In the fall, my mind naturally wanders to a chili recipe. The landscaping is about finished. Vegetables abound in the freezer. It’s wintertime, and you’ve finished canning everything. Cattle ranchers reduce the price of meat just before winter because they are not interested in “winter over” their herds. Now is the time to make a lot of homemade chili and store it in the freezer.
After a long day out in the bitter weather, there’s nothing better than warming up with a steamy bowl of chili and a cup of strong black coffee at home. It’s not only fuel for the body. It’s a solace you should hold onto in your heart.
Chili in and of itself is a delectable food. If you’re looking for a fantastic accompaniment to your grilled cheese, tuna melt, or toasted BLT, look no further. Still, in my opinion, nothing beats the “perfect chili fit for a king” I make myself. It’s a culinary work of art.
Making “perfect chili fit for a king” relies on two important skills. There are two stages: the preparation phase and the actual serving phase. Recognizing the meaning of “perfect” is the first key. Chili is the one food about which there are more opinions than any other. Some people believe the hotter the better. They even claim it’s tamer. Some people like a brothier dish. Some people like it thicker. This is the key to the success of the dish. You’ll end up with three to four gallons of delicious chili, but it’s not for me. True, I did estimate 3-4 gallons. When prepared and frozen in quart containers, you’ll have 12-16 delicious dinners ready in a flash. Take it out of the packaging, pour in a quarter to half a cup of water (to taste), turn on the stove, get the coffee going, and get the grilled cheese and garlic sandwiches started. In just 20 minutes, your family meal will be ready.
First, you’ll need a pot with a capacity of at least 16 quarts. To make sure I have a large enough pot, I use the same 20-quart pot I would for canning. The following materials are also required.
Fifteen ounces of chuck
5 cans of dark red kidney beans, drained, family size (40 1/2 ounces).
One 6-pound, 9-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes, suitable for commercial use
Wash, core, and seed 3 big bell peppers, preferably a variety of hues.
Three onions, big enough to peel and wash (about the size of an orange).
Two to four table spoons of black pepper, ground
Crushed red pepper, one and a half to two tablespoons
A pinch or two of salt
A quarter to a half full cup of chili powder
cheese, cheddar, grated, sharp
fresh or dry chives, chopped
Carefully cut the tomatoes open and add their contents to the boiling saucepan. Find the entire tomatoes one by one, making sure your hand stays below the liquid line. Squeeze the tomato until the bits squish out between your fingers after poking a hole in it with your thumb. WARNING. You and your kitchen will be stained with tomato juice if you don’t puncture a hole in the tomato beforehand. If you crush them in your hands over the liquid, you’ll get the same result. In order to get the desired consistency, keep mashing the tomato chunks.
Cut all the bell peppers into pieces about the size of a cent, then split them in half. Separate the tomato halves and place one in a bowl. As with the bell peppers, divide the onions in half and toss half into the saucepan.
Put in the kidney beans once they’ve been drained.
Sprinkle in 2 tbsp of ground black pepper.
Crush 1 1/2 whole red peppers and add them to the dish.
Sprinkle in 1 tbsp of salt.
Toss in a quarter cup of chili powder.
Use a sturdy spoon to combine the components. Place the pot in the stove, and turn the heat down to its lowest level that will still bring the water to a boil. You may think the chili is overly thick now. whether you are unsure, you may determine whether the chili is done when it becomes difficult to stir. If that’s the case, just keep adding water until it reaches the desired consistency. Re-mix the ingredients. Put the lid on it. (Note that you may use tomato juice in place of some of the water if you’re adding in excess of two glasses.)
Two things are crucial from here on out. Add water as needed to maintain the chili at the desired consistency. So that you may enjoy the ideal chili texture after it’s cooked. The pot has to be stirred every 5-10 minutes for the same reason. It is easy to burn the bottom of the chili while the top remains chilly when cooking such a large quantity at once. When you stir the chili, you ensure that the whole pot is heated thoroughly.
