How to Make Chili
Chili powder. Photo © 2005 Jeffrey Collingwood.
I believe that everyone should have a really good recipe in their back pocket. Why is that? If you like to have guests over or you enjoy going to house parties, it's always a treat to bring a truly spectacular home made dish. Mine happens to be chili. If fact, I sometimes feel that my chili is getting invited to the party and I'm just along to carry it! I'm going to share how to make chili the way I do and hopefully you and your guests will appreciate the art and always keep you on the invite list. As I walk you through the steps of how to make chili, you will be tempted to take shortcuts. Please try to stay as close as possible to the steps as outlined below. If you follow the directions, your chili will be truly awesome. Every step that you skip or ingredient that you substitute will knock down the results a little. Not so say that you couldn't get some decent results but just be careful.
The How to Make Chili shopping list:
2 Lg. cans of Whole peeled tomatoes in water
1 lb of hamburger
1 large white onion
1 healthy sized green pepper
1 can of red beans (optional)
1 Bay leaf
1 small can of tomato paste
1 small can of tomato sauce
2 small Jalapeños
I use an electric crock pot to cook my chili. If you don't have one available, I don't see why you couldn't use a large pot and put the burner on low.
Start by browning and draining the hamburger. Put the hamburger in the pot and open up all the tomato cans and poor them in. Go ahead and poor the water that's with the whole peeled tomatoes. Cut up the onion into larger pieces. What I mean by this, is cut medium width slices and one direction and then cut once in the other direction which will cut your slices in half. Grab your green pepper and slice it into medium sized strips. Not too small but not too large. Throw in your salt and sugar and give it three or four shakes of pepper. Toss in the bay leaf and the optional red beans. The reason these are optional is some people (like my daughter) don't like beans. You be the judge. Now, you have to add in the hot stuff. Take your jalapenos and slice them into small pieces and throw them into the mix. At this point you can add about 4 cups of water. I saw "about" because at this point you should be pretty close to filling up your crock pot. Ideally, you'll be right at the top. If not, go ahead and add enough water to fill up your cooking container.
Go ahead and add a few shakes of chili powder to give it a little color. We're not really concerned about taste at this point. We need to let the mixture cook down a bit. The total cook time is going to be about 6 to 8 hrs! Ok, you really need to pay attention to this part because it's key to making this thing turn out. Put your crock pot setting or burner on low. After a couple of hours of cooking, you'll need to go in and cut the large whole tomatoes into smaller pieces. I do this by picking up the tomato with a wooden spoon in one hand and slicing it with a knife with the other. You can also take a look at your green pepper and onion slices and give them a slice if they seem too big. What you're doing here is creating a nice texture for your chili. You should see fairly healthy chunks of tomato and green pepper. The onion should be noticeable in the pot as well. The chili powder will be added periodically to taste and also be aware that when you taste the broth, you should begin to notice a slight "hotness" from the jalapenos and a little bit of sweetness from the sugar. If it doesn't seem hot enough you may have to add a few more jalapeno slices. The reason for this is because jalapenos can be a little unpredictable at times. As for the sweetness, there should be an ever small essence of it and if it's not there you'll need to add a pinch or two of sugar. One of the great pleasures of how I like to make chili is the hovering over the pot, stirring, sampling and tweaking. Ok, so after about 6 hours or so you should be ready bring your chili to the party or start scooping out of the pot at home.
Ok, now you know how to make chili! Don't let people tell you that the "hotness" of a chili determines how good it is. We've all had that chili that is so hot that it's impossible to eat. The key to a good chili is texture, hotness, and sweetness.
Rich Scherlitz is an engineer by day and food enthusiast by night. If you enjoyed this recipe, be sure to check out one of Rich's favorite recipes books at Copy Cat Cookbook.