First, a story. My father liked chili. Not flamethrower hot Texas chili but the mild generic diner kind. My mother as I might have mentioned before wasn’t a superstar cook. She had recipes but most of what we ate was ordinary. That was until one day she found a recipe for chili on the back of a Campbell’s soup can. It was simple, a pound of hamburger, a can of Campbell’s tomato soup, water, chili powder and kidney beans. It sucked. At ten I began to try to change it. After my mother died, I took over chili making duties. I made two batches, one kind of mundane for dad who enjoyed it and heat seeking chili for myself. Well, as time went on the recipe was modified and I came up with a personal favorite. Also I became an aficionado of chili recipes. My father discovered toasting cumin seeds and crushing them. It came out of a book by H. Allen Smith a newsman and storyteller extraordinaire. He wrote of the Terlingua, Texas chili cook-off. The story inspired me. The recipe is basically simple. There is one semi-expensive part, but it lasts forever, That’s making a general use chili powder. You make it once and store it and you can use it to make the chili of your choice.
Okay, let’s make chili powder. This type has no paprika which is an ingredient in a lot f chili powders to make them red and add some minor heat. The major part of chili powder is the peppers. You might have to hunt them up in the market or on-line a little research on the hotness of the peppers will help. If your market carries them they’ll have a gradated scale on the label telling you how hot they are. Hint: Habanero and Ghost chilies should be avoided unless you like being investigated for war crimes. Cascabel are nice and so are Arbols they’re mid range and you can make it hotter. To make the powder:
2.25 oz garlic powder
2.25 oz onion powder
.25 oz oregano (Italian is okay and available, Mexican is probably more authentic but it’s an acquired taste)
1 T kitchen salt
1 T black pepper
Dried chili peppers, your choice, toasted in a dry skillet and finely ground.
Okay here’s the hard part, combine all of the ingredients and store in an air-tight container.
2 pounds coarsely chopped beef
1/2 Cup diced onion
1 T vegetable oil
1 C dried beans or 1 can kidney, black or pinto beans rinsed
Beef stock or broth
5 T chili powder
1 small bag Fritos
Heat the oil and add the onion. When it begins to get translucent add beef and brown. Cover with beef stock, add chili powder and beans. If you’re using dried beans, pick and rinse them. Let them sit in water overnight. Drain, cover with unsalted water and cook until al dente. If you need more heat get a couple jalapenos, remove the ribs and seeds and brown with the onion. The Fritos, cut a teeny slit in the top of the bag and beat the bejeezus out of it until the chips are crushed. This’ll thicken up the chili. If you can find masa harina, make a slurry with beef stock and let it thicken the chili. If you want you can add a bottle or two of beer to the mix but I’m sober and don’t trust myself.
If you don’t want beef, try chicken. Get 3 pounds of thighs bone-in. Add the oil to a pot, brown the thighs in batches. Let them cool, pull off meat and skin. Drain off all but a tablespoon of the chicken fat and cook the onions add chicken stock and deglaze the pot. Add the chili powder and the meat, let them simmer. Do the beans the same way add them. Use some of the chicken fat to make a roux and whisk it in a little bit at a time.
Any meat is possible as are vegetarian chilies but I stick with beef and chicken. When the chili is done let it cool and refrigerate it. Any fat will come to the surface and you can dispose of it. It freezes well and will keep in the freezer six months. Serve it with the condiments of your choice but mine are oyster crackers.
Enjoy and have a nice week.