Chili at Its Best

(March 5, 2021) There is nothing more comforting on a cold, dreary day than a bowl of spicy chili and an ice-cold beer.

The steamy, savory dish graces menus across America, and the array of toppings is just as delectable. Shredded cheese, chopped onions, minced jalapeños and sour cream are just a few tempting ways we personalize the wintery dish.

But as one is salivating every little bite, do you know the history of this famous dish? One should never assume, you might be surprised.

The origin of chili encompasses an irrefutable subject of uncertainty. Certitude is not included in this dish of meat, beans and peppers.

While many food historians agree that chili is an American dish with Mexican roots, Mexicans are said to indignantly deny any association with it.

According to National Chili Day, one theory to support such a claim is the possibility that Sister Mary Agreda, a Spanish nun in the early 1600s who never left the convent, had out-of-body experiences in which her spirit was transported across the Atlantic to preach Christianity to the Indians.

After one of her trips, her spirit wrote down the first recipe for chili con carne.

On a more realistic note, most historians agree the earliest written description of chili con carne came from J.C. Clopper, who resided near Houston. His book of memoranda included his visit to San Antonia in 1828.

He observed how the poor would cut meat into small portions to make it last longer and stew it with peppers. Although his description does not mention “chili,” there is certainly a close correlation.

In the 1880s, a market in San Antonio started serving chili con and the dish soon became a tourist favorite.

It was featured at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893 at the San Antonio Chili Stand, and needless to say, the rest is history.

If chili wets your tastebuds, following are a few tips for fabulous chili.

Most chili seasoning packets call for water; use stock or flavored broths. Beef is the obvious choice. However, the addition of chicken stock and beer will give the chili base much more complexity.

In addition, veal demi-glace will add a flavor profile that is unmatched. Veal demi-glace is optional but well worth the extra money. This product can be purchased online.

Finely chopped zucchini, squash and carrots will break down during the long cooking process and will act as a natural thickener and also add a veggie boost to the hearty meat dish.

Beans or no beans are up to the individual cook. But if one decides to add beans, consider black and cannellini beans in addition to the tradition kidney beans. Variation adds to the creativity, which produces a more interesting chili.

Thicken the chili base with a slurry of corn starch and chili broth. A thickened base will support the richness of ingredients.

Always cook chili in a heavy-bottomed pot. This helps reduce the chances of burning.

Chili needs time to rest so the flavors can come together. As a result, I make the chili the day before I am planning to serve it.

Preparing chili is a time-consuming process. It is best to make a big pot so you can freeze leftovers for future use.

Chili can be served by itself or over pasta, rice or fries. Do not forget the toppings. They are just as important as the chili itself.

Spring is around the corner, but March can be a beast. What better way to warm your tummy than a bowl of mouthwatering chili? Enjoy!

Chili at Its Best

Ingredients

6 pounds of ground beef

1 pound Italian sweet sausage, casings removed and crumbled

1 pound Italian hot sausage, casings removed and crumbled

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 large yellow onions, chopped

8 cloves garlic, minced

8 stalks celery (including the leaves), chopped

1 red, yellow, orange and poblano pepper, seeded, stems removed, and chopped

2 small yellow squashes

2 zucchinis

2 carrots

6 cups chicken stock

6 cups beef stock

3 cups water

2 (12 oz.) cans of favorite beer

3 tablespoons veal demi-glace

2 (28 oz.) cans of whole tomatoes, seeded, chopped, and reserve the tomato water

8 (1.25 oz.) favorite chili seasoning packets

3 teaspoons corn starch

2 (15.25 oz.) cans of dark kidney beans, drained

1 (15.25 oz.) cans of dark beans, drained

1 (15.25 oz.) cans of cannellini beans, drained

1. In a large Dutch oven or large pressure cooker, sauté ground beef over medium heat until it is fully cooked. Drain the meat to remove excess fat, set aside.

2. In the same pan, sauté sausages until the meat is fully cooked. Remove the meat, keeping the sausage fat in the pan.

3. Combine olive oil with the fat.

4. Add the onions, garlic, celery and peppers, and sauté until they become soft, about 7 minutes.

5. In the meantime, remove the seeds from the squash and zucchini, but keep the skins intact. Quarter the vegetables and finely chop in a food processor. Peel the carrots, quarter them and finely chop in a food processor.

6. Add the cooked meat, carrots, zucchini, squash, stocks, water, beer, demi-glace, tomatoes, and chili seasonings to the onion mixture. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook with the lid on for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Add a slurry of 3 teaspoons of chili broth and 3 teaspoons of cornstarch. Adjust seasonings if necessary. If the chili is a touch too salty, add the tomato water. Stir and cook for another 30 minutes with the lid on.

7. Add the beans and cook for the final 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow chili to rest until it has completely cooled. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

8. Serve chili with your favorite condiments.

Secret Ingredient – Assumptions. “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.”

– Jonathan Swift

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