In my humble culinary opinion chili is a dish that can be served year-round. I know that it’s more popular in the fall and winter, but I enjoy a good bowl year-round. Just make sure if you’re eating chili in the summer, you’re in air-conditioning.

This recipe calls for kidney beans, I also like a full meat chili with no beans and have used sliced steak, instead of the ground beef and sometimes I have added kielbasa, or andouille sausage to my chili to add a good alternative to the beans. Some people enjoy chili with rice or over pasta, I don’t, I prefer to get the full chili flavor from my dish.

Spices are so important to a good bowl of chili. If you can let the spices blend and hang out in the pot for as long as you can, you’ll get a more flavorful bowl of chili. Heat is an important additive but not so much heat that you lose the flavor of the chili. I’ve had that experience. I like it spicy but when it’s so spicy your taste buds and palate overall are numb to the flavor and your mind is more concerned with the heat than the flavor than you’re losing the concept of serving a good tasteful bowl of chili.

The great thing about chili is that if you make a big pot, once cooled, the leftovers can be stored in the freezer and ready for you after the beach, ski slopes, in front of the TV or with family and friends around the table.

Many have said to me that chili isn’t family friendly, meaning that the kids won’t like it because of the powerful spices. If you’re concerned about that you’re correct. It’s just as easy to make a kids batch next to the big pot of regular chili. For the kids go easy on the spice and maybe you throw it over pasta. It’s a great opportunity for the kids to be exposed to the flavors of an iconic dish.

Enjoy my chili and let me know how you like it.

You'll need:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or corn oil
2 cups medium onions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 tablespoons minced or pressed garlic (approx. 6 medium cloves)
¼ cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 dash cinnamon
freshly ground pepper to taste (I like lots!)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 ½ pounds 85 percent lean ground beef (or 3 lbs. of sliced sirloin steak in chunks)
2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1 can (28 oz.) tomato puree
2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt & pepper to taste (yes, again!)
½ cup chicken broth (only if chili starts to stick to the bottom of pan)

How to put it together:

Heat oil in large, heavy-bottomed, non-reactive Dutch oven over medium heat until simmering but not smoking, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, oregano, cinnamon, freshly ground pepper and cayenne.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add beef if you are using sirloin chunks. Add all the beef at this time cooking until seared on the outside all the way around. If you are using ground beef then add half the amount breaking it up with a wooden spoon until no longer pink and just beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Do the same for remaining half (just easier in stages).

Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato paste and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove cover and continue to simmer 1 hour longer, stirring occasionally. If chili begins to stick to bottom of pot, stir in 1/2 cup chicken broth and continue to simmer until beef is tender and chili is rich and dark.

Adjust seasoning for your taste.Slow Cooker Option: At the end of step 1, transfer the cooked beef mixture to a slow cooker; add the rest of ingredients as directed in step 2. Cook the chili on the high setting for four hours.

I like to top with shredded Colby cheese, chopped Vidalia onions, chopped jalapenos and of course, sour cream. Wash it down with a cold beer but don’t forget to chill the glass!

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The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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