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Fear Conquered: Can-less Chili
"So what do you put in your chili?" It's the kind of innocent question lampooned at unsuspecting cooks everywhere. The kind of question hotly debated between relatives at summer reunions. Or between football zealots during commercial interruptions of the big game.
I, of course, am so very far above such petty pride in a list of cherished ingredients, but while we're on the topic, what do you put in your chili?
Are you one of those silly bean-phobes with their paste of spiced tomatoes and beef? Or one of those fowl-crazed meat-haters with turkey chili? Or do you go all veggie? And do you add real chile peppers or just powder? Do you use the pop and pour method with cans or the long and slow with everything fresh? Spicy or mild? White or red? Pasta? Corn? Rice? Tortillas?
And what about toppings? Just basics with sour cream and cheddar or do you go full spread with green onions, chips, jalapeños, saltines, guac, cilantro, tater tots?
And by the way, is it chili or chilli?
Before the experts from Texas and Cincinnati arrive with definitive chili truths, I'm putting a stake in the ground and approving all forms of chili (or chilli) as valid. "Yes, but REAL chili doesn't have beans!" That's nice, but some of us like beans in our chili. "And REAL chili uses must use red meat, hence the carne in chile con carne!" Uh-huh, but some of us are sick of red meat. "And you MUST add tomatoes otherwise it's not chili!" Yeah, ok then, except for white chili and green chili.
Let the experts continue their valiant fight to keep chili pure - I'll be in the cheering section for the muddled mess of infinite options chili now represents. And my chili is no less muddled. There are three types of beans, no beef, optional sausage, lots of fresh tomatoes and almost no chile powder. And then I add some non-traditional ingredients like corn, milk and black beans. But as with any good chili, the real secret isn't in the ingredients - it's in the cook time.
Really awesome chili needs to simmer for at least a couple hours. At least. Otherwise, it's more like a watery soup. A sad, watery soup with a lot of disparate flavors all competing for attention. So take a break from thinking about an authentic ingredient mix and start calculating cook times.
Oh. And just in case your holiday party arrives at the awkward moment when everyone is desperately searching for a cookie to relieve the excruciating silence, now you've got the perfect match to strike up a blazing conversation: "What do you put in your chili?" Look out for the explosions!
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|Bring 1 gallon of water to the boil.|
|Measure the beans and add to the insert of a slow cooker.|
|Measure and mix together spice-mix for beans.|
|Add the spice mix and boiling water to the beans.|
|Cover the slow cooker insert and cook on the slow cooker HIGH setting for 1 hour, then cook on the LOW setting for 1 1/2 hours until navy beans are soft.|
|Drain the beans and reserve for chili.|
|To make the chili, heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.|
|Dice 2 medium yellow onions.|
|Saute the onions for 5 minutes until softened.|
|Dice 1 red and 1 green bell pepper.|
|Saute the bell pepper for 5 minutes.|
|Mince or press 3 garlic cloves and add to the peppers and onion.|
|Add 2 pounds of diced Roma tomatoes. Mix thoroughly, then cover the pot and cook for 45 minutes over medium heat.|
|You will need approximately 12 ounces of smoked andouille sausage.|
|Dice the sausage.|
|You will need 2 cups of sweet corn kernels. I recommend cutting the kernels off fresh corn cob ears if possible (approximately 2 ears of corn).|
|You will need 4 cups of vegetable stock - I use homemade.|
|You will need an additional 4 cups of water.|
|Measure and combine spice mix for chili.|
|Add the beans, sausage, corn, stock, water and spices to the chili.|
|Stir thoroughly and simmer uncovered over medium to medium-low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.|
|Stir in 1 1/2 cups whole milk.|
|Simmer the chili for at least 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.|
|Serve with desired toppings. I recommend sour cream and cheddar with a side of cornbread or corn muffins.|
STORY | PHOTO TUTORIAL | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
Three Bean Chili with Smoked Andouille
Prep Time: 45 min
Cook Time: 4 hrs
Ingredients (serves 8)
- 1 gallon purified water, boiling
- 1/2 pound dry black beans
- 1/2 pound dry red kidney beans
- 1/4 pound dry navy beans
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
- 2 Tablespoons sea salt
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large yellow onions, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 pounds Roma tomatoes, chunked
- 4 cups homemade vegetable or chicken stock
- Spiced Three-Beans
- 12 ounces smoked andouille sausage, diced (optional)
- 8 ounces (2 cups) fresh sweet corn kernels, about 2 ears of fresh corn
- 4 cups purified water
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- Up to 2 days in advance: Add the dry beans, seasonings and boiling water to a slow-cooker insert, stir well and cover; cook the beans on the slow-cooker HIGH setting for 1 hour, then reduce to the LOW setting and cook for another 1 1/2 hours until navy beans are soft; drain the beans and set aside
- During the last 90 minutes of the beans cook time: Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat; add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes; add the diced bell peppers and sauté for another 5 minutes
- Add the garlic, diced tomatoes and stock to the softened onions and peppers; cover and simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Add the spiced three-beans, optional diced sausage, corn kernels, water and spices; simmer the chili uncovered for 2 hours, stirring every 20-30 minutes
- Add the milk to the chili and adjust seasonings; simmer for at least another hour, stirring every 15 minutes; serve with desired toppings
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Hungry for Tips?
- Vegetarian: It's super simple to keep this recipe vegetarian - don't add the sausage! That's it. And as much as I love the andouille with this chili, the meatless version is also delicious. If you're a spice lover, add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of ground chipotle powder to compensate for the heat from the andouille.
- Slow Cooker: If you start from scratch, between the beans and the slow simmer, chili can take a good half-day to make. So if you're pressed for time, I recommend cooking the beans a day or two in advance. If you're not going to be around, add the cooked beans and other ingredients everything to a slow cooker (except the 4 cups of added water) and walk away for 10 hours.
- Beans: The exact type of bean you choose to use doesn't really matter. I prefer black beans and kidney beans to navy or great northern, but you could also use pinto, black-eyed peas or cannellini. I advise against soy beans and lentils (soy beans take forever to soften and lentils turn to mush quickly).
- Corn: I love corn in chili because it adds a little pop of sweetness against the spicy backdrop of traditional chili flavors. So I highly recommend adding corn to your chili. And if you can find fresh corn, even better. The sweetness and texture of fresh corn is so much better than the pre-packaged frozen stuff.
- Chipotle Powder: Traditional chile powder is spicy but not smoked. I prefer smokiness in my chili, so I use both smoked paprika and smokey chipotle chile powder. Most grocery stores now carry these spices (even Walmart) and they make such a difference to the final flavor.
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