Makin' Chili. Who Wants Some?

This is art. This is important. Civilization must go on.

Art cooking comes when you don’t follow recipes…it’s when you have a certain understanding of the dish and you wing it in the kitchen, and it comes out different (and GOOD) every time.

Now, I’ve fooled around with different types of Carne con Chile over the years…Texas versions, red and beanless…the Cincinnati stuff, which is more like a Greek meat sauce served over spaghetti with beans and onions and cheese…New Mexican green chilis with pork…whitebread variants from the midwest and from New England…even a Kansas City style with white beans and ground turkey.

After years of fiddling, this is what I did this morning, which will eventually result in Ukulele Ike’s Bowl of Red:

Took a scant pound of flank steak (an awkward amount in this house, not QUITE enough to feed four) and sliced it into tiny chunks about 1/4 to 1/2 inch square. Sauteed these in a little olive oil (no bacon in the house, otherwise I’d have used bacon fat) while seasoning with salt and pepper. Removed from the pot into a bowl.

Dropped two chopped onions into the remaining grease, and let them saute (stirring occasionally) while I prepped other things. When they were soft and beginning to brown, I threw in about a pounda grounda rounda, and crushed it as small as possible with the wooden spoon. The ground beef is meant to thicken the gravy, more than as a main event, you see.

When the ground beef started to brown, I added 3 tablespoons of ground Ancho chile, a tablespoon of oregano, a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of crushed red pepper, and about two teaspoons of ground Chilpotle chile (for smoke and spice). And some more salt. Stirred it around for a while, then put in six garlic cloves and two fresh jalapeno chiles, minced. After a minute I put the browned steak back in and stirred everything around, to distribute the seasoning properly. (Shit, I hope this isn’t gonna be TOO spicy, the kids’ll kill me.)

Next I took a 15 oz. can of tomatoes and gooshed them through my fingers into the pot. Then added about three cups of beef stock. Brought it all to a boil, then lowered to a simmer, covered it, and walked away.

I’ll leave that be for a few hours, then shut off the heat completely and let it rest. When I get back home around 6, I’ll add two cups of cooked red beans (the little ones, not the big red kidneys…and shaddup, you Texans, I LIKE the frijoles IN my chili, so they absorb flavor), bring it back to temperature, then shut it off again.

Around eight, I’ll warm it up once more, and serve it in deep bowls with Saltines on the side.

Okay, so tell me what I did wrong.

“The first thing anyone learns about Cajun cooking is that no matter how you make something, it’s wrong. You might have learned your recipe from a wrinkled-up 87 year old lady back in the swamp who only spoke French, but the next Cajun you meet will check out what you’re doing and say, ‘I’m sure that’s gonna taste good, but that ain’t how you make it.’ Smile, and ask how it’s supposed to be done. Write it down. It’ll be good, but the next Cajun you meet…”

– Ed Ward

Sounds great, U. Ike, I just finished lunch so I’ll be back around eight for a bowl. Do you have some tortillas? Proper chili is always served with flour tortillas. At least in my family. None of that cracker stuff.

Main difference in my approach is that the spices get cooked into the meats. Use pretty much the same meats in the same proportions. I would also add the beans in early, kidney or pinto, whichever I have the mood for. The kidneys seem to have a better flatulence quotient. [brap]

I have always just used ground chili powder, just a whole can or so, but I like the more dedicated method you prefer. And you must always pretty much play chili by ear, none of this strict follow the recipe stuff.

Mmmmm. What kind of beer will you quaff with it?

Sounds like you have a fine pot o’ chili there!

I’d put the beans in right after shutting the heat off and let 'em rest for awhile with the rest of the stuff, so they soak up more of the spices.

I like my chili really thick, so I like to add a bit of masa flour to the mix when I can find it.

Using tomato puree will avoid your having to get tomato goosh all over your fingers :).

Topping the final product with shredded cheese before serving will provide the kids with minutes of stringy fun too!

Shibb: Well, if I lived in the Southwest, I suppose I’d go for tortillas, but this is BROOKLYN chili, a sort of weird half-breed between Texas Red and something a Vermont housewife would make on a cold January day. Soda crackers (or OTC crackers) are more traditional in Yankeeland.

“Saltines are both authentic and acceptable.” – John Thorne, “Just Another Bowl of Texas Red,” 1995

Commercial chili powder is just a combo of ground chile with oregano, cumin, and granulated garlic mixed in. No reason NOT to use it, I just like spooning in to my own taste. I never use bottled curry powder, either, preferring to mix 'n match with cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, red pepper, etc.

Cheap beer. Got to have cheap beer with chili. There’s some Rolling Rock in the fridge, I think.

romans: I tried the masa harina approach several pots of chili back, but I don’t really like the taste of the added corn. The final bouts of heating will be carried out with the lid off, so I’m hoping to achieve Optimal Thickness without resorting to artificial stimulants.

While I’m also aiming for a fairly smooth gravy, I like to see miniscule bits of tomato and onion and jalapeno floating around in my spoon…that’s why I go for crushed tomatoes rather than a puree.

Shredded cheese and sour cream will be offered at tableside; I don’t usually partake, mayself, but the chillun might need something to put the brakes on the burn.

Not all of us Texans sound strictly like Clara Peller.

I like beans in my chili.
My question is “where’s the corn?”

You might give it a shot on the side sometime. Me thinks it adds a pretty nice touch.

And ditto on the cheese and sour cream.

mmmmmmmmmm… are you going to eat that fat?

Mmmm, Rolling Rock. This isn’t a bad beer, there are worse, and it’s more appealing to me than Bud or Miller, for some reason.

