In keeping with the introspective nature of my previous posts, it is time to talk about something that is of utmost importance to me. I LOVE soup. I could eat soup for every meal, everyday. One of the soupy varieties I like best is chili. It is one of my favorite things to make, it tastes delicious, and leftovers are even better. Despite this affinity, I rarely order chili out at restaurants; even though they brag about their “famous chili” on the menu (By the way, how can everyone’s chili be famous?), the bowl containing the so-called celebrity is usually a monochromatic mixture of meat and beans floating in a broth of oily tomato disappointment. Nothing else. I have been deceived! There has to be more than this! That can’t be the best you’ve got! Where is the color? The crunch? The excitement? In my world, chili is a reasonably spicy avenue through which wonderful meat, beans, AND veggies enter my hungry tummy. The vegetables are the secret to my Better Than Famous Chili.
The beautiful thing about chili is that you can adjust the ingredients to make it your own. Here is how I make mine . . .
I like to use:
- Olive Oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 lb. ground beef (I like to use 80/20 for chili)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- one small can of tomato paste
- one cup of beer (if you are 21+) (you can also sub chicken/beef/vegetable stock)
- one large can of diced tomatoes, with juices
- 3 cans of beans, rinsed and drained (I use black, kidney, and great northern)
- one red bell pepper, diced
- one orange bell pepper, diced
- one yellow bell pepper, diced
- one small zucchini, large dice
- ½ cup baby bella mushrooms, diced
- 1 pepper (You can use serrano, jalapeño, whatever you like. Remove the seeds if you want less heat.)
- 1 tsp. cumin powder
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- sour cream, avocado, shredded cheese, onion, tomato, cilantro
Get started by heating a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. I never measure, I just make sure the bottom of the pot is coated. Add the diced onion and stir occasionally as it cooks. If you are using fresh garlic, add it in so that it has time to soften. If you are lazy like me and you are using the jarred stuff, wait until the onions are nice and translucent, then throw in the garlic and stir it around for a minute, but don’t let it go too long or it will burn and become bitter tasting and make your breath stink (and nobody wants that).
Break up the onion-garlic-fest by adding in the ground beef. Side-note: this might sound odd, but I think ground beef, and red meat in general, is so good looking when it is raw. Maybe that makes me weird? Regardless, it needs to be cooked, so break it up into bite-sized pieces, and make sure it all gets browned. If you don’t have one, the Pampered Chef Mix ‘n’ Chop tool is perfect for this job. I have seen a similar utensil at retail stores, too.
Once your cow stops mooing, stir in the tomato paste so that it coats the ground beef. (If you are under age 21, add your cup of broth and skip the rest of this paragraph, because you can’t buy or consume alcohol. Bummer for you.) Then, add in one cup of a beer of your choice; please, for the love of beer and chili, just don’t pick something akin to water. I used the gluten free Omission Pale Ale. Get excited about the beer getting all fizzy in the pot, and let it simmer for a few minutes so that the alcohol cooks out and the flavor stays in. Drink the rest of the beer during your short break.
Time for some fuh-lay-vor! Add your hot pepper of choice, cumin, oregano, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Admire how wonderful your chili smells as it simmers for a few minutes while all the spices meld into the stewy chili goodness. Meanwhile, prepare whatever toppings you like.
When you just can’t stand waiting any longer, taste your chili (without burning your tongue, please) and adjust any seasonings, if necessary. The zucchini and mushrooms should be soft but not mushy, and the peppers should maintain some of their crunch. Ladle into bowls, accessorize with toppings, and enjoy!
Get creative with it and add, subtract or adjust ingredients throughout the process to suit your desires. I like cheese, sour cream, and avocado with mine. I made some cornbread muffins to serve with the chili, too. Sometimes I skip the spoon and just use tortilla chips to shovel it into my mouth. This time, though, I enjoyed using our brand new soup spoons, which are more like small ladles! This tastes amazing hot out of the pot, is great leftover, and freezes well so you can do double duty and prepare a future meal while you cook tonight's dinner.
As a teacher, I have to say that constructive criticism is welcome; please let me know how I did with my “How-To” presentation!