I may have mentioned that I love soup. A friend reminded me this week that in addition to being soup season, it’s also chili season. I personally see soup and chili as two totally separate types of food. Yes, they are similar, but I think chili is just an entity all to itself.
Chili is one of those dishes that has a common thread of how it is made, but everyone adds their own little twist to it. Beans, beef and tomatoes used to be the basic items used to make a chili, but now “white” chili is a thing, a dish without tomatoes and typically including chicken, so you see how versatile a dish like chili is. The only real commonality when it comes to chili is that it is a hearty dish that is perfect to serve up on a cool fall day.
Not every dish that cooks prepare is a dish that inspires bragging rights, but chili is definitely one of those dishes. There are chili competitions and in general, cooks just always seem proud when they talk about their special chili recipe.
Some people will say their chili recipe is a secret. Keith Vestal, emergency services director for Yadkin County, has won the annual county employee chili cookoff every year since its inception four years ago, and he won’t even give you a hint as to how he makes his chili. Luckily, I have several friends who were gracious enough to share their recipes with us, or least give us a general idea of how they prefer to make chili.
My friends Gary and Bridget both said they don’t really have a recipe, they just throw it together.
“My recipe is as the spirit moves me, but constants are no beans (rarely), and I pick up some inexpensive steaks like chuck eye or especially marked down steaks that have to be sold that day,” said Gary. “I hit them hard with a dry rub of chili seasoning (cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt/pepper, etc.) then grill them to medium rare. Cut them bite size and that is my meat with the seasonings cooked into every bite. Onions, peppers, sauteed. Beef stock. Sometimes tomatoes, sometimes not. Thickener and whatever else I need to pitch from the fridge.”
My good friend Bill Colvard, who writes for our sister paper The Mount Airy News, has a very involved chili recipe that he makes for the Super Bowl every year.
“This is the chili I make for the Super Bowl. I think the Super Bowl deserves its own special chili like Thanksgiving deserves a special turkey,” Bill said. “It’s more involved than most chilis and the ingredients can be a bit pricey but it makes a huge amount. I make it in a big lobster pot. It won’t fit in my 8 quart crock pot. (at least 15 to 20 servings).”
Bill’s Super Bowl Chili
• 1 lb. dried small red beans (soak 8 hours or more in cold water or use quick soak method)
• 2 chicken bouillon cubes dissolved in about a cup of Merlot (for cooking beans)
• 1 tsp. garlic powder (for cooking beans)
• 1 tsp. onion powder (for cooking beans)
• 1 tsp. olive oil (for cooking beans)
• 2 pkg. (1 lb. each) pork sausage (I use 1 mild and 1 hot.)
• 2 1/2 lbs. low fat ground beef (ground chuck is best)
• 3 cans beef broth or 6 cups homemade beef stock
• 2 cans tomato sauce
• 2 cans water (I use liquid from reconstituting ancho chilis.)
• 3 cans petite diced tomatoes
• 2 T minced garlic
• 3 T ground cumin
•3 T dried oregano
• 3 T ground chile powder (or more, use New Mexico chile powder if you can find it. At Wal-Mart, it’s in the Hispanic foods section)
• 3 dried Ancho chilis (They are in the Hispanic section at Wal-Mart and Compare Foods in Winston-Salem.. Soften them up in merlot or whatever wine you’re drinking while you are cooking. You do have a glass of wine handy, right? Then use the wine/liquid instead of water to rinse the tomato sauce cans.)
• 2 T dried chipotle chile powder (Use only 1 T. for milder chili .Available at Whole Foods. Otherwise get chipotle peppers in a can from the Hispanic aisle and mince)
• 1 T. cayenne pepper (use 1 or 2 tsp. for milder chili)
• 2 T dried parsley
• 2 large or 3 small onions, diced small
• 1 lb. white mushrooms, cut in quarters
• 1 T olive oil
• 1 to 2 cans black beans (optional, rinse beans and drain in colander)
• 2 cans black olives, drained and cut in half lengthwise
• salt/pepper to taste
• 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional) plus additional cilantro or parsley to garnish
Put soaked red beans in saucepan with enough water to cover. Add bouillon cubes dissolved in red wine, garlic powder, onion powder, and olive oil and bring beans to a gentle simmer. Cook about one hour, until barely tender. (The small amount of olive oil prevents the “foam” that comes when dried beans are cooking. You can omit if you prefer.)
While beans cook, in very large frying pan, brown pork sausage well, breaking up with turner as it cooks. Remove from pan, and place in large soup pot. Next brown ground beef well, breaking up with turner, and place in soup pot. Add beef broth, tomato sauce, water, diced tomatoes, garlic, ground cumin, dried oregano, chile powder, Ancho chopped chilis, cayenne, chipotle, dried parsley, and bring the soup pot ingredients to a gentle simmer.
Wipe out frying pan and add 1/2 T olive oil. Add diced onions and saute 5 minutes, until softened but not browned. Add to chili. Add more olive oil if needed and saute mushrooms 5 minutes. Toss on a little wine and simmer a bit. Add to chili.
When beans are barely tender add to chili, along with cooking liquid. Add olives and canned black beans. Rinse the beans first. Let chili simmer on low several hours. Add cilantro if desired last 15 minutes of cooking time. Taste for salt/pepper and serve hot, with cheese, sour cream and cilantro, if desired.
My sorority sister Jamie shared a favorite recipes she recently found online for a healthy and hearty version of chili.
“I’ve made this chili with squash instead of the canned pumpkin. I used an acorn squash that I roasted and then pureed. You can use the canned pumpkin too. I’ve done it both ways and it’s very easy and fast in the slow cooker. Very very satisfying and hearty and nice sweet flavors of fall. I had an abundance of farm apples. I did it once with ground meat and once without. It’s great with a dollop of sour cream,” Jamie said.
Jamie’s Healthy and Hearty Chili in a Slow Cooker
• 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
• 4 pitted dates
• 2 tablespoons Miso Master brand “Mellow White Miso” dissolved in 3 cups hot water OR 3 cups organic vegetable broth
• 1 teaspoon coriander
• 2 teaspoons cumin
• 2 tablespoons lime juice
• 2 tablespoons organic extra virgin coconut oil (such as Barlean’s)
• 5 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 large yellow onion, chopped
• Unrefined sea salt, to taste
• ½ pound pastured ground beef (optional)
• 2 apples, chopped (keep the skins on)
• 3 celery stalks, chopped
• 1 red bell pepper, chopped
• 3 tablespoons medium-grind corn flour
• 2 large cans (29 ounces each) BPA-free black beans (such as Eden Organic), rinsed and drained
In a high speed blender, add the pumpkin, dates, ¼ cup of the miso mixture (or vegetable broth), coriander, cumin and lime juice; process until smooth and creamy. Pour the mixture into a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker. Add the remaining 2 ¾ cup of miso mixture (or vegetable broth) to the slow cooker. Turn the slow cooker onto low heat and cover with a lid.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and sauté 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Add the pastured organic beef (if using) and saute until no longer pink. Add the apples, celery and chopped red bell pepper and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste and stir in the corn flour.
Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker. Add the black beans. Cover with a lid and cook on low heat for 1 hour 30 minutes. Let chili sit for at least 20 minutes before serving. Add more salt if necessary. Serve warm.
If you are looking to branch out and try a white chili, here is my favorite version, adapted from a recipe I found at CookingClassy.com.
Kitsey’s White Chicken Chili
• 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (Or you can use a pack of chicken tenders, which is what I normally use.)
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
• 2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth or 3/4 of a carton of chicken broth
• 1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies
• 1 1/2 tsp cumin
• 3/4 tsp paprika
• 1/2 tsp dried oregano
• 1/2 tsp ground coriander
• 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, cut into slices
• 1 can fire-roasted corn
• 2 (15 oz) cans Great Northern or Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Serve with your favorite chili toppings such as shredded cheese, crumbled tortilla chips or sour cream.
Season chicken with salt, pepper and a dash of Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot add chicken and saute until browned. Remove chicken from the pot. When meat is cooled, either shred with a fork or cut into bite-sized chunks and set aside. In the meantime, add diced onion to the pot and saute until golden brown. Add garlic and saute for around 30 seconds. You don’t want to burn the garlic. Next add back in the cooked chicken pieces, chicken broth, green chilies, cumin, paprika, oregano, coriander, cayenne pepper and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture just to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in beans and corn. If preferred, you can mash or use a food processor to puree 3/4 of one of the cans of beans to make the chili thicker and creamier. Or if you are lazy like me and/or like a more soupy chili just dump the beans on in. Next add cream cheese and stir until melted (it will break down in little bits and will appear to look like separated cheese, but it will eventually melt). Simmer until ready to serve. I have also done this dish in the Crockpot. You can add the raw chicken to the bottom of your slow cooker and add all of the other ingredients other than the cream cheese and cook on low for about six hours. When you get home for work, pull the chicken out of the mix and shred with a fork then add the cream cheese, once it’s melted, you’re ready to serve.
In the mood for chili, but don’t have a lot of time, try this quick chili recipe from my friend Leighanne.
Leighanne’s Quickie Pumpkin Chili
• 2 cups chicken stock
• 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes
• half of a 15 oz. can of pumpkin (more or less to taste)
• 1 can of corn
• 1 can of kidney beans,
• chili powder, salt and pepper to taste
Blend chicken stock, tomatoes and pumpkin together with an immersion blender or hand mixer. Combine pureed mixture in a medium sized pot with corn, beans and seasonings and simmer until heated through. The trick to making it really yummy? A big ol’ dollop of jalapeno pimento cheese. (I recommend the Palmetto brand of pimento cheese which comes in jalapeno or regular.)
Kitsey Burns Harrison is a reporter for The Yadkin Ripple, here she shares her musings on food, life and love. She can be reached at 336-518-3049 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.