Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Challenging Conventional Chili

Good evening everyone! Tonight, we're trying a new recipe for the blog - one I though I'd never attempt. Chili. Not white chili, not some variation of chili - but straight up, American style, chili. We've been adverse to trying a chili recipe on the blog in the past due to my bad experiences with the dish. My digestive system doesn't like acidic products - especially tomato sauce. Obviously, most chilis are swimming in tomato sauce. However, I've learned from past experiences that if I substitue tomato sauce or marinara sauce for natural tomatoes or even crushed tomatoes, I am able to enjoy the dish. So, when I stumbled upon this classic chili recipe that replace the traditional tomato sauce bath with crushed tomatoes and pureed tomatoes - I thought maybe, just maybe, we could create a chili that even my picky digestive system could enjoy. Let's get cooking!

The Recipe: All American Beef Chili With Kidney Beans
Original Recipe Found In: Cook's Country Cookbook

What You'll Need:

2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 Onions (Minced)
6 Garlic Cloves (Minced)
1/4 Cup Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
2 Teaspoons Ground Coriander
1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2 Pounds 85% Lean Ground Beef*
2 (16 Ounce) Cans, Dark Red Kidney Beans**
1 (28 Ounce) Can, Diced Tomatoes
1 (28 Ounce) Can, Tomato Puree

* If you're health conscious like we are, the 85% lean ground beef makes you a little hesitant at first. We typically don't buy anything lower than 95% if we can control it. However, for this chili (with the spices used and the cooking method) you are going to want to find and use 85% lean beef. Fattier beef (70%) will cause a greasy chili while leaner beef will completely disappear in the dishes' other great flavors.

** Dark red kidney beans are used because they are more durable and hold their shape better than traditional kidney beans. One of my 'dislikes' in regards to chili is the abundance of soft, squishy beans. I don't care for the texture and their lackluster flavor is unappealing to me. Dark red kidney beans are supposed to hold their shape and texture- regardless of how long they are submerged and hold their flavor. We reduced the called for cans to 1, as Maggie is not a big fan of beans either.

*** This recipe originally called for a chopped red bell pepper as well. I'm not a fan of the flavor of red bell peppers and we both dislike a lot of heat in our recipes. We omitted the bell pepper, but if you're a fan of heat, feel free to add it right back in.

Begin by heating the vegetable oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Once shimmering, add the onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, oregano and cayenne pepper to the pot. Stir to mix everything together. (Yes, there will be one heck of a spicy aroma arising from this pot!)

Cook the onions until they soften and begin to brown.* Be sure to stir occasionally to prevent sticking. This should take about 10 minutes. Resist the urge to add water here. Yes, the mixture is going to be very sticky and thick, but remember that we are using a fattier beef. Once you add the beef, you'll be glad you didn't dilute the mixture with water.

Next, increase the heat to medium high and add 1 pound of ground beef. Cook until the beef begins to slightly brown (it's okay to still have touches of pink). About 3 to 4 minutes. Add the second pound of beef to the pot and repeat, cooking until slightly browned, for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.

*Now, this is one of those "cookbook" directions. You know the ones I mean, they tell you one thing, but once you try it - it's very, very clear that what they are telling you is impossible. In this instance, once you add the chili powder, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes etc. The mixture will turn a deep reddish brown. I.E. you will no longer be able to see if the onions are white, translucent or brown. Telling you to wait for the onions to brown is asinine. You can't see their color. Simply cook them for 10 minutes.

You can eyeball the mixture here and see if you think the beef is a little too fatty or not. You want a little bit of liquid in the pot, but you don't want it to resemble soup already (remember, so far the only moisture is melted fat - so lots of moisture is equivalent to lots of unnecessary fat.) I chose to strain out a little bit of the fat before moving on to the next step. You results may vary.

Next, add the beans, (I prefer to rinse my beans before using them. They are typically stored in a sodium heavy solution, most of which clings to the beans when you cook with them. Simply give them a good rinse in a strainer before use and you can reduce the amount of sodium you'd be taking in by about 50%) both cans of tomatoes (crushed and puree) and a pinch of salt. Bring this mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat until it reaches a nice simmer. Cover the pot and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 1 hour. After the first hour, remove the lid and allow the mixture to continue to simmer for another hour.

This slow stewing process is going to greatly enhance the flavor of the recipe. The tomatoes lose their 'pre cooked' flavor and begin to take on a great, almost, "roasted" flavor when they're allowed to slowly simmer for 2 hours. This cooking process is why we needed a fattier beef (some of that fat has been cooked right out by now) and a heartier bean.

Once the chili has turned a darker color and has thickened nicely, give it a taste test and adjust the seasoning with a little salt as needed. If you're finding the chili is sticking slightly, you can add 1/2 cup of water to the mixture to thin it out a little.

Once you find the sweet spot (to your preference, obviously) serve and enjoy!

The Results:

This was a whole new level of chili. The only chili I've ever had has been more reminiscent of soup - with tomato sauce being the star of the show. This chili is thicker, and almost like a stew, but no one ingredient really wins the day. The great beef flavor is prevalent (something that is usually lost in chili) bu is not overbearing. The tomato base was exactly what I hoped for, present but not overpowering. Slow simmering this sauce for 2 hours really aided in the spices and tomatoes marrying nicely. The dish was neither too spicy or too acidic - but a nice, delicious blend in between. All in all, a successful dish!

That's all we have for you this week. We're back next Monday with another trip Around The Culinary World. Until then,


1 comment:

  1. bell peppers are not spicy....?