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Time for Chili

Time for Chili

A big pot of chili, steaming hot and pleasantly spicy, is a great family meal. How you make it depends on personal preferences and idiosyncrasies.

By FamilyTime

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Most folks think of ground meat mixed with pinto beans and spoonfuls of chili powder when they think of chili, and indeed this is a classic mixture. But the redolent stew can be made with numerous other ingredients, most hand chosen by the cook who feels his or her chili is “the best.”

A Passion for Chili
Chili evokes strong feelings in aficionados. Some chili cooks are so passionate about their recipes they compete in chili cook-offs with other like-minded people.

Some home cooks feel strongly about using only certain brands of chili powder. Many rely on pure ancho chili powder, which is made from mild, dark red ancho chilis. (Ancho is the name for dried poblano chilis.)

Others never add tomatoes to their chili; some wouldn’t dream of leaving them out. Some cooks thicken the stew with cornmeal, others let slow, lengthy cooking thicken it. Some people season chili with cilantro, others cannot abide its flavor.

Meat or Not?
Chili “con carne” is chili “with meat.” This implies that some chilis have no meat. This is true. Some rely on beans and vegetables alone for body and texture.

Once the decision to use meat is made, however, the type becomes an issue for many chili cooks. Some insist that it should never be chopped or ground meat but instead good chuck or round beef cut into chunks – in other words, stew meat.

Others prefer ground beef. While still others make chili with ground turkey, chunks of pork, or chicken.

What about Beans?
Some chilis are bean-free. Very basic ones are nothing more than chunks of beef or pork and chilies – those small, spicy vegetables that give the dish its name.

If you add beans, most cooks suggest red pinto beans, although black beans are preferred by some. Canned beans are fine with most people but purists use only dried beans they have cooked themselves.

Chili Powder of Chili Peppers?
Most home cooks depend on chili powder to give chili its distinctive, mild spiciness. This is a blending of ground dried chilis, cumin, oregano, garlic, cloves, and coriander.

While all spice companies package chili powder, some smaller, regional companies sell specialty blends, which are fun to try. Take care; some of these are extremely spicy.

In addition to chili powder, many cooks add fresh or dried chilis. These tiny vegetables are powerhouses of heat. Frequently, a little bit goes far.

Among the hottest chilis are habanero, Scotch bonnet, árbol, serrano, pequin, and jalapeno. Milder ones include Anaheim and poblano.

What is the Best Chili?
The best chili is the one you make to your own liking. Follow our recipes and then embellish on your own.

Determine if your family likes its chili fiery or mild, with chopped or cubed meat. Do they want bell peppers and tomatoes? Pinto beans? The choice is yours.

Serve your chili with freshly made cornbread. Put bowls of sour cream, shredded jack or Cheddar cheese, and chopped chilis on the table for garnish and then watch your family happily enjoy the feast.


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