In our family tradition of chili making, the beans are as essential as the meat. In fact, it wasn’t until adulthood that I even found out that people made it without beans! Something I will bend the rule on, however, is heat; as in spicy heat. Since I have a few little tummies to fill, our chili has to work for everyone in the house; which also means no visible chunks of tomatoes. I happen to like chunks of tomatoes in mine and I like it broth-y. I think this stems from elementary school lunch when I used to dip the paired peanut butter sandwich in it. (I own it. And I’ve added that option.) But my family’s preferences have influenced and shaped what our recipe is today… We think it’s perfect.
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion diced
3-4 cloves garlic minced
1 ¼ pound ground beef (this is a great time to use lean meat, like 92/8)
2 tsp salt
¾ tsp freshly ground pepper
1- 15 oz can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 hearty pinch of sugar
2- 15 oz cans red kidney beans
1- 15 oz can tri-bean blend
1- 15 oz can diced tomatoes (optional)
Tabasco sauce to taste (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot (or Dutch oven). Sauté the onions for about 2-3 minutes add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more. Add the beef and add half of the salt and pepper (because I am an advocate in seasoning your beef while it is cooking, especially in chili). Let the beef just turn almost completely brown (it will continue to cook, but you don’t want it overdone,) and drain off excess fat. Keep in mind if you are using lean meat that fat is flavor and a little left in the pot is ok… don’t get it dry. Add the tomato sauce and stir. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano and sugar. Stir and let mingle for a few minutes. Then add one whole can of beans including the bean liquid. (I love using the bean liquid for a thickening agent, because it’s already bean flavored and since a use organic beans I’m not worried about it.) Now add the next two cans of beans rinsed and drained, because we don’t need the extra liquid. If you and your family like chunks of tomatoes in your chili, add that now too; and maybe another pinch of sugar for balance. Let simmer for about 30 minutes, and add the remaining salt and pepper. If you want a little heat, add a couple dashes of Tabasco sauce. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste. Let cool slightly before serving.
This hearty soup is great in the fall when things start to get cool and all winter long. It’s also perfect in Michigan in late May and early June… when it’s 60 degrees and blustery outside. My kids like their chili with oyster crackers. Owen likes it with corn chips, sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese. I love chili with corn bread; corn bread or peanut butter sandwiches. Serve with the prepared toppings and sides of your choice… And enjoy!