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Chili Con Carnival January 31, 2010

Posted by Chad in Food.

Every man needs to be able to make chili.

Chili isn’t as much a food as a process to make a dish.  Leaving aside the whole beans, onions, rice, and noodles argument, whipping up a good pot of chili doesn’t take much knowledge, just a few simple techniques, and a lot of flexibility based on what you have and what you want. 


First off, decide how much you want to make, based on how many pounds of meat.  In my example, I’m doing 2 lbs of meat.  What meat?  Doesn’t much matter.  Ground beef, stew meat, pork, venison, whatever.  I’m going to use a lb of stew beef and a lb of stew pork because… they were on sale.

chili chili chili

For the tomatoes:  a 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes for each lb of meat.  I’m using a few various cans of Ro-Tel (a habanero hot, a mild, and a chili mix) which are 10 oz, so three cans it is.  Then a can of tomato sauce for each pound, so 2 of them.  Often I’ll use normal size cans of diced tomatoes, and all the new flavors are interesting.  I’ve made chili with the garlic added, or even the balsamic vinegar, but usually only one can of flavored when making a double batch of chili like this.

Use good chili powder.  Doesn’t have to be the most expensive hand ground by overpaid ethnic laborers using traditional tools under the full moon or anything, but decent stuff.  2 and a half to three tablespoons per pound of meat is my base, and then I add hotness in other ways.  Today’s batch is added heat from the habaneros in the Ro-Tel.

Salt, pepper, garlic powder are almost always required, I also add some cumin and cilantro. 

That’s about it.  Onions?  Add later.  Beans same thing. 

The Process

Brown the meat.  Medium high heat.  Here’s the wrong way to do it:


Too much meat at the same time.  This meat is going to boil in its own juices, not brown.


That’s the right way.  About 1/2 pound at once in a little splash of oil.   The meat will “let go” of the bottom of the pan when it is browned and ready, letting you stir or flip it to the other side.  The inside of the meat doesn’t have to be completely cooked through.  When each batch is done, just put it in a bowl or another pan for now.  It only takes a few minutes to cook the meat.

Using ground beef?  Same thing, brown it hot and fast.

Here you can see the difference between boiled and browned.  Of course, the pork is the lighter colored, but the browning on the beef is noticeable:


Here’s what is left in the cooking pot if you did it right:


That’s all tasty goodness, but you have to liberate it.  Now’s when you add about a half cup or so of beer, wine, broth, or water, depending on what’s on hand and what flavors you like.  You’re going to get a blast of steam coming out, so stand back, then stir all that darkness off the bottom with a wooden spoon.  You’ll end up with something that looks like a loose gravy.


Add the meat back into the pot, then add the canned tomatoes.


Time to add more spices.  Since I used a can of Chili Mix Ro-Tel, I’m not going to add enough chili powder for the whole two pounds of meat that I’m using.  In this case, I’m using about 4 tablespoons worth.


Garlic powder is about a tablespoon.  If I used the normal canned diced tomatoes that has the garlic in it, that’s probably enough.  I’ll then add the cans of tomato sauce.  Add the other spices that you like to add, but it’s optional.  So is adding a little bit of liquid smoke to the mix. 


Bring it all up to a boil, then drop the heat all the way down, and let it simmer for anywhere from a half hour up to a few hours, stirring every once in a while. 


If everyone likes beans, then drain and rinse a can of kidney or black beans, and add only about 15 minutes before serving, or else they’ll turn to mush.  Onions are typically served diced up and on top of the bowl its served in.


Go wild.  Grated cheese, sour cream, beans on the side, onion, rice, noodles, whatever you’re used to.

The Fast Method!!!

Brown a pound of ground beef and drain.

Add a 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with garlic and another 14.5 oz can of tomato sauce.

Add 3 tablespoons of chili powder.  Add whatever other spices you like.

Simmer for 20 min.




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