I’ve written a lot about and made a lot of chili. I never make it the same way twice, usually because some ingredient or other is not in the pantry this time. Chili is anytime, any season food. It can be made in an hour or a day. Eaten fresh or frozen/thawed, in a coffee mug or fancy bowl. It can be endlessly customized from the get-go or just before eating.
I’m no chili purist, as will become obvious. I know that for the pure in heart, chili is meat and, well, chilis. I don’t think I’ve ever had it that way, but would love a good recipe.
So, get out the Dutch oven and let’s go….
Dad’s Chili As You Like It
- Dutch oven
- chef's knife
- 2 tbsp fat To sauté the meat and vegetables. Use bacon fat, EVOO, butter, or combination.
- 2 lbs meat Ground beef, ground pork, ground lamb, ground Italian sausage even. Mix and match.
- 1 large onion 1/4" dice
- 2 stalks celery Thinly sliced
- 1 large green bell pepper 1/4" dice. Any color bell pepper is fine.
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced I get mine out of a squeeze bottle—great invention.
- 1/4 cup Dad's Spice Mix Shameless plug. Since American chili has its origins in Western Americana, use chili powder, taco spice mix, or similar. Dad's mix is mighty good, though.
- 2 tbsp tomato paste Really enriches your sauce.
- 16 oz salsa Use your fav. We like Rick Bayless's Frontera Roasted Tomato, but I also think Old El Paso brand is really good.
- 14 oz diced tomatoes with juice I use canned unless I have some summertime fresh off the vine.
- 12 oz beer If you need more liquid to cover, use water or broth (beef or chicken). Homemade is always best.
- salt and pepper As you like them, to finish before serving.
- sour cream Optional garnish when serving.
- cheddar cheese, grated Optional garnish when serving.
- green onions, chopped Optional garnish when serving.
- cornbread or crushed tortilla chips Optional, except a no-no for low-carb folks. Serve the chili over any of these.
émeat in oil or fat in a pre-heated skillet over medium heat. Take your time. The idea is to cook off the water in the meat—yes, water in the meat—and develop lots of browning, aka flavor. I've made chili with ground turkey and chicken, back before we starting maxing out the fat, and these meats especially contain lots of water.
- Reserve the meat in a bowl and sauté the veggies, adding more fat/oil if needed. Give this at least 5 minutes. I call for the onion-celery-green pepper "trinity" here, but have also used onion-celery-carrot (a mirepoix) and have subbed red pepper for green…even roasted reds out of the jar. I am particular to Mezzetta, being a longtime California guy. All good.
- Add garlic to the sauté, stir in, and cook for a minute.
- Add the spices and tomato paste, stir in well, and cook for two minutes.
- Add the salsa, diced tomatoes, and beer. Up the heat to high and stir well.
- Add back the cooked meat and stir in thoroughly.
- Lower heat. Cover the pot and simmer for two hours, checking and stirring every 30 minutes or so, just to drink in the aroma.
- After two hours, remove cover. If there's too much liquid, continue cooking at a bubble until the sauce is thickened to your liking. If this seems to be going too slowly, up the heat, or if there's just way too much liquid—or you just can't wait—remove some with a big spoon. You won't be sorry later.
- Taste for richness. Add salt and pepper and sample until you're satisfied, starting with a teaspoon each. Careful with the salt—folks can always add more if they like.
- Finally, serve in bowls with your favorite garnish(es) and starchy additions.