Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mild, Marvelous Chili con Carne

Chili con Carne is a Tex-Mex dish that has as many interpretations. There is no one authentic recipe, so what I offer here is my version, a mild dish with enough chili powder for taste but not enough to burn…seriously, folks, you can feed this chili to little kids! And, by omitting the meat, you can make it vegetarian…just serve with rice to make a complete protein!

This is a particularly tasty chili…it substitutes flavour for heat. At the end of the recipe are a bunch of variations, ways to spice it up or make it more fancy. Make the dish according to the basic recipe the first time, so you know how it is supposed to taste, then go for your own variations in subsequent renditions. Of the many things I cook for him, this is my husband’s absolute favourite.

This is fast for a home-cooked chili. It takes about 15 minutes to assemble, then you leave it to simmer for about 2 hours. It is a great winter dish as the bubbling pot will warm your home and perfume it with a delectable spicy scent, but this works well for outdoor cooking as well. Put the ingredients together and take it along for picnics, beach parties, barbeques, tailgate parties, and let it simmer along on a bed of coals or on the barbeque until the ingredients turn a brownish colour and the flavours marry.

Chili con Carne

1 lb (500g) ground meat of your choice (I like coarsely ground chuck)
1 onion coarsely chopped
4 (or more) cloves of garlic, crushed (I like roasted garlic in this)
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
½ tsp chili powder (more if you like it hot)
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala (available in any Indian grocery or on the internet)
2 to 4 roasted chilies (canned Ortega chilies are fine), chopped
2 cans crushed tomatoes (400g ea)
2 cans red kidney beans (400g ea)
2 cans 4-bean mix (that does not include green beans) (400g ea)
2 cans water (fill up the bean cans to rinse them out and put water in pot)
Salt to taste (you won’t need much as the canned items are already salted)

½ lb (250g) shredded mild cheddar
One onion, finely minced

In a deep pot, sauté ground meat with onion, garlic, pepper, spices, and chillies until meat is brown and crumbly. Add canned items (including the liquid the beans are packed in) and water.

Bring to a fast boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered for two or more hours, stirring occasionally to keep the chili from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add small amounts of liquid if it becomes too thick too quickly. Chili is ready when it loses its tomato smell and becomes a rich brownish-red colour. It should not need thickening, as it will thicken on its own.

Ladle chili into shallow bowls. Top with a handful of shredded cheese and a generous sprinkle of minced onion. Serve with corn tortilla chips and hot sauce on the side for those who want to heat it up.

Make a “Chili Size”
   Grill the cut faces of a hamburger bun
   Fry two hamburger patties and put one on each grilled bun face
   Smother with chili
   Top with cheese and onion

Use beer instead of water after adding the beans
Use leftover shredded beef instead of ground meat
Use leftover pinto beans instead of the 4-bean mix
Use black beans and corn instead of the 4-bean mix
Cook until very thick and use as a burrito filling
Add hot chilies (Serrano, jalapeño, habañeros), seeded and chopped, to the meat while cooking
Increase amount of chili powder
Use a stronger-flavoured cheese
Use chopped green onion (scallions) as a topping
Serve with cornbread
Serve with a coarse “artisan” bread
Go vegetarian and make it without the meat

Photo by liberalmind1012 flickr

1 comment:

beccas12 said...

try adding a bit of high quality cocoa, it is something I got from a South American recipe (be damned if I remember the country) and it adds another dimensio. Not enought to actually taste like cocoa, just enough to darken the dish and add depth...