Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Favorite Bowl of Chili

I'm sad to see summer go, but I do love fall in Wisconsin. 

When it gets chilly out, it's time to break out the comfort foods - and this is a great chili recipe, adapted from Cooks Illustrated. Last time I made it, I did it just 1 day in advance, and it was good, but the day after that it was even better – I’d definitely recommend trying to make it 2 days in advance, even 3! 

It freezes well, but it doesn't last long around here.  We like to serve leftovers over baked potatoes with sour cream, scallions and a little cheddar cheese, and salad on the side.  If you freeze it in smaller portions you can send then along with the working spouse for a great lunch to be reheated.  I've even sent along a little container with all of the toppings, too. 

Simple Beef Chili adapted from Cooks Illustrated recipe

Makes about 3 quarts, serving 8 to 10

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions , chopped fine (about 2 cups)
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced (more if you like really spicy, or leave out if you really don't - we add 3)
6 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
¼ cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like really hot & spicy chili)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like really hot & spicy chili)
2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree
Table salt (Kosher salt is fine, too)
2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (could add after thawing if you freeze - then they won't get as mushy - and my family is a little kidney-bean shy, so I just added 1 can of beans)

Brown & drain ground beef. Set aside. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, oregano, and cayenne; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add meat, beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove cover and continue to simmer 1 hour longer, stirring occasionally (if chili begins to stick to bottom of pot, stir in 1/2 cup water and continue to simmer), until beef is tender and chili is dark, rich, and slightly thickened. Adjust seasoning with additional salt. Serve with lime wedges and condiments if desired, or let cool, and store in gallon-sized freezer bags or other storage containers. To prepare, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and heat in Dutch oven or slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Option: At the end of step 1, transfer the cooked beef mixture to a slow cooker; add the rest of the ingredients as directed in step 2. Cook the chili on the high setting for four hours.

Delish toppings to have on hand: diced fresh tomatoes, sliced avocado, sliced scallions, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro leaves, sour cream, and shredded cheddar or jack cheese, a few fresh lime wedges

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