BUILDING A BIG, BEAUTIFUL BOWL OF CHILI
Rate This Recipe
Although the origins of chili are muddy, the two basic elements of the dish, beef and hot chile peppers, have long been prevalent in the plains of the American Southwest. The historical record has Texas cowboys cooking chili over campfires in the early 1800s, and even today the Lone Star State remains the spiritual home of chili culture.
- Peeled Plum Tomatoes: Canned tomatoes and their juice contribute to the stew's hearty liquid. Choose the same high-quality tomatoes (like San Marzano) that you would for good Italian Sauce. Don’t skimp!
- The Meat: Traditionally made with Beef Chuck, a cut of beef with a great meaty flavor. The internal layers of marbling, or fat, keep the meat flavorful and tender while it cooks. Ask your Butcher to grind it fresh. Or, try using ground beef and pork combined, Venison or even Bison for a unique twist.
- Dried Oregano: Peppery and lemony notes make the herb a common component of chili powders.
- Jalapenos: These green peppers bring fresh-chile flavor to the dish, as well as heat. Fiery fiends, add a jalapeno, cut in half with the seeds and veins intact, to your simmering pot, along with the seeded diced jalapeno you added to the sauté mixture, for crazy heat.
- Ground Cumin: Earthy and pungent, cumin is a classic chili spice.
- Onions and Garlic: These give chili sweetness and depth and round out the dish's flavors. Choose sweet yellow onions and fresh cloves of garlic and be sure to spend enough time sautéing the aromatics, so that you get good caramelization..
- Ancho Chiles: Ancho is the name given to dried poblano chiles. The chiles are mild to moderately hot and have wrinkled, almost-black skins.
- Dried Guajillo Chiles: These long red chiles are hot and slightly sweet. They contribute to the chili's ruddy color. Toasting dried chiles before cooking with them enhances their flavor.
- All spicy sensations need a cooling factor, so set out your favorite chili toppings (shredded cheese, fresh cilantro, green onions, crushed tortilla chips, Fritos, chopped onion, etc.) and be sure to include a Lime Crema. Crème Fraiche (French Sour Cream) or traditional sour cream mixed with freshly squeezed lime juice and freshly grated zest is a killer topper. For a snazzy garnish, check out my Microwave Brittle for a fun twist on toppings (search for it on this site!).
- Think outside the bowl and find a signature chili recipe that you become known for. You can steal these from me: