October 27, 2010

Easy Chili

As I wrote my shopping list for the week, I looked all over for a chili recipe.  I thought I was in the mood for Turkey Chili Verde, but as I reviewed the grocery budget, it became necessary to use the ground beef and canned tomato sauce I already had, instead of buying turkey.  It had been a while since I made chili and I wasn't in the mood for purusing multiple cookbooks looking for a new recipe, so I went back to the method that I have stored in my memory bank.  And I was not disappointed.  I added a couple things, ingredients that are in Williams Sonoma's chili recipe, that weren't in my original: masa flour, and if I had had some on hand, I would have added a can of cheap American beer.  It gives it a nice flavor.  But I didn't spend the money to get a chunk of beef chuck which I would have had my butcher grind coarsely, (which is what butchers sometimes refer to as a chili grind).  And since I didn't bother to get the specific beef called for in their recipe, I didn't crack open the cookbook.  I just wanted something warm and satisfying to serve on a cold autumn Sunday evening. And this fit the bill perfectly.  Note that, though I simmered mine for two hours to let the flavors marry, you could simmer it for as little as twenty minutes and have a perfectly acceptable weeknight dinner in barely more than half an hour.


If you read my last post, you saw what I was planning to cook for dinner this week.  You might be wondering what we actually ended up eating.

Saturday:  Beef Curry with Summer Squash and Peppers over Jasmine Rice.  I made this dish  spicy, so our 6-yr-old had a hot dog instead.  And I won't be sharing the recipe for Beef Curry at this time, because we were disappointed with the beef we used (which was a prepackaged 'thinly sliced sirloin' that turned out to be rather mangled and which cooked up a bit chewy).  Also, I need to switch brands of curry powder.  This time I used the stuff from the bulk bin at Winco and it has a little bit of a grittiness to it.  What's your go-to curry?
Sunday:  Beef Chili with Tortillas
Monday: Sliced Ham and Cheese with one of those sweet, crisp cucumbers and roasted turnips. -Ugh, we have determined that we are not turnip fans.
Tuesday: Miso Soup -which we found was a delicious use for some of the turnip greens.  I'll share it soon.
Wednesday: Arroz Con Pollo with Baked Kabocha Squash Slices for dessert


Easy Chili
Mostly my own, with some inspiration from The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Soup
More of a method than a recipe, the amounts given are estimates, so I hesitate to list a number of servings.  After you make this  a couple times, you'll have the process down and count this as an easy meal.  Leftovers can be frozen for longer storage. 

1.  Brown 1-2 lbs ground beef (or ground turkey) over medium high heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot.  If it releases much fat, drain it when it is about halfway through cooking.  Before the meat is done  cooking, add chopped aromatics:  1-2 onions, 1-2 green peppers or a similar amount of hot and/or sweet peppers and some chopped garlic.  Cook over medium heat to soften vegetables, 5-10 minutes.

2.  Add about 1/3 cup chili powder, a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper (and, for a thicker chili, 2 tablespoons flour).  Stir to coat meat and vegetables and cook about 30 seconds.

3. Add tomatoes (one 14- to 28- ounce can chopped or crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce, or approximately a pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped).  Add beans. (Kidney, pinto or black beans are what my family prefers.   Canned beans are fine.  Drain them well. Or use dried beans that you have precooked.  I use about half a pound cooked dried beans.  If you've cooked your own beans, add some of the cooking liquid with the beans.  Do not add dried beans without precooking them.  The salt and the acid in the tomatoes will prevent them from softening.)  Depending on how long you plan to simmer the chili, you may want to add more liquid: 8 oz of cheap American beer, some beef broth, water or more tomatoes.  This would also be the time to add any additional seasonings: one chipotle pepper from a can, some dried oregano or cumin, a dash of worcestershire sauce.  (I recommend the worcestershire sauce.  It has a way of bringing the flavors together.)  Sometimes I add a 14-oz can of hominy, drained.

4.  Bring chili to a simmer and cover with the lid slightly ajar.  Simmer over medium-low heat 20 minutes to 2 hours.  (I'm sure you could also transfer the chili to a crock-pot and cook on Low for 8 hours, but I have not prepared it this way.)

Optional:  During the last 10 minutes of cooking sprinkle about a 1/4 cup masa (corn flour) to thicken chili and give it a corny flavor.  If doing this, omit the flour in Step 2.

Garnish with sliced green onion, chopped cilantro, grated cheese and/or avocado slices.

Serve with cornbread or warm tortillas. Or, for Game Day, may I suggest serving it over oven fries?

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