My beloved and I were on the road this morning — and rather early, too, given it’s a Saturday and a “day off” — to make a quick trip to the D/FW area and back so that we could deliver our son and daughter-in-law the rocker we’d gotten them for Christmas (they’re expecting their first child in March) and also to give our daughter-in-law her birthday gift (her b-day is tomorrow).
We drove in mostly cloudy, often foggy (especially this morning!), and often chilly-feeling weather conditions. I mean, it’s not cold — it’s 68F/20C — but it’s humid (73%) and it’s overcast and gray and the wind is just a wee bit chilly…it all combines to make it feel damp and chilly, as the sun hid most of the day.
Given our travels today, we’ve subsisted on road food thus far: we snagged a sausage, egg, and cheese English muffin from Subway for breakfast and cheeseburgers from Dairy Queen for lunch — I mean, do we live high on the hog, or what? 😉 At the suggestion of one of my sisters-in-law, we also stopped in Emory, which was on our route to D/FW and back today, to peruse Hootens Hardware LLC:
Trust me, their on-line catalog doesn’t do them justice — they’ve got everything from riding lawn mowers, lumber, steel, tools, and pistols to purses, costume jewelry, stunning cookware, lovely dishes and stemware (there’s some sassy, hand-painted stemware there that I LOVE), interesting selection of cookbooks and gadgets, variety of food mixes and pickles and jams…all KINDS of stuff! I do think I’ll make a return trip or three just to explore their store.
So after being on the road most of the day, which is surprisingly tiring, we’re both looking forward to a tasty, comforting, and most certainly healthier home-cooked meal tonight. With the damp and the gray, overcast skies, hubby and I both had the same thought: chili!
Chili con carne (chili with meat) is TexMex ambrosia. Seriously. It is the perfect food. I would venture to say there are as many variations on this delicious and versatile dish as there are stars in the sky. Leftovers can be used in a myriad of ways, and it freezes quite well, too.
Were Shakespeare sitting here with me right now, sharing a cold cerveza (beer), he’d likely be penning “To bean, or not to bean? That is the question.” Well, okay, maybe he’d only pen that after sharing several cold cervezas. 😉
Many argue that a “proper” Texas chili should not have beans in it. Folks in Cincinnati put nutmeg and such in what they call Skyline chili. There are those who would argue that a true chili must contain a molé sauce (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mole_(sauce) or a healthy spoonful or two of cocoa powder.
Whatever. I’m not going to argue semantics with folks as to what constitutes a “proper” chili, be it a Texas chili or a Kentucky chili or an Arizona chili or a New Mexico chili or a Cincinnati chili or a Martian chili 😉 My chili mantra is “To each his or her own.”
That’s one of the beautiful things about TexMex cuisine: It may not be “authentic,” but regardless of whatever variation you have, it most assuredly will be tasty!
And that’s also one of the beautiful things about cooking the food yourself, isn’t it? You can prepare it exactly as YOU like it, to suit your tastes, budget, and nutritional needs — and what might or might not be in your pantry, ‘fridge, or freezer at the time.
As for the bean question: Myself, I’m a big believer in including beans in chili — the added fiber boosts the nutrition, increases the protein in an already protein-rich dish, and is an economical way to get additional servings, which is a tonic to your budget and also a boon if you have an unexpected guest or two show up, or if you’re feeding ravenous teens.
So here are three of my standard variations on how I make up a big ol’ pot of chili. You can make it with beef. You can make it with turkey. Heck, you can even go vegan and make it with some tasty pinto beans. 🙂
Oh, and it doesn’t have to be chilly and overcast to eat this delicious dish — we have it year ’round!
