Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dad's famous chili

If I have one signature dish, this is it. It was one of the first things I started making when I took to cooking a couple of years ago and it's also one of the things most requested by the family. So, it has a special place in my heart.

Chilis are great in that they are also really great canvases for experimentation -- I've never made the darn thing the same way twice. You can always add something, drop something, increase, decrease, spice up, tone down. Get a couple of chili cookbooks and just wade in, try a few recipes until you find what works for you. And it can't be a bad thing to have a few chili recipes in the repertoire.

Makes a large pot of chili, at least 8-10 main course servings
Serve on its own or over rice

Core Ingrediants

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
2-3 bell peppers, chopped, various colours: green, red, orange, yellow
5 stalks celery, chopped
2 spanish onions, 1 diced, 1 chopped
5-6 cloves garlic
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
2 cans tomatoes, 1 ground, 1 diced
2 cans beans, drained, choose from white kidney, red kidney, black beans
1 can niblets corn
splash of red wine
olive oil
1 tsp sugar

This is quite a large number of ingredients, but obviously none of them is really cast in stone. You can use more meat is you like, and many use cubed chuck instead of ground. You can also try ground turkey if you like, as that is quite good too. For onions, I pretty well use a different kind every time I make chili; sometimes I just use two to three diced yellow onions and leave it at that. On the topic of vegetables, there's a lot of pro and con for using vegies in chili and I'm definately on the pro. I used to use carrots too, but I've mostly settled on peppers and celery. Tomatoes and beans are up to you. I like using black beans exclusively but the last time I made chili I only had red kidney beans around the house so I just used those. I like using one can of diced and one can of ground tomatoes to both give a bit of body and a bit of chunkyness. Using two cans of ground would also be great.

Spice Mix

3 tsp cummin powder
1 tsp papkrika
1 tsp chili poweder
1/2 tsp
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

The spice mix is one of the most fun things to experiment with, trying different things and different proportions. This mix alone will give flavourful yet still pretty mild chili. I don't use a lot of salt here for the simple reason that the beans usually have a lot of salt in them, as do the canned tomatoes, so I don't feel the need to add much more in the mix. My son Daniel and I have mostly worked on perfecting the mix.


2-3 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded, stemmed, diced


2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce from a can, seeded, stemmed, diced
1-2 tsp of the adobo sauce from the can


1-2 tsp hot sauce of your choice

Heat is a very personal choice, especially if you're preparing chili for a family with smallish kids. You can just leave any of these items out, mix them together or pump up the volume using additional chilis or hot sauce. I like using the chipotle myself.

1. Brown diced onions, garlic and meat with a little olive oil in a skillet. Sprinkle about 1/4 of the spice mix over the meat as you are browning. Reserve.

2. In a large dutch oven, saute in a little olive the rest of the vegetables that you are using: celery, peppers, chopped onion. Saute until a little soft, 5-8 minutes. Add another 1/4 of the spice mixture as you saute.

3. Add meat mixute to vegetables & combine well. Deglaze the meat pan with a the red wine & add as well. Add canned tomatoes & beans. Add 1/4 of spice mixture & sugar (sugar is to counteract the acidity of tomatoes, you may not feel you need it).

4. Add heat ingredients at this point.

5. Bring to a boil & let simmer until you're ready to eat.

6. About 20 minutes before you serve, add cilantro & corn. Adjust seasoning. Add as much of the spice mixture as you think is necessary.

Chili is a blank canvas -- I never make it the same way twice. This recipe is mostly patterned after the last time I made it, but all bets are off the next time. So much is dependant on mood, season and what's lying around the kitchen. Enjoy the recipe, but mostly make it your own, make it you signiture dish.

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