I have found chili to be one of those dishes that is so different, no matter where you have it and who makes it. Each pot is as unique as the fingerprints of the person making it. I myself don’t follow this recipe exactly, my spice measurements always vary (I almost never measure) and it changes depending on what I have on hand and what I am in the mood for. I am pretty certain each pot of my chili is different from the last, though the core flavors tend to stay the same. I prefer a spicier chili and I have fallen in love with the smokiness from the chipotles, the sweetness from the chocolate and the unique spicy flavor from cinnamon. These are the three things I added to the recipe I originally got from my mom to make this chili my own and that I include every single time I make it. I usually make a vegan chili and I just double or triple my beans and go with 2-3 cans of different beans or sometimes just all black beans. This time around I went with the classic, ground beef. I had stopped at Farmers & Artisans, a local food market that carries a wide selection of locally grown and produced foods and I was able to get some pasture-raised, hormone and antibiotic free ground beef from Librock Farms in Gasport, NY.
I tend to like my chili spicy, so if you are a bit heat shy, go with fewer chipotles, less crushed red pepper flakes and add more if you like. If you go too spicy, too fast, it is very hard to off set it and get it back. I would prefer to not have to use canned tomatoes and canned beans, but my garden (once again) didn’t yield enough tomatoes for canning and the frozen roast tomatoes I do have, wouldn’t have been enough for a pot of chili. I do go with a good organic canned tomato, but if you have homemade canned tomatoes and dry beans that you have time to soak, by all means these are both better options. I know there are a lot of things going around about canned goods and the risks from BPA, but at this point, I personally believe it is much better to be cooking from scratch and getting the nutrients and benefits from things like tomatoes and beans (from a can, if that is how I have to get it), then skipping it all together for the fear of BPA. There are more risks in a can of Coke and I haven’t had a soda in forever. Beans and tomatoes are the only two things I buy canned and both are staples for winter cooking in our house. I am hoping by next year, I will have mastered canning, even if it means canning tomatoes from the farmers market and then canned tomatoes can be skipped altogether.
Sharing your chili recipe is an interesting thing, for some reason it feels like you are sharing a secret, since everyone has their own special way of making it and the recipe is always continuing to evolve and become this one-of-a-kind, special thing. So, now I have bared my soul and my recipe. My secret it out. It’s time for you to share yours. Tell me about your chili, how do you make yours, what makes it unique, what one ingredient can you not live without in your chili?
1 and 1/2 lbs pasture-raised antibiotic and hormone free local ground beef (make it vegan by doubling or tripling the beans)
1 large onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 large green bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2-3 dried whole chipotle peppers (I usually have a can of chipotles in adobo sauce on hand, so I sometimes use 1 or 2 dried and 1 or 2 from the can and I also include a tablespoon of the adobo sauce)
2 cans (28 oz) organic diced tomatoes in juice (if you homemade diced canned tomatoes you can also use those)
2-3 ounces of a good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped (many dark chocolates are vegan, so have at it)
1-2 cans (15 oz) organic black beans, drained (more if you are making this vegan)
Corn tortilla chips
Fritos (A must for Mark)
In a large pot, heat a drizzle of olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add your ground beef, stir gently and cook until it begins to brown about 7-10 minutes. Drain off a decent amount of the excess fat, but not all. (If you are going meatless, just skip this first step and go right to cooking the vegetables in the olive oil) Add your onion, celery and green pepper and cook about 5 minutes until the onion becomes translucent. Add your garlic, cook another 2-3 minutes. Add in salt, cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, red pepper flakes and chipotle peppers, cook for a minute. Add in tomatoes and stir for about 2 minutes. Stir in your chocolate and beans. Lower the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, taste the chili and adjust your seasons to your taste. Feel free to allow it to simmer longer, the longer it is left to simmer, the better the flavors. Once you are ready to serve, ladle into large soup bowls and top with your favorite accompaniments. I love cilantro, green onions, a squeeze of lime and a good shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Mark loves all of these and a huge handful of crushed Fritos.