Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Damn Good Chili

Not much of a preface today. Just some chili. Some damn good chili, that is. Which doesn't need much of an intro, you know? There is nothing terribly unique or special about this chili except that it is exactly what you want chili to taste like and/or hope chili will taste like any time you order it on a menu or go to a chili cook-off (these do exist, although I've never been to one). Super traditional. Of the thick, sticks-to-yer-ribs variety. Moderately spicy (but easy to adjust in either direction on the spice-o-meter). Delicious on day 1 but improves (and gets spicier) with age. Great for a crowd: easily doubled or tripled (if you have a pot big enough). Perfect in snowy winters. Good over white rice, which is how I always ate chili growing up but I've since learned that this is not really the normal way to have chili. My mom is Colombian though, and Colombians like rice. Colombians are also v. good-looking.

chili spices
chili brewing
bowl o chili

The trick to damn good chili: a lot of damn good spices.

Damn Good Chili
Serves 4-5
From yours truly, heavily influenced by mi madre

1 tablespoon olive oil
About 2 cups finely chopped white or yellow onion (1 large or 2 small onions)
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 heaping tablespoons chili powder
1 heaping tablespoon ground cumin (or more)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to alter spice profile)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to alter spice profile)
1 pound ground beef (or turkey or bison or whatever)
2 cups cooked, drained beans (kidney would be traditional option (2 cans); I like pinto beans and some hominy)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 12-ounce bottle of beer (I've used EPA lately, but any beer will do)
Juice from one lime (2-3 tablespoons)

To serve: quartered limes, grated cheddar or jack cheese or queso fresco, avocado, Saltines, sour cream, fresh cilantro, minced red onion or shallot or scallion, plain cooked rice, corn bread, etc.

Whisk together all your spices in a mini prep bowl. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, garlic, spices and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and beginning to brown, about 5-7 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the ground beef. (If you are doubling or tripling the recipe, just brown one pound at a time - that will make it go more quickly and smoothly and will prevent any burning of the spices.) Cook, breaking up the pieces with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon, until there is no pink left and the meat is browning nicely (about 3 minutes).

Add the beans, tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, and beer. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for an hour. Remove the lid and simmer for an hour more. If the chili seems to dry out at all during the two hours of simmering, add a little water. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with any of the above-mentioned condiments.

Notes: Freezes well. Stays good in refrigerator for at least five days. Reheat thawed chili in microwave or on stove. Add a little water or beer to thin it out if necessary - the flavor will withstand this and it won't taste watered down at all. Promise.


  1. Hi Friend! This looks great! I think it might be time for chili, thanks to you. I will be sure to pick up some coriander. Remember how shocked you were to hear that it is not a regular in my kitchen? As always, love your food blog.

  2. Sounds damn good to me too! I'm all for chili on a cold day and I usually just put cheese on mine but onions, avocado, and sour cream sounds amazing! I like the idea of rice with chili, we will have to try it some time... :)

  3. Thanks, ladies! Note that in bottom picture the chili is thinned out a bit with some water - I was stretching the last bit to serve two of us, when really it was like 1.5 servings. It's so flavorful that it didn't taste watered down at all, just less hearty. Alicia: I think the coriander thing is sort of like the rice thing. A staple in Hispanic kitchens that I confused for a staple in American kitchens. You don't have bunuelo mix in your pantry either? Weird.

  4. I'm soooo gonna try this. Thanks Edith! xoxoxo