Saturday, June 9, 2012


I love chili. A hot dog with a slice of cheese, a few jalapenos, and a slathering of chili might just be the perfect food. A bowl of chili and a handful of corn chips is one of the greatest Epicurean pleasures. But frankly, I'm willing to eat chili all on its own.

I took some chili to a church potluck last Sunday and some people asked for my recipe. Of course I haven't a recipe, but I've been having a hankering for chili anyway, so I just went ahead and made another batch today, taking notes.

I based my chili on a great recipe for Chile Colorado I found online. In fact, you probably want to make that Chile Colorado. It's fabulous.

Let's start with ingredients.

From Chili
Today I used about a pound and a half of ground beef (probably 80/20, I'm not too sure), a dozen New Mexico chiles, two onions, four cloves of garlic, three cans of beans, fresh jalapeno, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and cumin. That's pretty close to the basic chili. I don't always use jalapeno, but I do like some sort of green in there for colour. Last week I used some very mild pepper that looked a lot like a poblano. Use what you like.

We start with the chiles. You can use basically any dried chiles you can get your hands on, but they don't all taste the same. My favourite is New Mexico chiles, but California chiles work well too. I've been known to throw ancho and arbol chiles in too, but I always use either New Mexico or California chiles for a base. In my experience, the New Mexico chiles have a richer flavour than the Californias, but they're noticeably hotter. If spicy food is your thing, the New Mexico are a great choice, but if you're more a "mild" person you might prefer the Californias.

I found this page helpful in listing different chiles and comparing them.

You'll want to wash and cut the chiles. A purist would seed them, but I usually don't bother. If you want to seed them, do it like this: cut off the stem, slit the chile in half, and scrape out the seeds and so on from inside the chile. Like this:

From Chili
If you remove the seeds, you'll find the chiles lose significant heat. But since my family are all into spicy food, I find it easier just to break off the stem and break the chile into about three pieces:
From Chili

When you've got all the chiles broken up and rinsed, put them in a pan with about three cups of water. I never measure the water, it's not that important. Then cover them, put them on the stove on high, and let them reach a boil.

From Chili
When you get a boil, take the chiles off the stove and let them sit for at least 30 minutes in the water. This will allow them to steep, and they'll rehydrate.

When you're waiting on the chiles, you might as well get everything else going. I used to brown the onions, then the beef, then add beans. But I realized I could cut down on grease if I did the beef first. That way, rather than draining the beef fat, I could just use it to fry onions and garlic in. It works out if you think about it.

So we'll put the beef in a heavy pot and get it going. I like to add some salt at this point, but I generally don't add anything else until after the meat is browned.

From Chili
Now when you're browning ground beef, the more you work it while it's still raw, the finer the browned beef will be. I like the meat to be really fine and distributed through the chili, so I work it a lot when it's raw. If you like chunks of meat in your chili, leave it alone and you'll get those chunks.
From Chili

Once the beef is thoroughly browned, take it out of the pan, leaving as much grease behind as you can. We'll use that to brown the onions. If you got lean beef, you might need to add butter, oil, or bacon fat here. They'll all work.

You'll want to get your onions, garlic cloves, and jalapenos chopped at this point. I normally use a mandoline, but today I just chopped with a knife. So I put onions, salt, some red pepper, and some black pepper into the beef fat and got them sizzling. Once the onions are translucent, you'll add garlic and jalapenos.

From Chili

When that all looks cooked enough, it's time to add the beef back in.

From Chili
I put a healthy does of cumin in there too: say a couple teaspoons. I don't know, I didn't measure.

When that all sizzles and you're worried about scorching, it's time to add in beans. Today I used a can of "Chili Beans" and two cans of black beans, but I rarely use the same combination twice. I really like it when I get at least three kinds of beans in there, but today I only had two.

I just dump the beans right on top of the meat and stir them in.

From Chili
I'll frequently rinse the bean cans with water and dump that in too.
From Chili

Now we'll let that cook while we head back to the chiles. Remember those? They're still steeping in the water, so we'll want to turn them into a paste. We'll need a blender here: I use a stick blender most of the time, but today I used the Bosch.

We'll take the chiles out of their bath and put them into the blender. They should be pretty well rehydrated at this point, looking a little bloated and cooked.

From Chili
We'll take them out of the water, not straining too carefully, and get them into the blender.
From Chili
Once the chiles are in there, they'll need some of their bath-water in there too. Not too much, just enough so you can blend them into a paste. I find you need about half the volume of the chiles in water, but it's best to go slow, adding more as you need it.
From Chili
Now you want to blend them into a smooth paste. This can take some time, but you'll want to do it right.
From Chili

Now we just add that paste back into the meat and bean mixture on the stove and stir it in.

From Chili
At first it'll be pretty brown, but after a few minutes it'll develop a nice deep red.
From Chili

Essentially you're cooking's done at this point, but it'll taste pretty rough for at least a couple hours. Let it simmer for at least two or three hours, then taste it again. It should start to taste pretty good.

I have to make a note of this: this recipe needs a lot of salt. The meat and chiles both seem to suck it right up. I probably have at least a tablespoon or two of salt in a batch, and I find myself adding salt through the day. Don't be shy with the salt: it'll make a world of difference.

So that's it: that's my chili. There's no tomato in it, and I find that makes it work really well in a Crock Pot, if you want to go that route. I find Crock Pots do murder to anything with tomato in it, but this chili works great in the slow-cooker.

Tonight we're having chili dogs, and I'm getting impatient!


freedomnan said...

Well, you certainly made me want some!

Gwen said...

Remember last summer, when Z. sat and avidly watched you painstakingly remove the seeds from all those chilis with a knife? And when you benevolently asked if she'd like to "help" you, she nodded shyly... picked up a chili.... stuck in her little brown finger and stripped out the seeds in about 5 seconds flat!

clumsy ox said...

Gwen, I'd forgotten all about that. I sure could've used here help on Saturday.

Ames said...

I think of Z every time I am dealing with peppers, now.

Ox, that was awesome chili. And, those chili dogs. . .YUM!

Shan said...

Ha ha!! Awesome, Gwen. I never heard about that!