, you are doing so springly or you'll end up with a salty chili at the end.

After 15 minutes, I add in a ton of spices.  I'm at the beyond measuring stage in my cooking creations.  I prefer to wing it really.  I've just been cooking for many years now and just "know" how much.  Baking however is more precise, it's chemistry.  You follow the recipe.  But with cooking, you just go with it. 

However that being said, the main ingredients in chili are of course chili powder.  It deserves a couple of tablespoons.  Cumin, 1-2 tsp depending on if you like it.  Oregano 1-2 tsp.  I ground up some fresh cinnamon.  It adds some dimension to the dish.  Continue with red pepper flakes, more if you like the heat, less or omit if you don't.  Red Cayenne pepper as a lot of heat as well.  Let the spices sweat for a few minutes before adding the diced tomatoes.  If you don't have all the spices I have listed, save yourself a headache and your wallet and grab a 99 cent chili spice packet.

You can you fresh diced plum tomatoes, whatever you prefer.  Rachel Ray really turned me on to the fire roasted toms a few years ago and I haven't looked back!  I'm not endorsing any brands here but I like Hunt's toms and like Goya's canned beans.  Soaking dried beans over night is probably best but I wanted to make this recipe simple right?

Okay so you are done.  You could actually eat it in about 10 minutes after checking your seasoning and making adjustments.  If the tomatoes are way too acidic, don't be afraid to add a pinch of sugar to calm them down.  I put in a spoonful of brown sugar.  The molasses adds another dimension to the flavor.  A spoonful isn't going to make it sweet so don't worry! 

I cook mine for about an hour.  It gives the flavors more time to develop.  When I'm adding the canned tomatoes, I swirl some water in each can and add that water to the pot.  This allows for evaporation.  If I didn't add the water, it would be way too dry after an hour. 

So there you have it.  Serve with diced toms, onions, cheese and sour cream and have some crusty bread nearby for dipping.  In our house growing up, we would sprinkle parmesan cheese on our chili.  I'm going to serve mine over brown rice tonight.