Pre-Soup Week: Chili

I’m going to run a series of soup recipes this week, but in advance of that I offer my take on chili.

My father’s take on chili joined ground beef, green peppers, onions, tomatoes and olive oil. A lot of oil. I remember his chili being a tasty, but greasy, blend best consumed with a heel of Italian bread. In my quest for a decent recipe, I took from the adage “Good writers borrow. Great writers steal.” I went for Drew Magary’s chili recipe that he runs each year around Super Bowl time at Deadspin. He makes it a little hotter than I prefer, and way hotter than my wife would ever eat. So, we compromise by keeping the heat on the side. I use a little Thai chili sauce that I mix in one the side for the extra bite.

I have about four quarts of it frozen (I made a double batch for a dinner party in November), making it a perfect heat-and-eat dinner. The Wife was jonesing for some tonight, so I picked up some scallions and shredded cheddar to go with it. But, in my search for something else on the side, I went back to the easiest cornbread recipe I’ve ever seen. I got it online and tweaked it some, but do not remember my original source…the recipe is from memory). Both are below.

Damn Good Chili
Adapted from Drew Magary’s recipe at Deadspin

  • 2# ground meat (I like the complexity that the meat flavor adds to this chili, so I will often mix and match. For my double batch, I used 1# each of bison, turkey, pork and 85% lean beef).
  • 1 onion
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped and seeded
  • 2 small bell peppers, one green, one of any other color
  • 2 large cans whole peeled tomatoes, juices reserved
  • 1 can tall red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bottle ale or lager (I like the flavor Yuengling adds. Use a full-flavored beer, not any of the mass-produced Bud/Bud Light garbage)
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp cumin (add more at end if necessary)
  • 2 tbsp chili powder (add more at end if necessary)
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • olive oil

Heat a large stock pot on high until it becomes too hot for the touch. Add the oil and when it begins to shimmer add the onions, garlic, jalapeno and shallots, and stir until soft. Reduced heat to medium-high. Add meat with salt and pepper and cook until brown, breaking it up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. Open the can of whole tomatoes, drain liquid and reserve. Use a knife to cut the tomatoes into smaller pieces while they are in the can. Add the tomatoes and half of the juice to the pot. When the liquid boils, add the beans, beer, broth, liquid smoke, sugar, cumin, chili powder and vinegar. When it boils, reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover the pot and cook 2-3 hours. You want the liquid in your pan to reduce. If you sense things are drying up too quickly, ladle and stir in the remaining tomato juice. This should have the consistency of a thick stew.

Sides? I like sour cream, scallions, shredded cheese and a good tortilla chip. My father eats it with grated cheese. Nonetheless, this stew is worthy of a good chip. Not that Tostitos crap, but quality…Garden of Eatin’ Red Hot or Blue Corn chips.

****

Dense Honey Cornbread

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup honey (you can go up to 3/4 cup if you like a sweeter flavor)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 400 and grease a 9×9 pan with Crisco. Mix your dry ingredients together in one bowl. Beat your eggs slightly and mix with your wet ingredients. Add the wet to the dry and mix with a wooden spoon. When you have a very loose batter that is just wet through, pour into your pan and bake 20-25 minutes. Remove and let sit in the pan. Serve with butter. Lots of glorious delicious butter.

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