Sofya’s Crowd-Pleasin’ Chili

September 27, 2010 § 4 Comments

I didn’t grow up with chili, or, for that matter, beans, cumin, or cheddar cheese grated on top, but pretty much as soon as I came to US, chili found its way into my repertoire of crowd-pleasing numbers. What I like about this is that it requires little advance planning, only one pot, feeds a legion, and draws inevitable praise from guests, making it a dish as good for the ego as it is for the schedule.

And I am about to show you how I make it.

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Start by pouring a few T of oil into a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once the oil is very hot, add 2 chopped onions and a pound of ground beef.

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Next, I like to sprinkle some of this on top. This is the cornerstone of my cooking success. The single most important component, you understand? Of course, salt will work just as well. Well, not just as well, actually, if you ask me. But it will work.

After you add salt (and see the meat expel copious amounts of liquid), cook everything, stirring frequently and breaking up ground beef lumps, until the onions are translucent and the meat has lost its pink color and began to brown.

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Meanwhile, dice a large bell pepper or a couple of smaller ones. These here are various nice peppers from our garden. You really need at least some red ones because of the sweetness they impart – if you only use green, they won’t make the dish pop in the way red peppers do. Jalapenos, by the way, are totally optional, but I had them on hand.

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Dice them… well, roughly.

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Now chop 2-3 garlic cloves…

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Jalapenos…

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And, as soon as the onions are translucent and the meat has lost its pink color, add your peppers and garlic to the pot.

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Now grab a can of chili beans…

And dump the can’s entire contents, liquid and all, on top of everything else.

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Oh no, oh no, oh no! The chickens are after my tomatoes!

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But I managed to salvage a few of them unscathed.

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This is why I love food processors.

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Pour it in with the rest of the stuff. Alternatively, use a large, 28-oz can of store-bought whole tomatoes, or a quart of your own home-canned. Just puree them in some way with their canning liquid. If you don’t have a way to puree them, just pour the liquid into the pot and chop the tomatoes by hand – in fact, this is exactly what I used to do before I had any of the motorized devices. But now that I do, my favorite thing to do is to use an immersion blender to puree them directly in either their store can or a wide-mouth quart jar I used to can my own.

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We’re only gonna need a couple of tablespoons.

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Now for the secret ingredient – RED WINE! A lot of people make their chili with beer, but you really need wine for the real thing. What wine does is add a much-needed sweetness to round everything off nicely (since, I was once told, tomatoes need sugar and alcohol to make the most of their flavor). I use primarily Merlot, and I believe in not paying more than $2.50 for “cooking” wine. Or drinking wine, for that matter.

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You’re only gonna need a couple of splashes (about 3/4 cup?)…

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About this much is left in the bottle (the bottle was originally full).

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Cumin – very important! Can’t have chili without cumin. Cumin is a spice supposedly from my part of the world, but I’ve never seen it in my life until I got to US.

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Cumin and black pepper. You can add some cayenne at this point if you wish.

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And now were’re gonna add some corn. This clump represents frozen sweetcorn from our farm from the previous year.

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Stick it under running water, and within minutes, this!

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Dump it right in…

And then simmer the whole thing, uncovered, until the beef tastes really cooked and tender and the chili has thickened considerably, 40 min to an hour (but watch it). Adjust seasonings if you need to.

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Now, I admit, this dish is not the most photogenic, but don’t let that deter you! This chili is truly terrific – my dad loved it when he came over a while ago, and so does everyone else.

Chili with Red Wine and Sweetcorn

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 T vegetable oil (I use sunflower oil pressed down the road)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped (not minced)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, or whatever’s in the garden or your fridge (at least 1 red bell pepper is important for the overall sweetness of the dish), diced
  • 2 jalapenos, chopped (optional)
  • 5 medium tomatoes, pureed in a food processor, or 1 qt of home-canned or 1 28-oz can of whole tomatoes, processed till smooth with their liquid
  • 3/4 C red wine (I always use Merlot)
  • 1 15-oz can chili beans
  • 1 16-oz bag frozen sweetcorn
  • Mc Cormick Montreal Steak Seasoning or salt
  • 1 to 1/2 T ground cumin
  • black pepper
  • a pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • grated cheddar cheese and sour cream, for serving

Heat oil in a dutch oven and add onions and beef. Sprinkle with Montreal Steak Seasoning or salt and brown, breaking up the lumps and stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and the beef has lost its pink color and began to brown. Add garlic, beans, peppers, tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, and corn. Season with cumin, black pepper, and cayenne (if using), and simmer, uncovered, until the beef is fully cooked and tender and the chili has thickened considerably, 40 min to an hour. Serve with grated cheddar (or other cheese of your choice) and sour cream.

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