Thursday, July 14, 2011

This wasn't what I planned on, but it's chili

I had some ground beef on hand, and planned on making some sort of spaghetti-like thing, but the weather was hot and spaghetti seemed ... I don't know ... not what I wanted.

Spicy food can be very appealing in hot weather, so I decided to use the beef to make some chili.

Usually when I make chili, I cook dried beans ahead of time. It's cheaper, and it's easy to do. But this was a last-minute change of menu, so I bought some canned beans. Still a ridiculously cheap and filling dinner. And the spice hit the spot.

Sure, it's not a traditional chili, but I've never been a chili purist, anyway.

Last-Minute Chili

1/2 pound ground beef
1 yellow onion
1 green pepper
2 jalepenos
1 14.5-oz. can petite diced tomatoes
2 16-oz. cans beans (pinto, kidney or your choice)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup beer, wine or stock

Put a heavy pot - a dutch oven is perfect - on medium heat, and add the ground beef. Peel the onion, chop haphazardly into smallish pieces, and add to the pot. Remove the core and seeds from the bell pepper, chop using the same technique as the onion, and add it to the pot.

Now it's decision time. The jalepenos will add a different amount of heat, depending on whether you leave the seeds in or not. If you leave the seeds in, the chili will be much hotter. If you want it really mild, you can cut back to one pepper - or half. It's up to you. I removed the seeds and core from one, and left them in the second one.

Chop the jalapenos finely and add them to the pot.

Cook, stirring as needed and breaking up the ground beef as you go, until the vegetables are softened and the beef is no longer pink.

Add the tomatoes to the pot. Drain the liquid from the beans and add the beans to the pot as well. Add the cumin and salt and the cup of liquid. I prefer beer or wine, but stock or water would be fine as well. Stir to combine. Turn up the heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook on low until you're ready to serve.

The longer you cook the chili, the more the flavors will mingle. Fifteen minutes is fine, a half-hour is good. An hour would be even better. Just keep it simmering on low.

If the chili ends up a little too spicy for your taste a dollop of sour cream or yogurt will mellow it a bit.