Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chili Con Carne, My Way

I've been making this Chili Con Carne recipe for decades years.  The origins of the recipe dates back to my "Nana", who spoke better Spanish than English.   My mother, who is of German descent, wanted to please her new Mother-In-Law, so the story goes. So Mutti tried to please her mother-in-law by learning to add Mexican food to her excellent German repertoire.

Slowly, but surely, I began to adapt this recipe to suit my taste buds.  This chili has now become a Super Bowl Sunday tradition, and my men always look forward to it.

It's high time that I share with you the way I make chili.  When I made this version, I tried to make note son measurements.  I've never written out a recipe, because I instinctively know what ingredients and spices to grab.  So, please keep in mind, that chili making is a lot about tasting and seasoning as you go along.

Just cruise the canned food aisle of your local grocery store. How many variety of chili do you see? Mild, spicy, and meatless are stacked on shelves.  Looking for a chili seasoning?  Take your pick. I started making my own, that I pour into an empty spice bottle-- I use this all the time.

  It's very simple:
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. oregano
This is the seasoning I now use when I make Chili (and tacos, and lots of other recipes). Ready to make chili?

I love a hearty bowl of chili. .  Here's the low-down on what I consider to be the perfect bowl of chili.

First, kidney beans do not belong in chili. Blasphemy!  I like for my chili to be loaded with pinto beans.  No exceptions, please.   The night before I make chili, I soak a one-pound bag of pinto beans. Pick through them, to see if there are any rocks or debris. Rinse them and soak them in a large bowl. Fill the bowl with enough water to leave a good 4-6" of water on top.  When beans soak, they expand and fill up the bowl!  Drain the soaked beans, and cook them with water and a pinch of baking soda, until very tender-- about 30 minutes, at a low simmer. The beans are ready, when they soft, but not mushy.

Can you use canned pinto beans?  Sure.  I find dried beans less expensive, and no hassle to prepare.

Canned chili?  Perish the thought.  What Scoville scale do I want the spice content to be?  Mild.  I like my chili to be mild.  I don't want to breathe fire, and I don't want my tongue to go numb.  I want to taste chili spices, a hint of cumin, and I love tomato chunks and flavor.  I figure, those crazy folks who want five-alarm chili, can add their own additional hot sauce or chipotle peppers. I won't stop them, but leave my chili just as it is, thank you-- so far, this recipe always receives high praises, and there are rarely leftovers.

For those of you who are vegetarians, please forgive me.  I love vegetarian meals, but Chili con Carne  means "with meat".  For those of you who want to substitute ground turkey-- I've got a slow cooker version of Turkey Chili. (There are some tips in how to make low-fat turkey work in chili).  Just be forewarned, that I believe a true Chili con Carne has to be made with beef.  That's just the way it is, and as long as you drain the fat, and use an 80% lean ground beef, we're in pretty good shape. (I did mention that I've been making this recipe for a very long time, and love it just this way. If you want to change it, please let me know how it turned out. K?)  Brown the beef, and drain, the fat. Set aside.

The "Con Carne" is the base of good chili.  We begin by dicing a large onion, and sauteeing it in a little oil until softened.  Now, we add a large garlic clove, finely minced, and add it just until fragrant.
There's no Gospel measurement on how much of the Mexican seasoning to use.  I start with 2 heaping Tablespoons.  You can always add more later, but if you add to much... you can't take it back!  We'll want to "bloom" the spices with the onion and garlic, over medium-low heat.

Turn up the heat to medium, and add two tablespoons of tomato paste. Begin cooking the tomato paste and combing it with the vegetables.  Let's build the "Con Carne" sauce.

I add one large can, each, of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Then, I add a large can (about 6 oz.) of mild diced green chilis.  What's that?  Oh, you are wondering if you can add jalapenos, instead?  Sure, if you want.  Only it'll be waaaaaaaaaay spicy, and I wouldn't be able to eat it.  Again, if you don't like high spice and high heat, then stick with my plan.   This is when you add the cooked and drained beef into the chili sauce.   Taste it.  Add a little salt, until it's seasoned to your liking.  Is the base sauce missing something?

Salsa!  I make my own salsa, and you can find the recipe here (and it's super easy).  Otherwise, buy a salsa that you love.  Your options are, mild, medium or hot.  This salsa is about a "medium" heat, because it has jalapenos in it.  Add a generous cup to a cup and a half.  This is all about your taste buds. Add the cooked pinto beans into the "con carne".  Give it a nice stir, to combine.

Okay, Slow Cooker Fans-- this is where you can finish off this chili in a slow cooker.  This is exactly how I prepare this on Super Bowl Sunday.   Set the slow cooker on "low" for 4 hours.  This will let all those spices, the sauce and beans to work their magic.   

Otherwise, let the chili simmer on very low on a stovetop.  Taste and adjust your seasonings as you go along.

If you find that the chili is a little "thin" (maybe you don't have enough beans and too much sauce...like I said, I don't usually measure) you can thicken chili with a little cornmeal and water.  Use about 1/4 cup of cornmeal, and add enough water to make it thick and creamy.

Add the cornmeal mixture and stir to combine.  The chili will thicken right up!

I'm a cornbread fan, and I sometimes serve chili over brown rice.  But, just like my Nana taught me, I prefer my Chili Con Carne with warm flour tortillas.

A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.

I'm looking forward to the kick off, so I can dig in to a heart bowl of chili.  Of course, I'm making plenty of guacamole. What would Super Bowl be without "guac"? (A recipe card is also at the end of the post.)

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The Merlin Menu said...

I like it. But I thought I would share what I'm making for Superbowl. I just got a hankerin' for Sloppy Joes, here's my recipe.


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Good luck. I hope you win. I'll never be able to make chili in a slow cooker since my husband is so deathly afraid of them!

He also makes me make turkey chili all of the time. I would so want to do beef! Oh well. My turkey chili is pretty good - although rather spicy.

I never would have thought to use flour tortillas rather than cornbread or corn chips. I should give that a try some day.

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

Yummy, I've been waiting for this recipe, Debby. Thickening with cornmeal and finishing the chili in a crockpot are great tips. The aroma in your home must be heavenly. I don't watch any more than the commercials but sure do love the delicious game day food.

Karen said...

We used to have a chili contest where I worked. So interesting to find every single one so different from the other. This looks good... I bet the men devour it!

bellini said...

Chili and the Super Bowl seem to go hand in hand. Good luck in the contest Debby.

Joanne said...

I love that this chili recipe has been passed down through generations!

Big Dude said...

I believe I'd like it your way.