Now that the fall weather is starting to head most people's way, I thought today would be a great opportunity to address something that many people see as a cool weather food...Chili.
Chili con carne (literally "Chili with meat", often known simply as chili) is a spicy stew. The name "chili con carne" is taken from Spanish, and means "peppers with meat." Chili is a Mexican-American dish. Traditional versions are made, minimally, from chili peppers, garlic, onions, and cumin, along with chopped or ground beef. Beans and tomatoes are frequently included. Variations, both geographic and personal, may involve different types of meat (beef, ground beef, venison, chicken, turkey, etc) as well as a variety of other ingredients. It can be found worldwide in local variations.
A little trivia...chili con carne is the official dish of the U.S. state of Texas as designated by the House Concurrent Resolution Number 18 of the 65th Texas Legislature during its regular session in 1977. Who knew?
There are several basic variations of chili. Texas-style chili contains no beans and may even be made with no other vegetables whatsoever besides chili peppers. Vegetarian chili (also known as chili sin carne, or chili without meat) acquired wide popularity in the U.S. during the 1960s and 1970s with the rise of vegetarianism. White chili is made using great northern beans and turkey meat or chicken breast instead of a tomato-based sauce and red meat (beef). Chili verde (green chili) is a moderately to extremely spicy Mexican and Mexican-American stew or sauce usually made from chunks of pork that have been slow-cooked in chicken broth, garlic, tomatillos, and roasted green chilis...tomatoes are rarely used.
The additions of beans in chili remains controversial. A chili purist's proverb says "If you know beans about chili, you know chili ain't got no beans," though the evidence suggests that there is nothing inauthentic about their inclusion. The Chili Appreciation Society International specified in 1999 that, among other things, cooks are forbidden to include beans, marinate any meats, or discharge firearms in the preparation of chili for official competition (which, if the fierce competitiveness plays a part, this is a GOOD thing...haha). The question of whether beans "belong" in chili has been a matter of contention among chili cooks for a very long time. It is likely that in many poorer areas of San Antonio and other places associated with the origins of chili, beans were used rather than meat, or in addition to meat.
Tomatoes are another ingredient on which opinions differ. Wick Fowler, north Texas newspaperman and inventor of "Two-Alarm Chili" (which he later marketed as a "kit" of spices), insisted on adding tomato sauce to his chili — one 15-oz. can per three pounds of meat. He also believed that chili should never be eaten freshly cooked but refrigerated overnight to seal in the flavor. Matt Weinstock, a Los Angeles newspaper columnist, once remarked that Fowler's chili "was reputed to open eighteen sinus cavities unknown to the medical profession."
Cooks may also include sweetcorn, peanut butter, pineapples, bananas, oranges, tomatillos, chorizo, cocoa, chocolate, coffee, tequila, cola, honey, cinnamon, allspice, saffron, molasses, vinegar, wine (usually red), beer, whiskey, bourbon, and/or others. Cornstarch is frequently used as a thickener, as is masa. Dark chocolate provides an authentic richness akin to that found in Mexican molé sauce (negro, rojo, or poblano varieties).
Obviously...chili can be almost anything you want it to be.
So, what makes a great chili recipe? Basically, it will all come down to what you like best. I'll include some links here for different recipes, but first, I'm going to give you MY personal chili recipe. It's one I created with trial, and usually goes over quite well (I actually entered it into a contest locally, and took second place with it). It's got all the flavor of traditional chili, but doesn't have the burn that alot of chilis have. My recipe makes for a good amount, but you can cut it in half without difficulty for a smaller quantity.
1 lb ground chuck
1 lb ground venison (deer)
2 large onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 14.5 oz cans of pork and beans (yes, I said pork and beans...it's a softer bean, and kids love it)
2 14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups water
4 tbsp tomato paste (1 small can)
2 envelopes McCormick mild chili seasoning
2 heaping tbsp chili powder
1/2 cup Worchestershire sauce
1/4 cup Tabasco sauce (can be eliminated if you want NO heat)
Salt to taste
2 tbsp cornstarch or masa flour, blended with 2 tbsp COLD water into a liquid
Brown and drain meats in a large stockpot (6 quart capacity or larger). Add onions and bell pepper, cook until softened and slightly see-through. Add all remaining ingredients, except salt, and bring to a boil. Simmer partially covered for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste, and add salt if needed. About 10 minutes before done, add the cornstarch/masa liquid, and stir thoroughly to blend. This will finish thickening up your chili. Remove from heat, and allow to stand for 30 minutes, then serve with your choice of toppings (sour cream, cheese, fresh chopped onion, tortilla chips, crackers).
That's it. You're done. You can use all ground beef, or all venison, but I like the combo effect on the flavor.
Now for the fun. Here's a collection of different award winning chili recipes from all over the US.
From the Chili Appreciation Society International:
From the International Chili Society:
From Famous Chili Recipes:
In the end, chili is one of those things that, with time, you will make your own. Experiment, get creative, and as always...ENJOY!!!