If this isn’t the least-precise recipe you’ve ever seen, it probably wins the title among things I’ve posted here. The reason is I’ve finally really accepted that there is no single perfect chili recipe. There are as many ways to make good chili as there are ways to serve it: Over nachos, in a bread bowl, on a hot dog, with sour cream and fresh veggies on top, with crackers, etc. etc. etc.
For this batch, I wanted two kinds of chili, and didn’t want to use two pots to do it. So with one pot, I’ve got great eating chili, and great hot dog chili.
5 pounds ground beef
4 large onions
3 large green peppers
2 heads garlic
1 giant can crushed tomatoes
fresh ground black pepper
ground cumin seed
chipotle chile powder
ancho chile powder
bell pepper powder
(all chiles optional, see below)
When I say, “There is no single perfect chili recipe,” that doesn’t mean I don’t have a preference. For instance, I hate beans in my chili. And I generally prefer the beef ground rather than diced into chunks. Except that my father-in-law makes a great chili with beans, diced beef, mushrooms, potatoes, carrots … it’s almost as much a beef stew as it is a chili.
For putting on hot dogs, though, I like a very dry, dark, mild chili that’s heavy on the onions, with the meat ground very fine. Specifically, it’s the sauce at The Last Stand, just off of MacDade Blvd. in Holmes, PA. That and minced onion, on a Medford hot sausage on an Amoroso’s roll … excuse me, I’m having a moment …
Okay, now where was I. Right, chili for hot dogs.
So start with the garlic. Peel and mince it all.
Do the same for the three of the four onions.
Should have used the larger container rather than working in batches like this. Oh well.
Finally do two of the three green peppers. Which I forgot to take pictures of. But here’s the fastest way to prep peppers.
Now that the veggies are all ready, melt a few tablespoons of bacon fat over medium heat. You don’t render and keep your bacon fat? Then use some olive oil. Pure or pomace is fine If you use extra virgin, keep an eye on the temperature — you don’t want it to smoke.
Add the onion, and about a tablespoon of salt.
By the way, don’t think for a minute that I measured anything in this. The only measurement I’m absolutely sure of was the five pounds of ground beef. The rest you should taste and adjust as you go. Just make sure you give it a generous shot of salt right in the beginning or it will be bland no matter what else you do.
Next, add the minced green pepper and stir it in.
Finally, add the garlic, but leave it on top. You want to let the veggies sauté without scorching the garlic.
Stir a few times as you cook until the onions start to get a little golden, and the pepper loses the bright-green color.
Now add three pounds of the ground beef. Push the veg to the side so the beef gets down against the pan as you break it up.
Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the beef is well browned. Then add ground black pepper and bell pepper powder.
Don’t worry if you don’t have any bell pepper powder. I made it because I needed to do something with my harvest last year. You might want to add more fresh green pepper, though.
Add enough water (or beer, remember this is not a precise formula) to hydrate the pepper powder.
For that distinctive “chili, not sloppy joes” flavor, add about a tablespoon of cumin.
Check the flavor and adjust as necessary, then simmer for about another 10-15 minutes, until it’s reduced to the right consistency. Then scoop out about half of what’s there, and set it aside to use for hot dogs.
Serve over a grilled hot dog with diced onion, on a Halloween-themed paper plate.
I’ve been told the plate makes a difference.
Now, the second way
Now that you’ve set the first batch aside, add the other two pounds of ground beef.
Dice the onion and pepper into very large pieces, and add that, along with enough crushed tomatoes to get to the right consistency. (I don’t like my chili runny, some people do.)
Now add some chipotle and/or ancho chile powder. (No, I didn’t spell that wrong. There’s a difference between “chile” and “chili”.)
This much chili will take a good three to four tablespoons of chile powder, plus another one or two tablespoons of cumin.
Again, it’s not measured, but don’t try to adjust the seasoning in five pounds of chili one pinch at a time.
Add some more water and simmer until it’s reduced to the right consistency.
You can serve it like this, or go nuts and keep simmering the whole day. Add water (or beer) if it gets too thick, and keep checking the seasoning. The longer you simmer, the more the flavors will blend together.
When you’re finally ready, serve with some shredded cheese — Monterey Jack is traditional, but I prefer extra-sharp cheddar — diced tomatoes, jalapeños, and hot sauce.
And that’s it.