At its most essential, chili is simply a thick stew of meat (usually beef) and spices. Usually it will include tomatoes, corn, and beans, too. There are countless ways to make chili, and nearly everyone who makes it with any kind of regularity seems to have their own particular preferences about they make chili and how they think chili should be made.
In fact, the “proper” methods of making chili can be such a point of contention in the United States between aficionados of the dish, that there are numerous chili cook-offs held each year, and several semi- to totally-official, state-styled variations on the stuff exist. There’s a kind of reverence that surrounds the dish—it’s a cultural touchstone for a lot of people in the southern border states in the US (particularly in Texas), since a geographic region’s popular food is a good reflection of its cultural influences and participants.
But since I’m not from the southern United States (or Texas specifically), I don’t feel like I have any claim to being any sort of chili ‘purist’. While I can appreciate a debate (or feisty argument) about what makes a ‘proper’ pot of chili, I don’t really feel as though I need to get involved and offer my two cents on the subject–especially when there are folks who are ‘in the know’ making much better cases for their particular favourite methods than I could about mine! Actually, to be honest, I’m perfectly happy to make up a big pot of meaty, spicy stew that’s jam-packed with tomatoes, beans, and peppers, label the tasty stuff ‘chili’, and not give a single thought as to whether I’m making it ‘right’ or not. As long as it’s got the main flavour profiles of beefy meatiness and a particular kind of spiciness (and it’s a hearty dish), it’s chili to me!
And after this weekend’s bizarre turns of weather—first 30°C in the sunshine on Saturday, then a low of 10°C in the persistent, pouring rain on Sunday, I thought a big pot of chili and a pan of cornbread muffins were the perfect supper to alleviate the dreary gloom and wet, and warm a person up from the inside-out.
I wasn’t really working with any particular chili recipe in mind, and sort of made the chili up as I went, using ingredients that I already had on hand in the pantry. I think the only items I really needed to pick up from the grocery store was the package of chorizo sausage (which is more Spanish or Portuguese in origin than Mexican, to be honest). Chili, despite what the purists say, can be a very versatile and forgiving dish—so I went a little nuts adding different ingredients to it, while trying to keep its main flavours resonant.
And of course, I had some of the sharp cheddar cheese left over from the other week’s Apple Cheddar Quick Bread recipe, so I thought I might make a cheddar jalapeño cornbread too, and get as much spicy pepper flavour into supper as I could. I used thekitchn.com’s recipe for jalapeño cheddar corn muffins for my cornbread recipe, but lessened the amount of sugar added to 1/8 of a cup. (Cornbread requires a bit of sugar, but I was worried that it might come out a little too sweet.)
The spiciness of the chili can slightly overwhelm the subtle spiciness of the seeded jalapeño in the cornbread, but not its flavour, and both components of the supper work very well together. Check after the ‘Read More’ to find my recipe for homemade, non-purist, rainy Sunday-evening-in-Winnipeg chili, and you can find directions for making your own!
Hillary’s Very Basic, Totally Alterable Chili Recipe!
This recipe makes for one very large pot of chili—I know that’s not a precise measurement, but as I was kind of making it up as I went along, just be prepared to have a big pot on your stove. Leftovers freeze well in freezer bags, or freezer-friendly plastic containers, and should freeze for safe use up to five months after the day you make your chili, so feel free to save the excess for quick, re-heated suppers later in the month!
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 5 cloves of garlic, chopped small
- 2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped uniformly
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 lb chorizo sausage, chopped (mine came in a pack of four)
- 6 chipotle peppers in adobo, roughly chopped
- 1 40 mL (19 fl oz.) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 540 mL (19 fl oz.) can of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 540 mL (19 fl oz.) can of white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 540 mL (19 fl oz.) can of petite cut, stewed tomatoes
- 2 796 mL (27 fl oz.) cans of crushed tomatoes
- 1 156 mL (5.5 fl oz.) can of tomato paste
In a large pot, heat olive oil over a medium-high heat for about a minute. Add your chopped onions and garlic to the heated oil, and sauté until fragrant, and the onions have begun to soften. In a small bowl, combine your spices, and add to the cooking onions and garlic. Quickly stir to coat, and add your chopped green peppers to the pot. Lower the heat to medium, and stir occasionally to prevent your spice-coated green pepper and onion mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
In a large skillet or frying pan, brown your ground beef and chopped chorizo sausage. When the meat is browned, drain, and add to the green pepper and onion mixture in the pot, and cook for another five minutes on medium heat.
Roughly chop your chipotle peppers and add them to the meat mixture—include any adobo sauce and seeds that are attached to these peppers. Stir to combine. Add your canned beans, canned diced tomatoes, canned crushed tomatoes, and canned tomato paste. Stir to combine.
Increase the heat, and bring your pot of chili to a gentle boil for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, lower the heat to a low setting so that your chili simply simmers. Let your chili simmer (stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot) for at least an hour (or until you are ready to eat).
When you are ready to eat, return the heat to medium-high for a few minutes to make sure that your chili will be served nice and hot. Serve in bowls, and if you like, you can add garnishes to each bowl of chili to match your preferences. Some garnish ideas are: chopped fresh green onions, a dollop of sour cream, grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, or a few rounds of fresh jalapeño.