Chili 101

1. Choose the right pot.

Ditch the flimsy pan and go with something sturdy. Cast iron is perfect for chili—it distributes heat evenly . You need something wide enough to sear meat, but tall enough to take all the other components For a normal crowd, I would go with a 5.5 qt cast iron pot or for a bigger crowd, go with a 12 qt stockpot. Most people like to use a non stick pot, to avoid the messy clean up, but if you remember from previous articles, the stuff that sticks to the pan is gold! When you add the liquid, scrape those little bits from the bottom—they will add flavor!

2. Add on the aromatics.

White onions, garlic, bell peppers are the usual suspects, but I like adding a little carrot to sweeten the chili. Also, throw in a few bay leaves—but be sure to pick them out later, they are inedible.

3. Pick a protein.

This is totally up to you. A lot of people like ground beef in their chili. I personally like using cubed chuck, brisket , pork shoulder and short ribs. If you are choosing those meats, make sure you pour off the fat after searing. Trying to slim down? Ground turkey and chickens great to use, make sure you use dark meat, since it will end up non stringy and juicy.

4. Bring on the beans.

Most people use canned beans If you are one of them, make sure you RINSE them first. If you’re going the extra distance and using dried beans, make sure you pick them over (sometimes there are pebbles in the mix) and soak them overnight. Best beans to use? Great northern, kidney, black and pinto beans are the favorites. If you plan on making your chili in Texas, go beanless— you’ll thank me later.

5. Show off the spices

Cumin, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, allspice, cinnamon, ground cloves, dried basil, paprika, cayenne, red pepper flakes are all the usual suspects of chili. Before you add these, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat. The moment you smell the spices, they are ready to add to the pot.

6. Ladle in Liquid

Crushed tomatoes, beef stock, Worcestershire and beer work wonders with chili. General rule of thumb— have enough liquid so it covers the meat and beans by 3 inches. This extra amount will reduce down later, so don’t worry about it being to thin.

7. Whisk in some secret weapons

Chili is a deeply personal dish, both for the person cooking it and the lucky people eating it. There are
endless debates over authenticity (beans vs no beans, ground meat vs chunks, etc) but whichever way you choose, you can always add a little something extra to make yours stand out from the others. For instance— good beer, chocolate, a blend of chipotles and fresh chilies, coffee, V-8 juice or Sriracha will make your chili go from sub par to excellent. If your chili is a little too thin, stir in some masa (corn tortilla mix) and simmer for 30 more minutes.

8. Simmer away

The longer, the better—seriously. Once all your ingredients are in the pot, bring to a boil, then
turn it down to low—simmer as long as time permits you. The best chili I’ve had simmered for 18 hrs… the flavor that develops from hours and hours of cooking makes the dish a lot more complex. Be sure to keep stirring, to avoid scorching. Scorching is when you burn the bottom, which ruins all the hard work you did.

9. Top away.

Okay, you usually see shredded cheddar, raw chopped onion and sour cream as the garnish. Why not go a step further? Roasted corn, fresh cilantro, fried pork rinds, beer battered onion rings, avocado, cornbread croutons, pickled red onions, manchego cheese and even goat cheese make great additions. Pick a couple toppings—one smooth and one crunchy to make a well rounded dish.

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Posted on November 19th, 2015 at 8:50 am [ssba]