Traditional Chili Done Right

We all have our chili recipes and love them for what they are – comfort food. It comforts us when the weather turns cool and damp (at least in the Pacific Northwest). It comforts us when our husbands disappear into football comas. I had the exact conditions occur last Sunday, so the chili came out. While this is a very common version of chili (beans + meat) it has several components that make it rock. One, I add a variety of beans and lots of them. Two, I add a variety of peppers and lots of them. Three, I use a special trick of simmering to make the meat very tender. Four, this recipe is very easily adjusted to be vegetarian.

Chili

The first time I made chili the beans were anything but tender. I was in college, in my first apartment and experimenting with my first attempts at cooking many things. I tried making chili based on my mother’s instruction. My mother never uses canned beans. I didn’t have time to soak overnight – I was hungry. So I did the quick method on the bean package. They still were not soft by the time the chili cooking started. I assumed they would continue to cook with the chili. Guess what – they don’t. I had a pot of chili with little hard rocks in it. OK, mom’s recipe didn’t work, so I called my sister to ask for help. Her response, “There’s these things called canned beans. I know you’ve never seen them in mom’s house, but they exist.”  My dear friend Thom helped me fish out most of beans – I think he must have been really hungry too. While the recipe has changed a bit since, I follow my sister’s core recipe with a variety of canned beans and peppers in it. I even kept her email in my recipe book for a keepsake.

Chilirecipe1999

To make the meat tender, simmer the whole pot of chili with the cover on for 45 mins and off for another 45 mins. There’s a noticeable difference. I frequently make a vegetarian version of this so there are two pots out for guests. Simply omit meat and add another can of beans and another bell pepper. This recipe is mild enough for kids. We add heat by using hot sauces. I prefer Tabasco Chipotle in mine. My husband mixes a variety of hot sauces for superior heat.

Toppings! Topping make a chili party fun. This is a great chili for hosting because it’s adaptable to everyone’s topping and heat preference. I like to serve a lot of toppings. Here’s my top 10:  Cheddar cheese, white onion, green onion, sour cream, tortilla chips, corn chips (Fritos), avocado, hot sauces, cilantro and corn bread.  OK, corn bread is really a side, but also essential to a complete chili party.

Chili2

 

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3 bell peppers, variety of colors makes it prettier, chopped
1/2 cup chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
0-1/2 tsp cayenne or chipotle cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds beef
4 (15.5 ounce) cans of beans, variety of kidney dark, light and white, black beans, pinto beans, rinsed
4 (14.5 ounce) cans of diced tomatoes
1 (14 ounce) can of tomato puree

1. Heat oil in a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add onions, peppers, chili powder, cumin, cayenne and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes. Then add garlic and cook for about 30 secs.

2. Add beef and increase heat to medium-high. Break up meat and cook until it’s no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with their juices, tomato puree, beans and a 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring pot to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes.

3. Remove lid and continue to cook, simmering for another 45 minutes. Season with more salt and cayenne to taste before serving.

Super Versatile Chili
 
Prep time
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I created this recipe over the years from my sister's recipe and America's Test Kitchen's techniques.
Author:
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 bell peppers, variety of colors makes it prettier, chopped
  • ½ cup chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 0-1/2 tsp cayenne or chipotle cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds beef
  • 4 (15.5 ounce) cans of beans, variety of kidney dark, light and white, black beans, pinto beans, rinsed
  • 4 (14.5 ounce) cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14 ounce) can of tomato puree
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add onions, peppers, chili powder, cumin, cayenne and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes. Then add garlic and cook for about 30 secs.
  2. Add beef and increase heat to medium-high. Break up meat and cook until it's no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with their juices, tomato puree, beans and a ½ teaspoon salt. Bring pot to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes.
  3. Remove lid and continue to cook simmering for another 45 minutes. Season with more salt and cayenne to taste before serving.

 

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5 thoughts on “Traditional Chili Done Right

  1. As soon as it’s not a billion degrees here (Phoenix), I’m making this. Recipe looks fantastic and the pictures are making me hungry. I wish you girls were my neighbors.

  2. My chili recipe is just like Camille’s, but I use half sausage and half beef. Less healthy, but if you are looking to win a chili cook-off, it is delicious.

  3. I still maintain dry beans, hydrated overnight in salt water (about 2 TBSP of salt), rinsed and then gently simmered until cooked are superior to canned beans. I got the salt idea from the Cook’s Country cooking show. They explained that the salt soak breaks down the bean skin to make it more tender and I agree. You still can get small hard stones if your beans are old and you have not used salt.

  4. The first time I made chili as a newlywed I used dry beans and my chili was this want-to-be spaghetti sauce nightmare. So I have been nervous about dry beans. But, I’d like to get the guts to try again. If Wanda says it’s worth it. I believe it.

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