I’m a late comer to chili. For many years it held a distinguished place on my scary food list. In my culinary world food with enough heat to sear the flesh off the roof of one’s mouth is not consumption worthy. Food is about flavor and texture, and heat is not a flavor and it is definitely not a texture. This was the primary reason for chili earning a spot of my scary food list. Secondary reasons--too much beef and a tomato sauce that had far too much in common with ketchup.
Then one day I stumbled across a low-fat cookbook with some very creative “facelifts” for classic foods. It contained an impressive array of ideas. The recipe for chili had distinct possibilities. So I decided to give it a whirl.
The first thing I did was to nix the jalapeno. For me, this pepper has no flavor and its only purpose is to add heat. At the time of my chili experimentation, DH was growing some interesting pepper varieties, which we were enjoying grilled and sautéed. So, out went the jalapeno and in went Hungarian Hot Wax and Poblanos! The result was delicious. The chili had a smooth flavor with a hint of smokiness and a mild to moderate heat that complimented, but did not dominate or overwhelm it the flavor. The addition of kidney beans and corn helped round out the texture and added another dimension of flavor.
Notes for this recipe: The higher the quality of ground beef, the better the chili will taste. Use only the freshest spices. I purchase my spices from Penzey's. (Do not be fooled by the labels on the bottles in the picture, I buy my spices in bulk and reuse bottles.) Adding the flour is optional. It is added to thicken the chili and shorten the cooking time making this dish suitable for family meal preparation.
Chili Con Carne
1 lb. lean ground beef
6 good sized cloves of garlic, peeled & chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 small Poblano pepper, seeded & chopped
1 Hungarian hot wax pepper, seeded & chopped
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. flour (optional)
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
2 bay leaves
2 quarts tomatoes or 2 14 oz. cans
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans, rinsed & drained
2 c. frozen corn
Grated sharp cheddar cheese to garnish
Select a 2 quart non-reactive pot and pour in about 2 Tbsp. olive oil, or enough to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Turn heat to medium and heat oil to hot, but not smoking. Add the garlic, onion and peppers. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, the onion is translucent, and the peppers are softened, about 3 minutes.
Add the ground beef. Break it up with a wooden spoon and stir to mix in the peppers, onion and garlic. Cook until beef is no longer pink. Add the spices and flour, and stir to combine. Add the tomatoes breaking them up with the wooden spoon. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in the kidney beans and corn. Cover and simmer until the chili is heated through and slightly thickened, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Adjust
seasoning. Serve with grated cheddar and corn bread sticks or a hearty bread.