With frigid temps sweeping across the country, I’m sharing my recipe for Chili. This is no fancy, award-winning chili, but I’ve been cooking and refining it for 30 years and people lap it up like rabid dogs.
You can make it as hot or as mild as you want by limiting the Chili Powder, Cayenne Pepper and Paprika. But for my basic recipe, (here) my goal is to open your sinuses. I doctor up my own, with a decent habanero sauce (El Yucateco’s my favorite–plenty hot but not punishing, not too salty and full flavored). That makes it hot enough for me but mild enough for guests with less tolerance to heat. It makes a bunch, but is always better reheated. I ladle it into zip lock bags, let it cool and freeze it. It keeps well.
INGREDIENTS5lb. Lean ground beef (80:20 lean or better) 1 lb. sausage (your choice, maple is okay) (2) 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes (2) 8 oz. original Rotel diced tomatoes/ jalapenos (1) 8 oz. can tomato sauce (2) 8 oz. cans Brook’s Hot Chili Beans (1) 8 oz. can White or Red Kidney Beans (3) Strips Smoked Bacon (or 1 tablespoon Bacon Fat) (1) large sweet, yellow or Vidalia onion 2 cups Beef soup base or bouillon Chili Powder Garlic Powder, minced garlic or fresh crushed garlic
Minced (dried) Onion Ground Cumin Ground Paprika Ground Cinnamon Cayenne (Red) Pepper Ground Black Pepper Dried or fresh Cilantro Salt – a couple teaspoons
4 oz. Diet Cola
STEP ONE: COOK THE MEAT
- Fry the bacon. Once cooked, let the bacon cool on paper towels, in a cup or jar, collect the grease from the pan. I let it filter through a paper towel, which I discard.
- Fry up the sausage
- Use a big pot for the chili.
- Prepare your pot. If you skip the bacon, (for health reasons–why are you even reading this?) for extra lean meat, start with 1/4 cup vegetable oil in the pot.
- Add your other meat and brown everything. Keep it from burning. Make sure it all gets browned.
- Dice the large onion. Add it to the meat and continue to stir, making sure the mixture doesn’t burn. Periodically scrape the bottom of the pan, distributing the caramelized goo.
- Once the onion’s browned and soft, DRAIN EXCESS GREASE.
- If you DIDN’T add bacon, add it now. Stir.
STEP TWO: SEASON THE MEAT BEFORE you add any liquid. NOTE: I don’t use measuring cups. If you have small hands, add 1/2 more of each “palm full”
- Garlic Powder-one palm full or fresh/bottled minced garlic, 2 tablespoons or 6 cloves crushed fresh garlic. Mix it in well.
- Chili Powder- 1 or 2 palms full- add the first directly to the meat, stir well. Wait to add the second if needed, later.
- Cumin- 2 palms full
- Cayenne Pepper- 2-3 tablespoons
- Fresh coarse ground Black Pepper, 2 tablespoons
- Paprika, a palm full
- Minced Onion, (optional) 1 palm full
- Add 3-4 generous pinches of salt (kosher or sea salt if you have it)
- Add 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- NO Cilantro yet!
STEP 3: SOUP IT UP
- ADD THE ‘MATERS, Slowly, so they don’t splash
- (1) large can tomatoes
- Both cans of Rotel
- Add medium can tomato sauce
- Add 2 cups Beef Soup Base or Bouillon
- Stir it all up
Let it get hot. Don’t let it burn. Stir frequently. Once it’s hot, taste it.
- ADD THE ‘MATERS, Slowly, so they don’t splash
2. Add all of the beans. Let it get hot again. Don’t let it burn
Once it’s hot, taste it again. If you want it spicier, add more chili powder, paprika (EASY does it) and/or Cayenne (WATCH IT HERE!)
- Add Cilantro. Fresh chopped is best. Sir and taste. It cooks quickly.
- Add the cola. Only enough to take the acidic edge off the tomatoes. Stir and taste.
- If more seasoning is needed, season to taste.
- If more “soup” is needed, add more beef broth, water or V-8 juice.
- Reduce heat, cover and let simmer over low heat. Check frequently, stir to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Cook it as long as you want. Simmer it long and everything blends. No flavor should dominate but each should be evident. Serve hot with cold beer and make hot sauce available. On a 1 to 10, I consider Tabasco about a 5. To me, the El Yucateca red is about an 8. A “10” makes you cry. Any hotter than that irritates the roof of my mouth.
Serve with soup crackers and shredded cheddar cheese (optional). If you want to get really snooty, add a dollop of sour cream and some fresh chopped scallions. (I never do this).
If using an aluminum pot, move the leftovers in something else. The acid in the tomatoes reacts unfavorably with aluminum. Many soups taste better when saved and reheated, and chili’s one of them. Freeze it and it’s nice to have on hand for when the thermometer dips.
OPTION: If you want to change it up a bit, forget the coke and melt in half a regular Hershey bar or a chunk of dark chocolate. You’ll be surprised how well the chocolate complements the brown/red spices and its sweetness knocks the edge off the tomatoes.
I used to cook several times this much for a food pantry attended by all ages, even toddlers and all needed to do is “dial down” the brown/red spices. But if you want to “give it some legs,” this recipe should do the trick.