The Chili

1/2 to 1lb ground veal, beef, or turkey
1 large onion, chopped
several cloves of garlic (to taste), chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped (optional)
1-3 stalks celery, finely sliced (optional)
1/2 each, green and red bell pepper, chopped (optional)
1-2 hot peppers (jalapeño, serrano, habanero, to taste)
1 small can Old El Paso Chopped Green Chilies
3 tbsp cooking oil (olive, canola)
2 lg cans (28oz each) mixed beans (5-6 types), or 5 cans (14oz each) of any combination beans, such as:
– kidney
– pinto
– garbanzo
– lentils
– navy
– great white northern
– black
1 lg can (28oz) peeled whole tomatoes
2 bay leaves
spices to taste:
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 teaspoon each: sweet basil, oregano, curry
pinch or more of cumin, cayenne pepper
salt and pepper, to taste

In a suitably-sized French oven or stock pot on medium-high heat, sauté the ground meat in oil until half cooked, breaking up clumps to taste. Continue cooking and add onions, carrots, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook these with meat until tender and until meat is well-browned and juices have been reabsorbed (carrots should pierce easily with a fork). Drain canned beans, reserving liquid to control desired thickness of mixture. Add to meat and vegetables all beans and tomatoes (diced a bit with a knife while they are still in the can) and the can of chopped green chilies.  Once it comes to a simmer (not a full boil), lower heat and add the herbs, spices, salt, and pepper.  Let simmer about an hour or until desired consistency has been reached.  This will depend on how much liquid is in the canned beans and how runny the tomatoes are.

The recipe above is mostly as my father wrote it, though I’ve corrected a few omissions and made a few clarifications to accurately reflect how I usually make it.  I often make a double batch in a stock pot, as it freezes very well.  I used to make it with beef, but prefer turkey nowadays.  The selection of beans is also a matter of personal preference – for example, I almost never use lentils.  I buy Goya-brand beans, from their premium line (not the low-sodium line), and add all the liquid from the cans in; results may vary with other brands.  I keep a close eye on the chili during the final simmering step, and stir frequently (every 2-3 minutes) until I get a feel for how easily it starts to stick to the bottom at the particular simmer temperature I’m using.  When stirring after every few minutes, the beans will have settled since the last time it was stirred, so I start from the top of the pot to re-homogenize/loosen the mixture gradually, and slowly work my way down to stirring the bottom to avoid breaking the beans as much as possible (if you start stirring from the bottom before loosening up the top, the beans will come under much more pressure and will likely turn to mush).

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