Put a sufficient quantity of chuck into a large frying pan to form an even coating roughly 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick, and press it into the pan. Sprinkle some of the chopped garlic and peppers over the meat and season it with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and set the burner so that it is just slightly higher than the pot. The ground chuck, onions, and peppers should only be cooked halfway through. Until the meat begins to firm, check on it approximately once every five minutes. When the bottom of the meat has firmed and turned color, use the edge of a sturdy spatula (the sort used for frying hamburgers) to begin cutting it into pie-shaped pieces. Turn the pieces over, cover, and continue on cooking. When the opposite side is hard, use the spatula’s edge to cut the burger into pieces of the desired size (again, I like mine roughly a hundredth of a cent). Keep turning the smaller pieces over until the outside is thoroughly firm and browned. Take the pan from the heat and use a slotted spoon to slide the meat into the pot. Before adding the meat to the saucepan, make sure all the fat has drained from the spoon. Drain the fat from the pan and keep going until all the meat from the chuck is gone. When you’re done, toss in the rest of the chopped onions and peppers. Before adding more meat to the saucepan, check the consistency and add water if required.
Everything has been added to the pot, and the consistency is just right now. It’s time to taste and adjust the seasonings now. Start sampling the chili if you haven’t already. Add additional chili powder, 1–2 tablespoons at a time, to get a stronger chili taste. Add black pepper, 1 teaspoon at a time, to taste. Crushed red pepper, added 1 teaspoon at a time, may be used to increase the dish’s heat. Add salt, if necessary, 1/2 teaspoon at a time. When making flavor adjustments, make sure to stir the mixture completely and simmer for an additional 5-15 minutes before sampling. Before taking a sample, you should always give the pot a good stir. Keep tweaking the seasoning until you get the ideal balance.
You may recall that we threw in some raw onions and peppers, half of which became part of the final dish. When the chili is ready, they will let you know. Turn off the heat when the raw onions in the saucepan begin to clear. The peppers and onions are what give the chili its delightful sweet crunchy texture, so make sure you don’t overcook them. If you can manage to wait, let the chili an hour or so to rest covered in the fridge so the flavors may blend. Add the sauce and mix well. A portion of the chili may be reheated in a smaller saucepan and served piping hot if desired. Let the leftover chili cool in the original pot before transferring it to containers and freezing it.
So there you go. To die for chili. To YOUR liking, of course.
The second key to king-worthy chili is in the serving. The ideal chili is in a league of its own, but it can be taken to a whole new level by being served as part of a multi-sensory feast. There’s something to satisfy every nuance of your taste buds, whether you like hot or cold, sweet or spicy, sour or bland.
Let’s organize the dinner accordingly. Get rid of the boring salad and replace it with something with more flavor and texture contrast to start. Nothing beats a dish of chilled fruit accompanied by a bowl of steaming chili for this purpose. The following items are required to make the fruit dish.
Pineapple chunks, one 20-ounce can.
A 29-ounce can of peach halves, preferably in thick syrup.
Pear halves, one 29-ounce can (preferably with thick syrup).
Red maraschino cherries, one 6-ounce jar
Green maraschino cherries, one 6-ounce jar
1 pint-sized container of candied crabapple rings
chilly and crisp lettuce
cheese flavored with jalapeos and other peppers
Mix everything together and let it sit in the fridge for at least 24 hours (48 is much better).
Remove the fruit from the refrigerator and drain it just before serving. Cut the pears and peaches in half and place each half on a bed of crisp, cold lettuce on each of six salad dishes. Place pineapple and crabapple slices around the fruit halves. Evenly distribute the chilled red and green maraschino cherries among the fruit dishes, then arrange the jalapeño pepper-jack cheese bites around the rim of each.
Ladle the chili directly from the simmering pot into the waiting bowls. Add some sour cream and grated sharp cheddar cheese over top. Sprinkle some chopped chives on top for presentation. Hot buttered garlic bread, sweet iced tea, and the fruit platter should be served with the chili. Follow it up with some hot blueberry cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream, a slice of pecan pie, or a lemon meringue pie, and a cup of strong black coffee. Oh! My!
The best chili isn’t limited to hearty, comforting, “down home” fare. It’s possible for it to be a culinary masterpiece with tastes and textures “Fit for a King” since they perfectly compliment and contrast each other.