the best chili con carne

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chili con carne It’s disgracefully cold here today, especially considering that spring officially starts in two weeks. With the temperature at around -20C today, I just can’t see that the crocusses are going to start popping up any time soon.

So what better way to comfort ourselves but with a big bowl of chili con carne, steamed broccoli with cheddar cheese and cheddar cheese cornmeal biscuits? Maybe the cold weather isn’t so bad after all….

I know I’ve said it before but I just can’t help myself from saying it just one more time: I really do make the best chili con carne!

It’s true that I don’t do a lot of the cooking. Sure, I make all our bread, quick pasta dishes, the occasional cake…. But T is the chef here. He really is the best. And I usually bow to him when he tastes something and says it needs just a little of this or that.

However, I will NOT let him fool around with my chili con carne. If I have to go out, I know he’ll sneak over to the pot and want to add something. So I leave ingredients on the counter and give express instructions that if he is going to add anything, he can only use THOSE ingredients.

So what is the secret to making really great chili con carne? I think there are three main reasons that our chili is so great:

  • I blacken whole dried cayenne chillies.
  • The meat is really browned – dark brown in some places.
  • I make my own chili powder.
  • (Hey!! that’s four!) I do not use canned beans and generally include at least two kinds of beans. Today’s chili con carne has kidney, black, Romano, and navy beans. The chilli would probably be almost as good if I used canned beans but there is a wonderful sweetness to beans that have been soaked overnight and cooked to just the right consistency and then salted to arrest the softening. Canned beans are often so mushy and flat tasting, not to mention, overly salted.
  • (Hey!!! that’s five!!) I make the chili in the morning and leave it on a very slow simmer for several hours. The flavours meld and it just gets better and better.

Here is our recipe:

This entry was posted in food & drink, main course, spicy on by .

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11 responses to “the best chili con carne

  1. Ed Bruske

    You put so much love into your chili, I am really impressed. Also gratified that there is another chili lover out there willing to make the effort. You might get some arguments about the beans in your chili, and about using chili powder instead of rendered chilis. For a Texas version taken directly from the source, check The Slow Cook: Real Texas Chili.

    Rock on!

  2. ejm Post author

    Yes, indeed it does taste better the next day, Paz. And if there’s hardly any left over, one of the things I love to do with small amounts of left-over chili is to put it on lightly toasted bread with some cheddar cheese and then bake it until the cheese is bubbly.

    Ed, I use both rendered and powdered chilies. And don’t forget that I am powdering the cayenne chillies myself. No beans in chile con carne?? I’ve heard of that but I just cannot imagine the dish without beans. They add such a wonderful flavour. (heading over to see a Texas version…)

  3. MrsBrown

    I hesitate to write this but I make chili with tofu (and beans). One of my sisters came to visit who was a little leery of tofu. I assured her that I grated it and then ran a knife through the grated bits so it wasn’t alarming and all tofu-y tasting (like tofu HAS a taste?). At the end of the meal, she looked longingly in the empty bowl and said, half in jest, “is there any more?” My recipe for chili is very similar to yours, llizard. I also add some cubes of winter squash and let it simmer for a few hours.

    Hmmm, I think it may be time for chili con tofu soon. Perhaps on the weekend.

  4. ejm Post author

    I must say, MrsBrown, I’m not surprised that you are hesitant to mention adding :boo: tofu :boo: to your chili. It’s not the taste of tofu that would concern me. It’s the texture and colour. I can imagine it marring the chili by floating around in little white gelatinous blobs. (However, I used to object to the idea of fried tofu cubes in Asian noodle soup too and now actually almost prefer fried tofu cubes to pieces of chicken in Asian noodle soup!)

    The addition of winter squash to chili con carne, however, sounds like an excellent idea.

  5. Kate

    Yum, I love a good chili. I have been using good steak for my chili and dusting it heavily with chili powder, then of course, browning it until I am near mad with wanting to eat every little morsel. It’s so hard to wait until the chili is ready!

  6. ejm Post author

    I’ve often considered using cubed steak for chili con carne but have never yet tried it. And now that I know I might be driven mad with wanting to eat it before it gets encorporated into the stew, I can imagine myself being more reluctant to try it… it’s an awfully good idea though, Kate. I might just have to trick myself into forgetting that I might go crazy from the wonderful aromas produced. (Actually, I don’t know what I’m afraid of. I’m already pretty much off my rocker! :-D )

  7. Mats

    I read Mr. Bruske’s description of his chilli making; it doesn’t sound that different from yours, except the meat ratio is way higher in his (5lbs vs 1 lbs). With your year’s of refining this dish, could you not just ask T to stay outta the kitchen until you are ready to serve???????

  8. ejm Post author

    Ah, but basically that is what I do, Mats, by setting out on the counter what I consider to be allowable ingredients. The thing about chili con carne is that it often requires a little touch up to the spicing closer to the end of cooking and T is much better than I at assessing just which flavours are missing or lacking. I usually taste and only know that something is missing. And I know that T could reach into the cupboard and maybe pull out one of the “allowed” ingredients but I like the idea of adding the extra challenge by setting out a finite number of ingredients. It makes T’s task of doctoring a little like writing a sonnet rather than free-form prose.

    I must say that I think Ed’s chili con carne would be quite different from mine simply because of the lack of beans, mushrooms, and other spices besides chili pepper, salt and pepper.

    And speaking of chili peppers, both T and I agreed that this latest batch of chili con carne isn’t quite hot enough. And T had a BRILLIANT idea. He blackened several cayenne chillies (allowable ingredients) in canola oil (another allowable ingredient) in a small pot and then poured the chillies and hot oil over each bowl of chili con carne. I may just have to add that aspect to our chili con carne instructions….

  9. Mats

    I hear what you are saying, but, I still think you could turn out a brilliant chilli without any help at all.

    [edited to exchange ‘all caps’ for ’emphatics’ – I’m assuming you didn’t mean to shout, Mats. -ejm]

  10. ejm Post author

    So do I. And you’ll be pleased to hear that I have done on several occasions. There’s a good reason that I am the one who prepares chili con carne in this household. Both T and I know that it really is the best.

    edit: But our cooking is always a collaboration. We taste things and talk about how they can be improved. We like to work together in the kitchen.


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