Jens' Chili Recipe
Bet you didn't know I knew how to cook! I was introduced to this recipe by a friend in Los Angeles back in the early 70's when I used to crash on his Mom's couch in Malibu for weeks on end. Remind me to send them a much belated and well deserved thank you note. If I knew their email address I would send them this recipe for proofing as I am sure I got much of this wrong, but this is all from memory and it was the 70s.
And this is more of a classic Western/Mexican stew and 180 degrees from so-called "Cincinnati Chili" and has no flour, cinnamon, chocolate or whatever they put in it, and noodles are for pasta and not chili.
It is a on-the-fly type of recipe with inexact quantities, but over time I have learned to make a good impression by my improvisations. Of course, it is much better warmed up the next day.
Throw into a large pot 2 large cans of diced tomatoes and 2 medium cans of red kidney beans (drained). Cast iron is the best so spend the $30 for a Lodge pot you cheapskate. Start over low heat. [Ed note: I am getting good results with black beans lately.]
Dice up 2 medium onions (sweet Vidalia are the best) into medium chunks and saute in a large skillet (cast iron again but not a requirement) with olive oil and lots of minced garlic. Real cloves are the best but I usually cheat and use pre-minced. Sorry, just don't tell my foodie friends. Add a touch of raw sugar to get some caramelized flavors going.
Saute until translucent and a bit roasted then add to the big pot.
Chop 2 or 3 bell peppers (I like different colors, but they all taste the same) and saute until soft. Add to the large simmering pot.
Saute until brown a couple lbs. of ground beef (or chicken, or sausage, or stew beef, or road kill -- but don't tell your guests if you select the latter as many are squeamish but I bet squirrel would be very flavorful, at least in Winter when decay is minimized). The cheaper the better. You can drain the grease if you want, or not. Throw into the pot. Stir often.
Add salt, pepper, chili pepper, cayenne (the amount here will determine whether it is 1,2,3,4,5 alarm), half a jar of salsa, and any other spice that is lying around. I like cumin, thyme, sage and cilantro. Sometimes I skip the requisite bay leaf as I always end up eating it! And I start slow on the spices and add as the evening progresses. Which usually works, but recently having seen "True Grit" I went overboard on the sage.
You can play around with other spices, as it is "your" chili, but watch the pot as it simmers to get the right consistency. Too much water, take the lid off. Too dry, add more beer. Voila! Only if life were just that easy.
I find that any type of heavy Red wine goes well here in the final stages, from Cab to slutty Cali Zins, or go with strong, dark micro beers. Sometimes I even put some in the chili! Well, actually I always put at least one half bottle of cheap beer in the pot instead of water. Water is way over rated.
Now, eat some cheese and crackers and wait an hour or two while drinking copious amounts of wine or beer, but lay off the tequila as your taste buds will be seared by the cayenne. Patience will be rewarded, just like in life.
In one to three hours you will be rewarded and the more it cooks, the better it tastes. As to the heat levels, I try to get a very mild burn in the front end that builds slowly but steadily as you power through the bowl until you should have some good perspiration at the end. Having a quart of milk around is always a sound idea.
And if you don't like heat, then head to Clifton. The Skyline on Ludlow is open until 4am on the weekend.
Garnish with a grated sharp cheese (packaged will do as this is not Mobil 5 star dining) and sour cream. And warm corn bread is a great flourish, like I know how to make that. So I buy the corn muffins from Fresh Market and slice them up.