The tortilla thing is a family tradition. My family on my father’s side is of vaguely Mexican descent. So our chili is hot and eaten with tortillas. Habits die hard, and the crackers usually are too salty for my taste. Now chowder with crackers, that’s a different story.

I supplement the chili powder with crushed red peppers and whole dry red chilies. It’s also a tradition to always use 10 whole chilies, so that you can take them back out if gringoes will be eating; no one gets hurt. Ten is just an easy number to remember. I will use round steak or any other meat that catches my eye that looks easy to cube up. Gotta let it cook for a minimum of four hours. It’s also one of the few dishes which is usually better reheated the next day.

Ike, except for the fact that I like a bit of cheap beer both IN and WITH my chili, your recipe sounds almost exactly like mine. I also like coarsely grated monterey jack cheese and minced raw onions on top. And I’ll go for either saltines or flour tortillas on the side. Good quality tortilla chips are also good, with the advantage that you can use them to scoop up big cheesy gobs of chili.

It’s most definitely chili weather, finally – also split pea-n-hamhock soup, french onion soup, cassoulet, and Tuscan white bean-n-sausage soup weather. Time to get cookin’!

I’ll not provide any Texan tsk-tsks over the addition of beans or tomatoes (or corn, which was suggested).


I will point out that the problem with most people’s Chilis is that they forget that it’s supposed to be as much about the CHILE used as the meat. Old-school chili is practically nothing but Meat and Chile.

So, do everything that you’re doing, except don’t use ground chile powder. Instead, buy some dried red chiles and simmer them (in water, broth, or beer) for an hour. In a blender, puree the chiles with some garlic and however much of the chile broth you need to get a consistency you like. Add the chile sauce to the meat en lieu of ground chile powder.

(Note: if you use too much broth and make the sauce too thin, it works great with enchiladas! You can’t lose!)

…and get yourself some Lone Star Beer to wash it down.

And don’t forget–every first weekend in November is the Terlingua World Champion Chili Cook-Off! I’d invite you down, but ironically, I’ll be in Boston that weekend; maybe next year.

And here I was starting to think you were an okay guy, Uke. Just goes to show how dodgy this internet thing is.

I’ll make you a deal, buddy. You pick out every single one of those beans, bring me a bowl and we’ll call it even.

I do believe you’ve morally offended me.

I appreciate your use of Chipotle peppers. There’s hardly anything that they DON’T make better (try just a touch of 'em with fettucine alfredo somtime).

However, again taking umbrage with the use of powdered chile, I’d strongly suggest using canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. If you’re blending red chiles in the blender, throw a couple of chipotles in the mix. Otherwise, mash them up yourself and add them to the meat. (I’d imagine that in Brooklyn you could get anything grocery-wise somewhere, but if you need help I can score you some.)

I think that using both jalapeños and chipotles is redundant, but if you like it–more power to you!

C’mon, it was me and not Ukelele Ike that said anything about chili powder. And even I admit to just being damned lazy about it. Ike did infer that he uses dried spices, but he creates his own blend.

And I am usually a bit of a Texas basher, but in the spirit of love and comraderie which is the SDMB I will layoff of that and take your taunts accordingly. :wink:

True BROOKLYN chili should be enjoyed with BROOKLYN BEER.
Unfortunately, I found out the other weekend that my local brewery (Park Slope) was no longer brewing its own.
Remember: Think Global, Drink Local.

Yes, canned chipotles are widely available here. I nearly killed a guy from Michigan with a can a couple of months ago. My grocer also always stocks fresh tortillas which always smell damned good.

Anyway, I’d love a bowl of chili. Except that I just finished a big plate of chicken tika masala from Curry in a Hurry.

Did you feed it to him or throw it at him?

On the contrary! From the OP:

I recognize that when he goes ground, he uses the right stuff (i.e., ground chile peppers, not pre-fab chili powder), and the 99% of the time I’m cooking with chile (which is 99% of what I cook) I do the same: use ground red chile pepppers, comino, garlic powder, and Mexican oregano to make my own “blend”. I’d just like to suggest that when one wishes to go all out with chili, one should eschew ground chile peppers and boil and blend some dried peppers for a smoother, tastier chile experience.

I always knew that behind that mean, tough facade you Yankee types put up, you were basically nice guys!

I am sorry but if you refer to me as a Yankee again I shall be forced to take umbrage!

::quickly leafs through the dictionary to find out what “umbrage” means and where it should be taken::

Next add 12 ozs of flat beer as part of your liquid. It will impart its taste to the chili. It will be subtle, not overwhelming at all.

No criticism from this Texan! Sounds wonderful although count me with the kids, in that I may need a bit of cheese and crackers (or tortillas, or cornbread) to tone down the spicy heat!

Yum Uke, thanks for cookin!

You’re not fooling ME, Chicago Girl.

I have in-laws in Illinois who pass out cold if I wave the peppermill over the stewpot. Who run screaming from the room when I put horseradish in the Bloody Marys.

I understand that Green Jell-O never caught on in Illinois because the natives claimed that the powerful lime flavor hurt their mouths.

Oh, YEAH??!! Well, good thing I grew up in GERMANY!

[sub]Wait, this wasn’t the time to admit that, was it?[/sub]

That sounds good to me too Uke. Being a Texan, I find it odd to see chili made with beans and tomatoes. One saying of my grandmother’s that rubbed off on me is that is “yankee stew.” I still find it to taste good. For practically any tex-mex inspired food that you would normally make, double the cumin and chili. The riper the smell going into it the better it tastes in the end. :slight_smile:

A good Texas style meat chili is basically ground beef, water, chili (enough to turn it red), cumin, onion, salt, pepper, and some type of pepper to add more heat. If you are making chili sauce do basically the same thing but in the base have either bacon or ground beef fat, thicken it after reducing and browning with a little flour/water. MMMM