Fall is chili time in my house. There is nothing better than a bowl of chili while watching a football game. There are as many chili recipes as there are ingredients. The name chili coming from the spice (or chile peppers) used to flavor the dish. I’ve eaten vegetarian chilis, ground turkey chilis, chili with beans, and chilis with beef or pork. Ground meat, chunks of meat, beans, no beans. I like them all but I put chili into 2 categories, green or red. Green chili uses the roasted but essentially raw green chile peppers while red uses the roasted, dried and ground red chile powders. 2 distinct but equally delicious chilis. I also find it interesting the dish is spelled “chili” whereas the pepper is spelled “chile”. The spelling may be debated but the dish is undoubtedly a cornerstone of great comfort food. Like soups, stews, and gumbo, chili deserves a seat on the board and a place at the table. In a world where “fresh” is equated with “best” it’s hard to deny that chili may be better the next day.
Beans or no beans? Traditional chili recipes have no beans. As meat became more expensive beans were added as a filler (and thickener). Most commercial chilis contain beans. In fact in some of the chilis, they are almost all beans, making it hard to find the meat, even though it’s listed on the package. Some contain several kinds of beans, kidney, red, pinto, white, etc. When it comes to beans, I like them in red chili but not in green. Spending time in wonderful SW Colorado, where Pinto beans were a big part of weekly meals, it takes me back home.
RED CHILI WITH TRI TIP
- 5 lbs. of Tri Tip, trimmed of visible fat and cubed into 1 inches pieces
- 4 cups of yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves of minced fresh garlic
- 4 cups low sodium beef stock
- 5 cups minced tomatoes with juice
- 3 Tablespoons mild chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ cup plus 4 Tablespoons Canola oil
- ½ cup unbleached flour
- 1 ½ cups cooked Pinto beans (optional)
- 1 stalkcelery finely diced (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Trim the Tri Tip (bottom sirloin) of all visible fat and cut into I” cubes. Heat a heavy stock pot on high and add 1 Tablespoon of Canola oil. Brown the meat in batches covering the bottom of the pan. Do not immediately stir. After the meat starts to release its juices, stir. Pour the meat (and juice) into a large bowl. Repeat until all meat is browned. Turn the heat to medium and add the onions and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes scraping any meat bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the tomatoes, beef, stock, and beans (if adding) into the pot. Stir while adding the chili powder and cayenne. Taste for spice. In a separate heavy skillet or sauce pan add the remaining ½ cup of Canola oil. Heat on medium high until the oil begins to smoke. Make a roux adding the flour a little at a time whisking as you go. When all the flour is added, continue to stir, browning the flour. I like a medium brown roux for this chili which is about the color of milk chocolate. When the roux is done, carefully add to the chili. It may spit and splatter. Stir into the chili and turn the chili down to simmer. Stir frequently. !/2 hour before serving add the finely minced celery (optional) and adjust spice for heat. Red chili can be eaten after a few hours of simmering but really gets good after about hour 4.
Tips: I like Tri Tip because the meat is moist and tender. The cut contains enough fat to not dry out over time. If you prefer ground meat in your chili, have your butcher grind a few Tri Tips. Some of the supermarkets have gone to a single grind plate (saves them money) but a few of the better stores will still offer a few choices. The coarsest grind is often called the chili plate, has the biggest holes and leaves the meat in nice spoon filling pieces. Leaner cuts of beef like round or sirloin tip dry out and lack the flavor to hold up to the big chile spices.
On the side: I like to put sharp cheddar cheese in my chili, either white or yellow. I like the silky texture of the melted cheese against the chewiness of the meat. The cheese also cuts the heat if the chili is spicy. I also like to eat my red chili with cornbread, warm cornbread with melting butter and a little honey.
What about wine? I like a big spicy red wine with my red chili. A big foothill’s Zinfandel suits me just fine. Give me a blue collar bottle that doesn’t back down when the food is spicy. There are many great choices for less than $15.
Grab a heavy bowl, ladle in the chili, drop in the cheese, slice the corn bread, pour the wine, turn on the game and enjoy a great fall meal. Make a big batch because tomorrow it will taste even better.