Chili Days Ahead

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It’s getting colder and you’re getting busier. You need a one-pot meal to feed the masses — family, guests or anyone coming over to your house for a little grub. It doesn’t have to be complicated or get every piece of equipment in the kitchen dirty.
Go for quick and simple, but spectacular. Chili can fulfill your need for quick and simple preparation in a relatively short time.
Most people have time to start chili, but the stirring and finishing is where time management becomes an issue. Hybrid cooking is the answer; toss the pot into the oven and go about your business.
Hybrid cooking starts with direct and ends with indirect heat. You need the direct heat of the burner to brown the meat, onions, garlic and peppers. After things get seared, you are fine with a much lower heat to cook the rest of the ingredients, meld the flavors and thicken the chili. The typical second step for chili is cooking it over a low direct heat, which needs your attention to stir, make sure the bottom is not sticking, and add more liquid if too much evaporates.
By finishing the chili in the oven, you can work on other things and not worry about the bottom scorching. The indirect heat throughout the oven slowly cooks the chili to perfection, melds the flavors and evaporates just the right amount to thicken.There are a few other tweaks in this chili recipe that you won’t recognize when you taste it, but afterward you can appreciate the benefits.
 

Beer
Lots of chili recipes use beer. The malt brings a different kind of sweetness. Depending on what type of beer you use, it can add other flavors. I use a stout, like Guinness, but any other stout will also work. The deep flavor adds depth to the flavor of the chili, as well as a dark coffee color.

Vinegar
Another tweak is balsamic vinegar. This adds a different kind of acidity as well as some sweetness. It is not overpowering, but it helps balance the other sweetness in the chili with the addition of a little tang.

Masa Harina
Add masa harina to chili not so much for flavor but more for consistency. Masa harina is flour made from ground cornmeal. It is typically used to make tortillas and tamales but it can also thicken the chili at the end of cooking. You can get the consistency you want without a roux or having to wait for the flour taste to cook out.


Beef And Pork Chili

1 pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork
2 onions, small diced
2 peppers, small diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
28-ounce can diced tomatoes
16-ounce can kidney beans or ½ pound dried kidney beans (see notes for cooking dry beans)
6-ounce can tomato paste
1 pint brown stock or broth
12 to 16 ounces of stout (can be replaced with another pint of stock)
½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne
1½ to 2 tablespoons ground cumin
1½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh oregano minced (if using dry, use ½ tablespoon and add with cayenne and cumin)
More balsamic vinegar to taste if needed
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ to ½ cup masa harina corn flour

Brown ground beef and pork in pan over medium high heat. Add onions and peppers and cook until they become fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2 to 4 minutes, then add tomatoes and tomato paste and stir.

Cook until tomato paste and tomatoes are incorporated into dish. Add cooked beans and stir to incorporate. Add stock, beer, cayenne and cumin. Stir all ingredients together and place pan into 350-degree oven. Let chili bake in oven uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes.

Chili will form a skin on top as it thickens. Remove from oven and stir crust that has formed on top back into chili and add fresh oregano. Slowly whisk masa harina into chili until chili is slightly thinner than desired (it will thicken more after masa harina has absorbed more liquid). Season with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Variations:

  • Soak dry beans in 1 pint of water for 24 hours; add another pint of water and simmer over low heat until tender.
  • Use half-inch cubes of beef, add 1 cup of water and cook 45 minutes to an hour in the oven until beef is tender.
  • To help thicken, take 1 to 2 cups of cooked chili out of the pot and purée or pulse with a hand blender a couple times.

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