This is a dish that has been taken through the gauntlet of the past century of culinary change. What was once cheap stew for the lower and working classes has become a bit of a bore and a go to “quick meal” in homes across America.
Conversely, chili con carne is really a slow cooked stew made of a few simple ingredients, usually chiles, garlic, meat, onions and cumin. I’d argue that tomatoes are pretty vital to the whole thing, as well, but I digress.
Anyway, here’s how I make chili, its not the purest of recipes, but I don’t claim it to be…
I start with some dried chiles and I pan roast them really quick to wake them up.
I then cut them up and blend them in a food processor to make chili powder. At this stage you can add some cumin, garlic powder and onion powder if you’d like, but we’ll get those flavors from the actual vegetables later.
Next, I fire up the pot I’m cooking the chili in and I prep my meat, usually about a pound of beef or pork, or both, and vegetables (diced onions, garlic, green bell pepper, a jalapeno or two and some tomatoes. (Remember to use separate cutting boards for the vegetables and meat). I dice everything into equal size pieces and coat the meat in oil. I like to saute the meat in a separate pan to get things started, just a little olive oil or canola oil, salt and pepper should do. When my pot is hot, I add some oil and in go the onions. I sweat them for a minute and then add the garlic. Then the bell pepper jalapeno and finally the tomatoes. After everything is cooked through (but not caramelized) I add the meat from the other pan and let that go for a minute or two.
Next, I add about 4 cups of tomato juice (I eyeball everything for this, so there are no exact measurements) and a cup of regular old salsa. This is the cheating part, but who cares? Not me. I lower the heat to a simmer and add the chili powder, some more salt and pepper and cumin. I throw on the lid and let it go for a good 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and tasting along the way to see whats missing (something always is)
It still isn’t done, though, we still need a thickening agent to give it that stewy, thick chili consistency. For this, I steal an idea from one of my culinary heroes, Alton Brown.
I take a few handfuls’ worth of tortilla chips and I pulverize them in a food processor and add them straight to the pot with everything else. Recover and simmer for another hour or so. Again, stirring along the way and tasting to see what’s missing.
After its cooked and the meat is fork tender it should be ready to serve. I top it with some crunched up tortillas and sliced cheddar and garnish with some cilantro.
Its great over rice, seriously…