A spicy mixture of ground beef, vegetables and beans provides a flavor of Texas in a delicious, familiar and satisfying one-dish meal.
Chili is the original convenience food of the frontier that developed in the American Southwest as it was settled by westward expansion. Cattlemen would use almost any available meat, ground or roughly chopped, with a blend of peppers and spices that might cover up flavors of less-than-prime cuts. The “beans versus no-beans” argument is tiresome, and purists ignore the fact of the Mexican influence in the development of this dish.
Any red meat works well including lamb, venison, elk or bison, and even ground chicken or turkey can be substituted. Pinto beans are the best accompaniment with their mild texture and flavor, and they can easily be omitted or served on the side. At least one whole jalapeño is necessary for flavor but more and hotter chiles can be added per personal preference.
The choice of beer is important: A light lager will add liquid but little flavor, and a heavy stout may bring more roast and sugar than desired for a savory balance. Vienna lager, Oktoberfest, bock or brown/amber ale are best as they contribute a toasty caramel element and moderate malt sweetness as they cook down. Avoid hoppy or bitter beers.
The only essential elements in chili are meat and chili powder, and the selected blend of spices is open to individual interpretation. This recipe can serve as a base template that is customizable in many different ways and for a variety of ingredients, and leftovers only improve with age.
Garnish with chopped green or white onion, shredded cheese and sour cream. Serve with salty crackers or homemade cornbread.
Chili con Carne
1½ lb ground sirloin
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic
14.5-oz can of tomatoes (diced)
14.5-oz can of pinto beans
¼ c corn meal
12-oz bottle of beer
1 T chili powder
1 t ground cumin
½ T oregano
1 Sauté the beef in oil over medium heat until well browned.
2 Dice the bell pepper and onion, and mince the garlic and jalapeño. Add to the beef and cook until soft, about 5-10 min.
3 Add the spices in layers, stirring the mixture well to incorporate each.
4 Finely chop the cilantro and add along with the corn meal. Stir until well mixed.
5 Add the tomatoes, beans and beer. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to a low simmer and reduce to thicken, uncovered, for about 1 hr.
(Optional: Cool and refrigerate overnight, then bring back to temperature over low heat before serving. The flavors and textures improve over time.)