Chili is the quintessential American food. It melds old and new world ingredients into a product that can be as straightforward or complex to cook as you wish and has a nice balance in both flavor and nutrition. Our definition of chili is: A thick soup or stew made with dried ancho chile powder, tomato, and beans and/or meat. You can make thick soups and stews with chopped or ground meat and/or beans, but if it does not contain the ground chile peppers, it's not chili. And it is the distinct flavor of the chile pepper that separates meat chili from some kinds of barbeque or sloppy Joe. It is, by the way, the presence of tomato, chile pepper, beans and meat that makes this dish a balanced meal. Served with a bit of cheese, it has so many nutrients that one could survive indefinitely on the stuff.

Instant Chili

The fastest way to 'make' chili is to buy a can of the stuff and fix it. For instance, Hormel Turkey chili is relatively low fat and it contains many of the ingredients of good chili. It just happens to taste... well I cannot describe it in polite terms at a family rated site. But a few simple things will improve it immeasurably. First, add a teaspoon of Penzey's Chili Powder or use Ancho Chile Powder. The former contains Mexican Oregano and a number of other things in addition to the chile powder. Next, add a dash of salt, some pepper, a tablespoon of olive oil. This olive oil is vital, because the flavors of the chile pepper turns delicious when heated in oil a bit above boiling. And for this reason you may not want to mix in the oil and chili powder before microwaving. Cover with plastic wrap to protect the microwave from exploding beans.

Microwave for about two minutes. Some may wish to improve it further by placing a corn tortilla, some cheese, and another tortilla on top before microwaving. One may also choose to add oregano, rosemary, smoked pepper either sweet or chipotle, cayenne, salt, pepper, tomato paste, minced garlic. In most cases the tiniest hint will suffice. Other possible post-cooking additions are listed at the bottom of the page.

Almost any commercially available chili in a can can be improved materially by the addition of these ingredients. Those who live alone and love chili will find this the most convenient way to eat chili. One could, I believe, survive for some time on instant chili and a baked potato.

A Pot of Chili

What is the secret to good chili? There are two big secrets: it must have layer upon layer of flavor, and it must cook for a very long time. The layers of flavor come from the meat, vegetables, and spices. Remember that the first thing you notice about a soup or stew is the last thing added. So it is important to keep adding things from time to time. I prefer to add most herbs near the beginning since the need to work their way into the meat. Most fragrant spices would get added near the end.

It is a major misconception that you can get great chili by throwing things in a heated pot and waiting until it's chili. Waiting is crucial: but it's not enough. All ingredients have to be properly prepared first, and this includes roasting vegetables and browning meat. If all ingredients have been properly cooked before being tossed in the chili pot, the stew can be eaten with as little as two hours of simmering, but chilling it overnight in the refregerator always improves it. Remember to correct the spice/flavor near the end of simmering or after reheating.

There are many chili competitions around: some allow beans, some eschew them. Some require meat. Others prohibit it. Here are some general chili preparation rules.

We could write a recipe; but chili, like the best of American art forms - jazz, post-modernist painting, and political rhetoric - is highly improvisational. It has an underlying structure which is fixed, but its implementation is different each time. In my mind, this is a necessary quality in chili.

Chili Accompaniments
Half the fun in eating chili is dressing it up first. It turns out that a number of foods are ideally suited to complement chili.

The following foods are excellent go-withs, one at a time.

Perhaps the best idea is to serve chili in a very large diameter bowl, sprinkle grated cheese over all but the outside margin, then add a dollop of sour cream in the center and top with a pickled jalepeno pepper slice. Sprinkle a teaspoon of chopped black olive and/or chives over the melting cheese.

Eat well and prosper.

Online Chili Recipes and Sites


Lookd's Chili Recipes

Mega-Zine Chili Recipes

CMU Chili Recipes

Recipe Source Chili Recipes

Copyright S.R. Brubaker 2002 - 2006.








Slow Cooker