Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Best Chili

As a child I used to get so confused by homonyms, two words with the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings. Like pair and pear or chili and chilly. For a long time I connected my mom’s Chili con Carne with chilly weather. And perhaps that’s suitable. In my household, it's a blustery spring favorite.

2 pounds ground chuck or 1 pound beef and 1 pound pork
Note: You can also use ground dark turkey meat.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon fat if you have some
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground chile molido
½ teaspoon ground chipotle chile, more if you like your chili spicy
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon smoky sweet or regular paprika
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1½ cups liquid: stock, apple juice, wine or a mix
Note: Don’t use more than 1 cup apple juice or the chili will be too sweet.
1 16-ounce can kidney or black beans, rinsed and drained, optional
Zest from 1 orange, see photos if you need them
¼ cup fresh orange juice

Garnishes, any or all:
Sour cream
Diced avocado mixed with a little lemon juice
Chopped scallions
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Fresh cilantro

1. In a large pot, brown the meat, drain, and tip into a bowl.
2. In the same pot, heat oil and brown the onion, celery, carrots, red bell pepper, and garlic. Add the seasonings (cumin through the black pepper) and cook for a minute or two.
3. Add the tomatoes, the tomato paste, the liquid, and the meat. Cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the beans if you desire and cook for an additional 30 minutes. If you don’t add the beans, continue cooking the meat mixture for an additional 30 minutes.
5. Just before serving, remove the cinnamon sticks and add the orange zest and juice. Cook 10 minutes longer. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot in bowls large enough to include the garnishes.
6. Put the garnishes into bowls and serve at the table.

4-6 servings
Adapted from the Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties’ Even More Special and the San Francisco Chronicle Food section’s Chili with Black Beans and Meaty Chili with Cinnamon

Mango and Hearts of Palm Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

You could also serve a Everyday Green Salad, Jicama Slaw or Erasto’s Coleslaw.

Classic Oatmeal Cookies

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