I like to think of chili as one of the more healthy comfort foods, especially when it contains deer, moose or caribou instead of store-bought hamburger. Something about it shouts, “man food!” Us guys like the meat and heat of it. We even like to cook it, which the ladies appreciate.
On the subject of store-bought stuff, I don’t use packaged chili powder and ground spices in my chili anymore. Who knows what’s in that stuff, or how long it’s been on the shelf? I buy whole pepper pods and the whole seeds of spices, and grind them in a coffee grinder. It takes a little more time and effort, but the difference in flavor is amazing.
For years I made chili with only 1 or 2 tablespoons of chili powder, but then I learned what won the chili-cooking contests, and I began using more. John Jepson, winner of $25,000 in the 2011 World’s Championship Chili Cookoff, used 12 ½ tablespoons of chili powder in his recipe, which had 3 pounds of meat. Heavy doses of chili powder are the norm in chili contests.
In the past, I’ve used water, beef stock and even V-8 juice for the liquid in chili. I now use combined beef broth and chicken broth, another trick I picked up from the chili champs. Still another is to add the spices and herbs in stages, instead of all at once. In the finished product, spices added in early stages of cooking taste different than spices added later. Adding them to the pot at different times adds some satisfying notes to the flavor song.
It’s just as easy to make a big pot of chili as a small one. Like most stews, it’s even better the next day. I like to freeze it in serving-size containers for quick and easy meals.
People have been known to get so tired of chili that they stop eating it. I like to vary mine, never making it the same twice. Here’s my chili for today, on the stove as this is written.
3 pounds coarsely ground lean meat
2 medium-size yellow onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 1/2-ounce can chicken broth
1 14 1/2-ounce can beef broth
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 10-ounce can RO-TEL diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground annatto
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
4 tablespoons ground New Mexico chili powder (mild)
4 tablespoons ground California chili powder (mild)
Lightly brown meat over med-high heat. Transfer to large pot. Saute onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add onions to pot, along with garlic, broth, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Mix the next 10 ingredients together and divide in half. Add one-half to chili pot. Simmer for 1 hour. Add other half of ingredient mix. If desired, add 3 or 4 cups of cooked beans. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Top with chopped sweet onion and a dollop of sour cream flavored with lime juice and zest.
To see how chili champions do it, visit: chilicookoff.com/
Les Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.