Dad’s classic cook-off chili

The Queen gave me a great cookbook for Christmas some years ago that was full of the Best Recipes of 1999, according to someone. About the only thing I’ve made more than once is a chili recipe, although I’ve played with it to the point where it’s now a classic item in Dad’s Recipe Box. You, too, can play with it to your heart’s content. Just make sure to include the most special ingredients and techniques, and you’ll have everyone ooohing and ahhing for more. This recipe is meant for you to con­fig­ure to your palate’s con­tent. There are all kinds of ways you can tweak it to make it your very own. Maybe we can spawn a whole new gen­eration of great Chili Cook-off recipes. Have at it!

After lots of exper­i­ment­ing and after get­ting into this build­ing fla­vor thing, there are some essen­tials to devel­op­ing max­i­mum fla­vor and cre­at­ing a truly luscious chili.

  • First, brown the heck out of the meat. Water is the enemy of fla­vor. Browning = fla­vor. It’s amaz­ing how much water is in meat.
  • Second, use lots of veg­eta­bles and sauté them to develop their natural sweetness. They don’t call it carameliza­tion for nothing!
  • Use lots of spices, blended together and toasted. M- m- m- m.
  • For liq­uid, use a whole bot­tle of really good beer plus broth. Guess it fig­ures that Shiner Bock (Austin, Texas, no less.) is a good choice here.
  • To fin­ish, embell­ish the chili with frozen corn and gar­nish with fresh green onion or chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream, or grated cheese. Serve over great corn­bread (recipe under “devel­op­ment” in Dad’s test kitchen).

OK, here’s the recipe.

  1. Select quality meat. I’ve used beef chuck and pork tenderloin or ground beef, ground turkey or lamb. But get the best organic or natural of whatever you choose.
  2. Brown the meat in a Dutch oven for a long time — until all the moisture is cooked out (especially important in ground turkey, which contains tons of water) and you get serious browning.
  3. Remove the meat to a bowl and cover.
  4. Dice the vegetables and sauté in two tablespoons of olive oil. Onion, celery, and bell pepper (any color) are essentials. For 2 lbs. of meat, I add a whole yellow onion, one bell pep­per, and two celery stalks. Add a lit­tle salt and pep­per and cook for 5-10 min­utes until they are real soft and golden. I usu­ally also add one jalapeño pep­per, minced. Add1 pepper for 2 lbs. meat unless you know you want more or are using a dif­fer­ent pep­per vari­ety. The amount and type of fresh pep­per and the amount of cayenne pep­per in the spice blend will deter­mine the spici­ness. You may already know what heat level you’re look­ing for. If not, pro­ceed with caution.
  5. While the veg­eta­bles are cook­ing, mix up a spice blend in a small bowl.
    • 14 cup chili powder
    • 12 table­spoons dried oregano
    • 12 table­spoons dried coriander
    • 12 tea­spoons dried cumin
    • 1 tea­spoons cayenne pepper
  6. Add three large cloves gar­lic, minced, and cook for a minute more.
  7. Add the spice blend, stir well, and let the spices toast in the pot for a cou­ple of minutes.
  8. Add back the meat.
  9. Add 16 oz. of your favorite bot­tled salsa. I like Old El Paso.
  10. Add a 12 oz. bot­tle of beer. I’ve tried a wide vari­ety. The one you choose will make a dif­fer­ence in the even­tual fla­vor, so pick well!
  11. Add enough water or stock to barely cover every­thing. I use low- sodium, organic chicken stock.
  12. Stir well. Cover the pot. Simmer over low heat for two hours.
  13. Remove cover. Cook for another half hour or until desired con­sis­tency is reached.
  14. Turn off heat. Add one or two 16 oz. cans of beans depending on how much you like beans or how much you need to extend the chili. Kidney beans. Chili beans. Black beans. A mix­ture. Whatever.
  15. Add 1 – 2 cups frozen corn kernels. Another layer of flavor and it’s pretty.
  16. Let the beans and corn heat through. Stir well. Add salt and pep­per to taste. Let cool to room temperature.
  17. Place in frig overnight (if you can stand it). The chili will improve for sev­eral days.
  18. To serve, place some great corn bread (see my recipe) or crum­bled tor­tilla chips in the bot­tom of a bowl. Scoop chili on top. Garnish with green onion, cilantro, sour cream, or shred­ded cheese. Microwave to melt cheese.
  19. Eat. You will be so happy. And the more you’ve invented your own vari­a­tions, the hap­pier you’ll be. Yahooooo!

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