Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chili Con Carne

I have to confess, I think I'm a bit of a chili snob. I know that sounds dopey, as chili is pretty far from ever being considered snobby food. But, what I mean is, I only like MY chili. Sure, others are fine, but it seems that I always end up comparing them to the recipe I make at home. On the rare occasions I find myself eating another chili, my mind starts thinking "it should have more tomato," or "this spice combination isn't quite right," or "that flavor should not be in chili." Though, last year a friend's mom made a white chili with turkey and lime juice that was fantastic. I need to dig out that recipe and make it at home.

Since the cold weather, er, cool weather, season is so short here in Texas, I find myself making chili as soon as long sleeves might be appropriate. Which is still far warmer than I would have ever worn them up north. Nonetheless, we finally crossed that threshold here at the end of October. Yes, I know it is a week later that this recipe is finally being blogged.

A couple of thoughts about this chili recipe. Looking at the ingredients, there is a lot from the pantry. Some may eschew this, but I promise this combination works. And it works really, really well. It does not look like chili when everything first gets added to the pot, but time and temperature work their magic and everything blends together for the final product. Along those lines, I think canned tomatoes are superior than fresh for this dish because I love the tomato-y flavor, and more importantly, being able to bite into a piece of tomato. When you cook with fresh tomatoes, they completely break down and disappear. But canned tomatoes are packed with calcium chloride which preserves the cell walls so they retain structure during cooking. I think I have to give props to an episode of Good Eats for that nugget of trivia which stuck in my brain.

Final thought - growing up we only ate this as beef chili, but these days I make it with ground turkey about 80% of the time. After watching Food, Inc. I decided to try to avoid buying meats that were raised/processed at traditional compact animal farming operations. Our awesome grocery store carries organic ground beef but I hadn't seen any organic ground turkey before. After a quick question to the guy behind the meat counter, I was redirected to the meat freezer case where they stock organic ground turkey. Score.

Chili Con Carne
Adapted from my mom's recipe, origin unknown

1 Tablespoon oil (canola)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, mashed or pressed
1 lb lean ground beef (round) or ground turkey
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes (I know the picture of ingredients only shows 1 can)
1 10.5 oz can tomato soup
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon chili powder (if your haven't used yours in a long time, buy a fresh jar)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 15 oz can light red kidney beans (I know the pic shows a mix of beans, but after using this discovery a few times, I think I'm reverting back to standard recipe with kidney beans.)

Heat oil in a wide skillet (at least 12") over medium-high heat and add meat, green pepper, onion and garlic. When meat has browned, add all remaining ingredients, except kidney beans, and stir to combine. Cover and simmer over low heat for one hour, stirring occassionally. Add kidney beans, with liquid, and heat thoroughly. Sometimes I add in the beans at the same time as everything else which is perfectly fine too. Remove bay leaf and serve.

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