Well, it's Chili Season™. It's that time of year when the air gets a little crisper, college football conferences start realigning—and tourists switch from Crocs to Uggs. Perfect for whipping up buckets upon buckets of chili. And hoo-boy, do I have a recipe for chili.
- 1 lb. each of ground beef, pork, and lamb (three meats)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 ½ tbsp. chili seasoning
- 1 tsp. each of Sweet Hungarian Paprika, Smoked Spanish Paprika, Bradley Farms Paprika (three paprikas)
- Red pepper flakes to taste
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
- 1 large green pepper, chopped
- 1 large red pepper, chopped
- 1 medium jalapeno, de-seeded and chopped
- 16 oz. of each: black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans (three beans)
- 2 28oz. cans whole or crushed San Marzano tomatoes
- Bay leaf
- Frank's Red Hot, Sriracha, Tabasco to taste
- 2 cups grated cheese
Any good chili needs to start with meat! It's what's for dinner, and you might as well splurge while you can afford it. I recommend ground beef, pork and lamb, about a pound of each. I've used veal as well, but the lamb really adds a rich flavor that the veal just can't. Plus, eating veal is mean?
Haul out a big honking stock pot and heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Drop a few cloves of chopped garlic into the oil over medium heat until aromatic. Toss the meat on top of that, along with the seasonings. I'm sure you have Lawry's from the Piggly Wiggly laying around, but if you feel like an upgrade, both Fairway and Penzey's have great spice options. A well-stocked spice cabinet is like a well-stocked liquor cabinet: both exist in my house.
Brown the meat but DO NOT drain the fat! The pork and lamb are pretty lean anyway, and the fat adds an indispensable flavor and depth.
Next, add a chopped Spanish onion—cannonball!—and some diced red and green pepper. But not too much. This is chili, not a salad. Incorporate the chopped veggies with the seasoned meat, add the chopped jalapeno and cook until they soften. You could honestly stop here and have a pretty decent burrito filling, but let's proceed, shall we?
Now you are ready to add tomatoes. Did you know Italians never had tomatoes until they were brought back from America? Fuck yeah! So that gives you license to use any manner of packaged tomato products, including San Marzano.
I do know that any chili worth beans needs beans. Three types of beans to be exact: black beans, pinto beans and kidney beans. Feel free to mix-and-match with your favorite beans, cannellinis would be cool, even black-eyed peas for New Year's Day. Dried beans are cool if you have the time to soak them overnight, but Goya canned beans are groovy as well. I'm brainwashed by Bloomberg to rinse my canned beans to cut down on the sodium, so I need something to replace the liquid from the cans. Enter beer. Of which you've already got copious amounts on hand, because, well, it's October and it's the best sports month of the year and you live close to Eagle Provisions.
Add the tomatoes, beans, beer and bay leaves to the pot and stir the hell out of it. Feel free to add your favorite flavor enhancers like Tabasco, Frank's Red Hot, Sriracha or extra seasonings like red pepper flakes. Chili is awesome in that way: it can be tailored to the tastes of the individual. Your guests can also tart it up after serving, like a good Bloody Mary.
Let it all simmer for an hour or two to merge the flavors. If there's too much liquid for your liking, you can simmer uncovered to let it reduce to the consistency you prefer.
When it's ready to serve, line a bowl with Fritos. Do you know how hard it is to find Fritos in Brooklyn sometimes? Top the Fritos with generous helpings of chili, and add cheese. Last time I used Dubliner, which isn't a traditional chili cheese like cheddar, but it melts and tastes awesome on chili.
Eat two bowls before unbuttoning your pants and settling into an uncomfortable, yet satisfied, coma on your couch in front of the TV. Save or freeze any leftovers: chili, like Jeff Bridges, gets even better with age. It also likes to be called The Dude.
A version of this recipe appeared on The Awl on 20 October, 2011.