Chili is not summer food in my house. It’s what you get when the cold winds blow and we hunker down in the house, curling up on the sofa for Jammie Days and Netflix Binges.
The cry from the couch is “BYOB”
Bring Your Own Blanket
And just such a day calls for a big pot of chili simmering on the stove (or Instant Pot).
Many Moods, Many Chilis
I make a few different kinds of chili. My white chicken chili gets raves from family and friends. I make a vegetarian chili that I will share soon. Still, my boilerplate chili is the one I go to the most. It’s the one I want to eat with lots of shredded Cheddar cheese and crushed tortilla chips.
My chili recipe is from a lovely cookbook called “Southern Traditions: A Seasonal Cookbook” by Margaret Agnew (Viking Press, 1994). It’s part of a Halloween Harvest Supper menu that includes cheese biscuits, pear salad, sour cream pumpkin pie, peanut butter cookies and mulled apple cider. This is one of those books where I want to just step into the pages and live the life. Classic. Southern. Attending fun events with family and friends without calories or concerns.
Instead, I’m in my jammies on the sofa under cover of blankies.
Buy the Right Beef
When I make this chili, I look for beef that’s ground for chili. It has a thicker, meatier texture than regular ground beef. Of course, if that’s not available at your market, it’s ok to use the regular. (Insert half-hearted Mary Tyler Moore ground beef toss from the opening credits of “Mary Tyler Moore Show.”) You can also use ground turkey for a tasty substitute.
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 (16-ounce) cans kidney beans
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
2-1/2 cups water
- Place a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Pour in cooking oil and add onion. Saute onion 3 to 4 minutes, until soft.
- Add ground beef to pot, using a wooden spoon to break it into chunks. Cook until it’s nearly browned all the way through. (A little pink is ok because it will continue to cook after you add the ingredients.) If there’s too much fat in the pan, now is the time to pour it off.
- Add tomato paste, taking a few minutes to let it cook down before adding tomato sauce, beans, spices and remaining ingredients.
- Continue cooking over low heat for about 30 minutes. You can transfer chili to a slow cooker to simmer away all afternoon. Or, you can slide the covered Dutch oven into a 300-degree Fahrenheit oven for a few hours. Check it occasionally to ensure it’s cooking the way you want it.
- Serve chili in bowls with tortilla chips and shredded Cheddar cheese. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to five days.