Submitted by Vanessa Gillard
Chili con carne, or just plain old “chili” if you like, is the absolute perfect meal to dig into after nestling into your scarf and heading out for a walk as the days get shorter and the temperatures lower. Throw all your favourite ingredients into your slow cooker in the morning and like magic you have a steamy bowl of comfort awaiting your arrival. But if you want to stay within the parameters of classic chili con carne then make sure you add chiles “chili” and meat “carne.” Many people include beans, though some chili purists insist that’s a travesty.
Chili as we know it originated in Mexico but was popularized in the States as early as 1863 at The Chicago World’s Fair where The San Antonio Chili Stand debuted this humble dish to enthusiastic Northerners. Chili is the official food of the state of Texas. Around the turn of the last century, Texans discovered it by way of “chili queens,” Mexican women who would build cooking fires at dawn and cook giant pots of chili to sell to hungry passersby.
You can make chili from scratch with whatever chiles and spices you have around, but a pre-mixed chili powder will get you to the same place. The Silk Road has three varieties of chili powder: mild, hot and Mayan, plus a huge variety of whole and ground chiles.
Chili has so many incarnations that almost everyone has a recipe they prefer and gosh if it isn’t good on just about anything, right? We at the shop had been throwing around the idea of a chili cook-off for quite some time, so a couple weeks ago, a few people brought in their favourites and we had ourselves a chili feast. We didn’t declare a winner, but the recipes are below.
This lamb chili has a savoury almost gravy-like texture to it. Delicious!
Lamb Chili with Masa Harina Dumplings
Submitted by Jess
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Makes 6 to 8 servings
For the chili:
10 dried New Mexico chiles
3¼ lb boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch pieces
½ tsp black pepper
1¼ tsp salt
3 Tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, chopped (around 2 cups)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
2 tsp ground cumin
1½ tsp dried oregano
3 Tbsp finely chopped chipotle chiles in adobo
6 cups water
28 oz can of black beans
For the dumplings:
¾ cup masa harina (corn flour)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup cold lard or unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¾ cup well-shaken buttermilk
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
- Simmer dried chiles in 2 cups water, covered, until very soft (about 20 minutes). Reserve ¾ cup cooking liquid, and then drain in a colander. Stem the chiles (do not remove seeds), then purée in a blender with reserved cooking liquid until smooth. Force the purée through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.
- Pat the lamb dry, then sprinkle with pepper and 1 tsp salt. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a big, heavy pot, then brown lamb in 4 batches (without crowding), turning occasionally (about 5 minutes per batch). Transfer to a bowl.
- Add remaining Tbsp oil to pot, then cook onion, garlic, bay leaves, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened (4 to 5 minutes). Add cumin and oregano and cook, stirring frequently, 1 minute.
- Stir in reserved chile purée and chipotles and simmer, stirring frequently and scraping up brown bits from bottom of pot, 5 minutes. Add the beans and lamb along with any juices accumulated in bowl and the remaining 4 cups water, then bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until lamb is tender (about 2½ hours).
- For the dumplings, stir together masa harina, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Blend in lard or butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk, stirring just until dough is moistened (do not overmix).
- Skim the fat off the chili and discard the bay leaves. Drop 8 or 9 heaping Tbsp of dough onto the simmering chili, about 2 inches apart. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer, covered, until tops of dumplings are dry to the touch (15 to 20 minutes). Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
The addition of cilantro and sour cream give this chili recipe a nice rounded flavour.
Mexican White Bean Chili with Pork Belly and Prosciutto
Submitted by Jenny
**This is a very free-style recipe. All ingredient quantities are approximate.
2 cups dry white beans
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 medium or 2 small zuccinnis
2 cups chopped celery
1 whole onion
1 cup chopped green onion
3 Tbsp ground aji amarillo
3 Tbsp ground ancho chiles
1 Tbsp ground coriander
6 oz pork belly
3-4 Tbsp Mexican oregano
5 pieces of chopped prosciutto
2 cups canned corn
¼ cup lime juice
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp cracked black pepper
- Whether using a slow cooker or the stovetop, you’ll need to soak the beans overnight. After soaking, rinse the beans then cook them in the chicken stock on medium heat for at least an hour until they’re soft.
- Sear the pork belly in oil. Add the Mexican oregano and lime juice.
- Add the pork to the pot of beans along with all the other ingredients.
- Simmer on low heat for 4-6 hours.
- Serve with fresh cilantro, sour cream and corn chips or tortillas.
A more traditional take on chili than the others, this recipe showcases the chiles and the roasted cumin creme fraiche is the perfect topper.
Smoky Bison and Black Bean Chili
Submitted by Colin
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Until recently, every time I’ve thought about making chili, I’ve cast around for the perfect recipe. I can never remember which recipe of the 15 I can find in my various books is the one I like. I read them all, and end up using bits and pieces of each of them. The next time, it’s the same story all over again. Was it the “Beef and Vegetable Chili” or the “Hearty Beef Chili?” Did I prefer kidney beans or black beans?
I finally decided to get down on paper the approximate formula for the way I’ve made it the last few times. This recipe, to me, brings together all the good things about the infinite possibilities of chili-making. Bison instead of beef (leaner, healthier, greener). Whole chiles. Dark beer. Black beans. Chipotles.
The great thing about chili is that you can do whatever you like. Add corn. Substitute your favourite beans. Make it hotter…or milder. There’s nothing more forgiving than a pot of chili.
I consider this a recipe-in-progress. It’s adapted from about five other recipes, and I’ll probably make it differently next time.
For the chili:
2 lbs ground bison (or, okay, beef. But come on.)
¼ cup olive oil (bison is so lean that a bit of oil is necessary for browning)
1 large onion, diced (doesn’t really matter what colour. Red are nice.)
4 cloves garlic, minced (non-negotiable)
½ of a red pepper
½ of a green pepper
2 whole ancho chiles
1 whole pasilla chile
½ can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 bottle dark ale (I won’t insist on a brand)
1 litre good chicken stock
2 large cans diced tomatoes (including the juice)
2 tbsp honey
2 cans black beans, rinsed well (or a good double handful of dried beans, soaked overnight)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper
- Tear the stems off the whole ancho and pasilla chiles and shake out most of the seeds. The more seeds you leave in, the hotter the chili will be. In a dry pan, sear the chiles on high heat for 3 mintues, pressing down on both sides with a spatula. Toss them in a blender with the chipotles in adobo sauce, the beer and just enough of the chicken stock so that they blend well. Blend to a smooth consistency.
- Heat the oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven. Season the bison with salt and pepper and brown. Set aside.
- Add the onions to the pan and cook slowly until soft (add a bit more oil if necessary). Add garlic for one minute and then red and green peppers. Sauté slowly for 5 minutes or so. Add the cumin and Mexican oregano, then the blended chile sauce and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the bison, the rest of the stock, the tomatoes and the honey. If you are using soaked dried beans, add them at this point, too. Bring to a boil and reduce to low. Simmer for a good hour (by the way, this isn’t a good recipe for quick-dinner nights) with the lid on. This step is key: it takes at least an hour for all the ingredients to come together and turn into chili. Up until that point (and you’ll know when it happens) it will look too soupy . If it’s taking too long, you can take off the lid, turn up the heat and boil it down to a good consistency. When you feel like you’re getting there, add in the black beans for the final 10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice just before serving. Season with salt and pepper if needed.
- I like to eat this with sour cream that has toasted cumin seeds stirred into it. And tortillas. And maybe some fresh avocado slices. Cilantro? Your call.