The leftovers are even tastier and more flavorful than the first pot — but don’t let that delay you. It’s enjoyable from first pot to last spoonful. 😉
Missie’s Beef Chili (Makes a big ol’ pot to feed a crowd — 6 to 8 servings or more, depending upon how you make it and “dress” it)
- 2 pounds lean ground beef (I use 93/7 or 96/4)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (I prefer Rotel)
- 1 to 2 cans (your preference, depending upon the consistency and flavor you like) (8 oz ea) tomato sauce (or one 15-oz can tomato sauce)
- 2-4 healthy splashes of vinegar (white distilled or apple cider)
- 1 or 2 beef bullion cubes
- 1 can (6 or 12 ozs, depending upon consistency you want) tomato paste
- 6 to 12 ounces beer, if you like (adds a nice flavor and tenderizes the meat) OR some water
- 2 to 3 squirts of red ketchup
- 2 to 3 splashes Worcestershire sauce
- 2 to 3 (15 – 16 oz) cans of beans, rinsed and drained (I like a combo of any of the following: kidney, Ranch Style, pinto, chili beans, or maybe one of the cans be black beans if I add a third can—our favorite is when at least one of the cans is Ranch Style beans)
- Couple of bay leaves (if I fail to fish out the bay leaf before we eat, hubby always refers to “finding the prize” if he accidentally dishes it up)
- Seasonings to taste: garlic (powder or minced or fresh; actually, even when I use minced or fresh, I add some powder, also), cumin, red pepper (flakes are best), chili powder, paprika, a few splashes of Tobasco sauce if you like
- Heat a large Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium to medium-high heat. If necessary, add a splash of oil or spray with non-stick spray (I just “season” a non-stick pan with a wee bit of oil).
- Brown meat. Drain, if necessary.
- Add in diced onion. Add in minced garlic, if using.
- Splash in vinegar. Add bullion cube(s), Worcestershire, and desired amount of chili powder, cumin, and red pepper to the meat and simmer it for a few minutes, until the vinegar begins cooking into the meat.
- Add in the beer or water (if using) and add the diced tomatoes with green chilies (UNDRAINED) and stir in. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Stir in the ketchup. Add the bay leaf. You may add the beans (rinsed and drained) now (what I usually do) and let it all simmer for a couple or three or maybe even four hours (stirring occasionally), OR, you can let it simmer, then add the beans near the end and cook with the beans in it long enough just to heat through. Simmer it for at least 2 hours, but it can simmer longer.
- Stir and taste as it simmers, adjusting seasonings accordingly.
- If the chili seems too soupy, you can simmer it near the end with just a spatter lid on it to let some of the liquid cook away.
- The secret to my chili is the vinegar — it adds a tang and bite to the chili meat and broth and helps bring out the spicy flavor of the chili powder and cumin. You don’t need a whole lot (too much and you can tell it—it makes it tart), but once it cooks in with the spices in the meat, you can appreciate the flavor it adds.
Serve and dress with your favorite accompaniments: shredded or sliced cheeses (usually reduced fat in our house), crackers (oyster or saltine), tortilla chips, jalapeños, sour cream (we use reduced fat, of course), spaghetti or macaroni noodles—whatever you like!
Missie’s Turkey Chili
Make it the same as the Beef Chili above, except
- INSTEAD OF THE BEEF: Use 2 pounds lean (93/7 — NOT all white!) turkey meat OR 1 pound 93/7 ground turkey and 1 pound ground turkey sausage OR equivalent of dark (preferably) and white meat (in chunks—don’t shred) from baked/smoked turkey, skin and bones removed
- DO NOT USE any bouillon
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: Use ONLY black beans, rinsed and drained, for the beans.
The secret to this chili is the BLACK BEANS. Before you add the black beans, it will not smell or taste very chili-like. The black beans complement the flavor of the turkey in a way that the more traditional pinto, kidney, ranch-style, and/or chili beans will not.
Missie’s Pinto Bean Chili
I’ve only ever made this with pinto beans, but a mix of beans (pintos, black, and navy, for example) would likely be just as tasty.
Make it the same as the Beef Chili above, except
- INSTEAD OF THE BEEF: Make up a big ol’ pot of pinto beans — or use several cans of vegetarian pinto (or a variety — see above) of beans.
- Omit bouillon or substitute a veggie bouillon
- Omit the Worcestershire sauce (if you don’t eat fish, either) or substitute a vegetarian equivalent
Whichever chili you choose, rest assured that your kitchen will sure smell yummy!