We host a sometimes-annual chili cookoff that involves secret judges and prizes both silly and substantial as a fundraiser for the local food pantry. One benefit of hosting is that you get to try a lot of chili recipes (Lorna H.’s Floribbean Chili remains one of my favorites!) and find inspiration to tweak your own. We eat a lot of chili at our house in the winter. Here’s our favorite relatively straightforward (We won’t call it “traditional” because I have no desire to lose that fight with my Texan friends.) chili.
1-2 lbs ground beef
3 Tbs garlic powder or a head of garlic, chopped
3 Tbs onion powder or 2 onions chopped (We often use onion powder if we are serving kids who think they dislike onions but who won’t notice complain if there is onion flavor but not texture in a dish)
1-2 tsp cayenne powder
2-3 Tbs chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
6 oz. tomato paste (one small can)
12-16 oz can crushed or diced tomatoes, or whole tomatoes cut up
5-6 15-16 oz cans beans, unrinsed. We use a mix of what we have, but this typically includes dark and light kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, and black beans.
- In a Dutch oven, brown ground beef. If using chopped onions, add to the meat partway through the browning process; add raw garlic, if using, toward the end. Then, follow one of these two steps, depending on how ambitious you are:
- Dump the meat into a metal strainer set over a metal bow, then dip out a few spoonfuls of fat to return to the pot. Heat fat on medium-low, then add remaining spices and herbs, including onion powder and garlic powder, if using.
- Drain fat however you prefer and simply add the remaining spices and herbs, including onion and garlic powder, to meat.
- Add tomato paste and crushed or diced tomatoes. Cook over low while you open all those cans of beans. We unapologetically use canned beans. If we ever master dried beans, we’ll let you know.
- Add beans. If the consistency isn’t what you like, add water.
- Cook on low on stove, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or longer. Alternatively, cook in the oven on 250 or 300 or 350 (depending on whether you are making some baked mac and cheese or some cornbread or baked potatoes to go with it). This will burn, so don’t ignore it.
We eat ours with cornbread, which is just some combination of a basic cornbread recipe plus either a little honey or green chilis or canned or frozen sweet corn or sour cream or creamed corn or half a cut-up bar of cream cheese, depending on what kind of leftovers we’re trying to get rid of and how deeply I want to horrify my Southern relatives.