Chili con Carne

The taxonomy of chili is always a matter of contention. While Chili con Carne, literally peppers with meat in Spanish, is the inclusive term for what is usually called chili, in my experience the longer name usually refers to a stew containing beef, peppers, beans, and tomatoes. Texas chili, on the other hand, contains no beans and often no tomatoes while Cincinnati chili contains tomatoes but no beans. Some claim that authentic Texas chili uses cubed meat; Cincinnati chili, ground meat. This recipe based on ground beef with kidney beans is pretty much what I remember my mother making when I was a boy so I supposed you could call it New England chili. Whatever you call it this is a tasty warming dish perfect for a cold winter night.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry red kidney beans (or 3 15-ounce cans, drained, plus water)
  • 8 quarts cold water
  • Vegetable oil (see instructions)
  • 2 pounds ground beef (I use ½ sirloin and ½ eye round)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper or 2 Anaheim peppers, chopped
  • 2 jalapeño chiles, chopped (optional but recommended)
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. chili powder, preferably homemade
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Rinse dry beans and pick over for any discolored ones or small stones. Place in the pressure cooker with the 8 quarts of water. Cook at high pressure for 20 minutes, timing from when the cooker reaches full pressure. Allow to cool for 10 minutes then open according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Drain the beans reserving the cooking liquid. (If you do not have a pressure cooker simply double the cooking time.)

Film a large non-stick skillet with oil, set over medium heat and, working in batches, brown the meat. Set aside.

Heat a large, cast iron Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot add about 1 Tbsp. of oil and cook the onion, pepper, and jalapeños until softened. Add the garlic and tomatoes. Cook for about 1 minute then stir in the chili powder, cumin, and vinegar.  Put the meat and beans in the pot along with enough of the reserved cooking liquid to just cover. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, uncovered. Cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, and adding a bit more bean cooking liquid or water as needed. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with chopped onions, chopped pickled jalapeños, shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, sour cream, and perhaps a piece of corn bread.

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