When I was growing up I didn't like my parent's chili recipe, mainly because I didn't like kidney-beans. Then at a tailgate party some friends of ours brought chili without beans in it, and I absolutely loved it. Since then I've eventually learned to like beans (in small amounts anyway) and I've even used this recipe as the basis for a vegetarian chili I tried one time, but the basic version is still may favorite.
2.5-3 lbs of ground beef
4 medium onions (or 5-6 small ones or 2 really huge ones)
6-8 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons chili powder
1.5 tablespoons ground cumin
1.5 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons salt
1.5 teaspoons celery seed
1.5 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried, crushed red pepper
3 cups tomato juice
3 cups beef broth (or stock)
Kidney beans (optional)
1/3 cup cornmeal
Start by peeling the loosest outer layers off the onions. You should be able to do this with just your bare hands, but if the skin sticks a little use the edge of a knife held at a shallow angle to help scrape them clean.
Cut the tops and bottoms (stems and roots) off of the onions. Peel off any of the remaining dried, papery skin
Chop the onions into small-ish pieces. I find the easiest way to do this is to just cut them in half, place them flat-side down, make 2-3 cuts in one direction and then 2-3 cuts in another direction (at a 90 degree angle). If they're a little larger or smaller or funny-shaped, don't worry about it.
Put the diced onions aside for the moment while we prepare the garlic
The large unit of garlic is called a BULB, while the smaller section inside are called CLOVES. I strongly recommend you don't mix them up in recipes.
Like the onions, peel the papery bits off the garlic, then break it apart with your hands. I use a little more garlic than the recipe typically calls for because I really like it- about half a bulb. You should decide for yourself what amount seems good.
One of the most annoying issues when working with fresh garlic is peeling the last layers of skin off of the cloves. A neat trick is to slice the bottoms (where the cloves connect) off and put them in a small bowl with a lid.
Put the lid on and shake the bowl as hard as can for about 30-40 seconds. This will usually cause the skin to peel off entirely, or at least loosen it so it's much easier to pull off with your hands or the tip of a paring knife.
There are a couple videos on youtube on the best way to chop garlic if you want to look them up; I generally just rock the knife back and forth a bunch until the garlic is reduced to small pieces, no larger than the tip of your pinky finger.
Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and heat on medium heat.
Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (every 3-4 minutes).
Cover the pot if you want the onions to cook faster- they are done when they start to turn translucent.
When the onions are cooked, add the ground beef and cook for another 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure all the beef browns evenly.
Add the Chili powder and the next 8 ingredients (all the spices).
I like my food spicy, so I tend to add a bit more red pepper than the recipe says, but I'd recommend you go light on it at first. You can always add a little hot-sauce to the chili at the end if you want it spicier. I also find it useful to measure out everything into a small bowl first, that way if I mess up and spill something I don't ruin the entire pot of chili at once.
Mix well and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring at least once.
Pour the beef broth and the tomato juice into the pot. I usually use bullion cubes and make my own broth, because I think they're more convenient (they take up less space, keep longer, etc) but you can buy beef stock and use that as well.
I also don't like keeping half-used cans of tomato juice around the house, so I usually mix 2 cups of pasta sauce with 1 cup water and get pretty much the same result.
On the other hand, a half-empty can of tomato juice could be a great excuse to make a Bloody Mary, so you can decide for yourself whatever the best option is.
Bring the entire pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered for about 90 minutes.
This step is entirely optional. I've made the chili with and without beans- it's good both ways, you just have to decide how many (if any) beans you want. I'm using just one can this time, mostly for the sake of the recipe, but even if you're a person who REALLY likes beans, I'd recommend no more than one 15-oz can per pound of beef.
I rinse off the beans before adding them to the chili- I don't think all the bean-juice/water they're sitting in really adds to the final dish. I usually add the beans halfway through, so they cook for at least 45 minutes with the rest of the chili.
By the time the chili is almost done, the liquid should have been reduced by about 1/3rd.
Keeping the heat low, sprinkle in a small amount of cornmeal while stirring constantly. The cornmeal will cause the chili to thicken slightly, as well as absorbing some of the fat that cooks out of the beef so it doesn't just rise to the top.
Cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently, and your chili is done!
A lot of the time I'll serve the chili over white rice and topped with grated cheddar cheese, but I also think this recipe works great for chili-dogs, which are a guilty pleasure of mine.
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