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How To Make Perfect Chili To Feed A Crowd

Updated: Feb 15

Chili is an approachable an comforting staple, but it can definitely be elevated. By forgoing the chili powder in favor of a homemade chili paste, we end up with a product that is so much tastier. This is my ultimate chili recipe, beans included.



Ingredients

1 lb ground beef

1 whole yellow onion

1 green bell pepper

2 celery sticks

1 jalapeno pepper

3 garlic cloves

4 New Mexico Dried chiles

2 chipotles from a can of chipotle in adobo

2 tbsp tomato paste

3/4 cup of light lager or pilsner

3 cups beef broth

2 tbsp worchestershire sauce

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 can red kidney beans

1 can pinto beans

1 tbsp cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp sugar

1 tbsp cayenne pepper based hot sauce


We’ll start our prep by removing the stems from our dried red chiles. Take the tops off and then open them with your hands and pull out the seeds. The seeds add a bitter flavor that we don’t want in the final dish. Place the peppers in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the hot water soften the dry exterior of the chilies. This will allow us to blend them into a smooth paste later.


Dice your bell pepper, celery, and onion and set those into one bowl. We’ve got a jalapeno to dice, which is easy enough! Cut off the top stem, and cut it in half so we can remove the core. I like to just hold it over the bowl and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and ribs. Dice each side of the jalapeno and set it aside from the larger veggies.


For garlic, I have pretty much one way that I like to break it down these days. I take the peel off, and I grate it on my microplane. These are super cheap and have made my garlic prep so much faster. Take 3 cloves and grate them into a fine paste. Set that aside with the jalapeno, we’ll put these into the pan after the other veggies have cooked for a little, as they are more likely to burn.


Our chiles have now been sitting long enough for the hot water to completely soften them. Now place your chiles in a blender with a half cup of the soaking water (this doesn’t have to be exact), 2 chipotle peppers from a jar of chipotles in adobo and let that blend until its really smooth.


We’ll move over to the stove and begin heating out pot over medium high heat. Add in a touch of oil once your pan is nice and hot, and then add in 1 pound of lean-ish ground beef (90/10 is good here). This is going to crowd the pan and drop the temperature, so give this some time to get hot. I don’t like doing this in stages cause it’s too much moving around, I simply keep the pan hot and move the meat around as needed. First the meat will go grey, then it will leach a bunch of water, and then it will begin to fry and brown. You’ll hear the change occur, so keep an ear out.


Season this with salt and pepper now, we’ll keep adding more seasoning each step of the way, this is how you end up with a properly seasoned dish. Once the meat is totally browned and broken up, we can remove it from the pan and turn the heat down to a medium low. If there isn’t enough oil left in the pan, add a little more so there’s enough to cook our veggies. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper into the pan and begin mixing to scrape up the browned bits from the meat. The veggies have a little water that should allow us to get some of these bits up. Keep the pan over medium low and really let these soften. Add in salt and pepper, and keep them moving until they’re translucent, soft and starting to brown slightly. We can now add our jalapeno and garlic, these really don’t need much time in the heat. If at any point during this process, something looks like it’s about to burn, add in a little water and scrape that section of the pan.


Move your veggies to the side and squeeze in 2 tbsp of tomato paste. If we let that tomato paste brown slightly, it will take away the raw bitter tomato flavor. You’ll start to see everything on the bottom turn deeply brown, that’s the point where you can crack a light beer and pour in about 3/4 of a cup. Use that liquid to scrape up everything stuck to the bottom of the pan. This is called deglazing and it’s super important for flavor. If you don’t use alcohol, simply replace it with beef stock.


The beer needs a little time to cook out, so let the liquid go down by about half. Add your meat back in along with the chili paste we made. This isn’t enough liquid on it’s own, so lets add 3 cups of beef stock. Season this with 2 tbsp of Worchestershire sauce, 1 tbsp of soy sauce, 1 tbsp of cumin, 1 tsp of garlic powder, 1 tsp of onion powder, and 1/2 tsp of sugar. If you’ve got brown sugar, even better. You won’t end up with a sweet chili, it’s just barely enough to bring some balance to the richness.


Beans are really contentious in chili for some reason. As a kid, I always hated them. As I approach 30, though , it feels like a good idea to not just eat a bowl of red meat, so I like beans in mine. 1 can of drained red kidney, and 1 can of drained pinto beans go in


Add in a few big pinches of salt, a ton of black pepper and let this come up to a burbling simmer. We’re gonna let this simmer uncovered for quite a while, at least an hour. During this time, the sauce will become thick, the chilis will impart their soft subtle heat, and the whole dish becomes cohesive. Taste it right now and it’s not gonna taste right, wait an hour and it’s going to be amazing. Give the pot a stir every 10 minutes or so, but as long as your heat isn’t too high, you won’t have to baby it.


After the hour is up, the the liquid level should be right around where the solids are. If you have a ton of liquid in the pot, you can turn the heat up a little and stir it until it’s thickened to your liking. This process of cooking out some of the liquid in a dish is called reducing, and you’ll see it a lot in recipes. If you do end up turning the heat up to reduce it, be sure to stir so nothing burns, any burning at this point would completely ruin the flavor. Just for a final little bit of heat and acid, I add a few dashes of a cayenne based hot sauce, usually around 1 tbsp of it. Taste this for final salt levels, if you have a lighter pinch than I do, you may need a little more at the end. Continue making adjustments until it’s to your taste preference, this is what people mean when they say salt to taste.


This is now ready to serve, and the choice is totally up to you! Do you want shredded cheese and diced onion, go for it? Do you want this over some fritos, I love it. Mk crumbles tortilla chips and puts that on hers, but the best option is easily a side of cornbread. The chili is perfectly spiced, warm, comforting and filling. It’s my favorite way to make chili.

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Hey, I'm Cameron, and I'm glad you're here. I post new recipes every week, all intended to build your confidence in the kitchen, each one with video tutorials to help. Craving something specific? Drop me a note in my contact form! 

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