Home Cooking: What says football, winter and community dinners? Chili! (column)
October 31, 2018
Last Tuesday, I started my fourth year on a winter team serving the community dinners at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Breckenridge. Our first dinner is often chili, which means chili signals the start of the winter season in my mind.
I've also become an avid football watcher thanks to Pat's insistence that I turn on Thursday Night Football when she comes over to knit and have a glass of wine, while Verne's at Summit Concert Band practice, where he plays trombone at age 86.
And of course, chili is one of those dishes that really can only be enjoyed on a "chilly" evening. When I lived in Fort Lauderdale, my hometown, our rare cold snaps would have me driving by Skyline Chili for their Cincinnati chili-smothered hot dogs.
Chili's national popularity has inspired as many variations as there are for chocolate chip cookies. I've tried recipes with cocoa powder, beer, chunks of chuck roast versus ground beef, with beans and without. What I've discovered is that more ingredients aren't always better. There's a tipping point where too many competing flavors end up muddying the true essence of chili.
Last year, I gave you three of my favorite chili recipes. This year, I've asked two friends to share their recipes. With such a ubiquitous dish, it's always fun to see what others are doing. I've also added one of my own, the chili recipe I created for my first community dinner of this winter season.
Ground Beef Chili
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2 pounds of thick chili beef (it's like ground beef but really thick)
1 medium white onion
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
3-5 glaric cloves
½ pound bacon, cooked to a crisp — including the grease
1 large can Hunt's diced tomato, undrained
1 small can Hunt's tomato sauce
1 can of kidney beans
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
Brown meat first, then combine everything into a Dutch oven or 6-quart pot and cook on medium-low for at least 1 hour. This recipe can easily be made in a slow cooker; just brown the ground beef first and then add everything to a slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-6 hours and on high for 1-2 hours.
Chicken and White Bean Chili
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 cup chopped leek (white part only)
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small can green chiles or chopped fresh roasted chiles to taste
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder or other Mexican chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
2 cans white beans, drained
1 can chili beans (beans packed in chili sauce)
1 large tomato (peeled and seeded) or a 15-oz can of diced tomatoes
1 quart chicken broth
¼ cup fresh cilantro
Cook chicken with olive oil until browned.
In large stock pot over medium heat add olive oil, onion, celery, carrots, leek, chiles and garlic. Sweat vegetables until onion is translucent. Add chili powder, cumin and paprika.
Add beans, tomato and stock, then bring to a boil and simmer for a half hour to two hours.
Once a thicker consistency is reached, add cilantro, season with salt, pepper and juice from lemon.
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili with A Twist
The most difficult aspect of this slow cooker recipe is opening a lot of cans and peeling the sweet potatoes, which doesn't diminish its flavor or authenticity one iota, in my opinion. What I hope it proves is that if you're a beginner in the kitchen or a busy person who promised to bring a pot of chili to the next neighborhood pot luck (or ahem, community dinner) you can be proud to bring this recipe. It's a great a vegan or vegetarian option and it's economical. But most of all, it's delicious and will satisfy all appetites.
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cans black beans, drained
3 cans Rotel tomatoes and green chilies
1 10-ounce package of frozen onions and peppers
6 cups water
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
(In a pinch or a hurry, go ahead and use one of those pouches of chili seasoning, I won't tell.)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons mango chili sauce (this is optional — but it adds a perfect sweet-heat compliment to the sweet potatoes and really makes this chili shine).
Salt and pepper to taste
Add all the ingredients to a slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours. You want the sweet potatoes to be cooked through but not mushy. Garnish with slices of fresh avocado and crumbled cojita cheese.
Suzanne Anderson lives in Breckenridge and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her books are available at the Next Page Books and Nosh in Frisco.
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