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your SECRET INGREDIENT for chili?

  • t

Now, first, let's not get into an argument over what chili IS or ISN'T. It is what a person wants it to be....different strokes, and all that.

What I'd like to know, (because i usually buy canned chili with beans)is:

what secret ingredient do you use to make your style of chili extra special, deeper in flavor, better tsasting, etc.

(I've already started mine by browning gd. beef, onions and garlic, along with pasilla and bell peppers, adding diced tomatoes, bay leaf, roasted cumin, chili (ancho) pdr, s&p, a pinch of basil, and a can of pintos and black beans.)

What else should I add? beer? chocolate? red mole? black mole? corn? Worchestershire? relish? ;-)

thanks from a chili novice. It's still go an hour or more on the stove, so fire away!

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  1. My favorite recipe for chili calls for coffee. I've linked the recipe (from Epicurious) below for your perusal.

    Link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

    2 Replies
    1. re: DanaB

      I'll try it with pork shoulder next time. Do you feel the coffee really adds something?

      1. re: toodie jane

        Yes. The recipe produces a really rich, flavorful chili with a nice depth of flavor. You can't really identify the coffee taste in the final product, but taken together, the chili tastes wonderful!

    2. I find that fresh-ground cumin makes a big difference. I may or may not roast the cumin first.
      Also, for smokiness, I like to add Muir Glen fire-roasted canned tomatos and a bit of chipotle powder.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Val Ann C

        Is chipotle hot? and if so an i use another ground hot chile?

        1. re: Tony

          Oh yes chipotles are hot. They are smoked and dried jalapenos and the process really concentrates the heat. I prefer to use the canned chipotles in adobo. 1 is often more than enough for a batch of chile. And the rest of the chipotles and their sauce will keep for months in the refrigerator. Chipotle mayo on green chili cheeseburgers is a real treat. Just mince some chipotle and add to mayo to your taste and add a bit of the sauce they are packed in too.

          1. re: Tony

            Depends on your definition of hot. It is a dried jalapeno which to me isn't hot. It certainly is much less spicy than a cayenne, habanero, serrano, etc. It has a nice smokey, flavor without overwhelming heat. If a jalapeno is too spicy for you, the chipotle will be too spicy for you. For a milder pepper, I'd recommend an ancho.

        2. Guajillo chile powder. A nice deep, smokey, back of the throat chili flavor.

          1. I use about 1/2 tablespoon of ground coriander per 3 lbs. of meat.

            1. Red wine. Some of the flavor compounds in tomatoes are alcohol soluble. So beer or heck, vodka, would work, too. But I like the red wine.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Jess

                Besides beer, I put a dash of tequila and some lime juice.

              2. Coffee can deepen the flavor profile of just about anything, I've used it in BBQ sauce to counter the light sweetness of tomato sauces. As long as you don't use too much, it will wind up a background flavor that hints at a remembered taste, but can't be pinned down.

                In my chili, I use worcestershire, cocoa, cinnamon, and I will second the vote for Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes (whole, chopped or crushed, although the chopped with green chiles add an extra flavor profile to your chili, and are my personal favorite). I will also second the vote for chipotle powder, I only use 1/2 tsp to 2 lbs of meat, along with 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp of white pepper, and 1 Tbs of chili powder. They each add their own flavor and spice to the dish, and balancing them prevents any one from being overpowering. You can always stir in 1/2 tsp crushed red chiles if you like it a bit hotter.

                1. I do make all kinds of different chilis out there...but the only one I can think of that I make that is a bit different is one where I include fajita seasoning- and it's very tasty.

                  1. For my soup chili I add a tablespoon of cider vinegar to cut the sweetness of the tomatoes.

                    For chili for chili buns, beer to break down the fat of the ground pork and ground beef.

                    1. Smoked paprika. If your chili gets to the point of needing something, smoked paprika will add it.

                      That said, demiglace and brisket pan drippings add major beef depth of flavor.

                      1. j
                        janet of reno

                        Can't go wrong with beer.

                        1. I like to use ½# chorizo for each 1# of beef. But that’s a major ingredient. For smaller, flavoring elements, both chipotle and masa flour are distinctive flavors. One or two chipotles chopped up with their sauce is enough. You can put the rest of the can in a plastic bag in the freezer for the next time. A couple of spoons of masa harina flour added toward the end of the cooking time will smooth out the grease and add a distinctive flavor.

                          1. For me, chili is all about improvisation, so what I add varies w/ my mood and what I have on hand. I add many of the ingredients that others have highlighted, and the ones that I didn't see listed that I sometimes add are oregano and dash of cinnamon. I will say that toasting the dried spices and herbs before adding in wet ingredients is very important. I also don't add cocoa powder til the last 20-30 min. of simmering.

                              1. re: coll
                                Thomas of Delaware

                                How much horseradish do you add say to 3 pounds of ground beef? Do you use prepared or freshly grated or shaved? Sounds like something I would like to try.

                                1. re: Thomas of Delaware

                                  Not alot, especially if it's fresh, maybe a Tablespoon or so. I used to put cheese in the chili to thicken it up years ago, before I discovered masa harina, and one time all I had was horseradish cheddar spread. It added a nice flavor and heat, so now I always add it, although not the cheese anymore.

                                  1. re: coll

                                    Sorry I just saw the second part of your question. I made fresh horseradish in vinegar a few times, but now I can get it fresh made in our Polishtown area. Saves a lot of tears! If I get it commercially, I like Tulkoffs prepared a lot more than Golds.

                              2. I've made a chili in the past that contains Kahlua to very good effect. Haven't made it for years, though.

                                1. I love to add some smoked Spanish paprika (gives a wonderful smoky edge) plus some allspice and oregano along with the usual cumin and chiles.

                                  1. after taking off the stove, along with the masa, a small chunk of dark unsweetened chocolate and a few shakes of cinnamon.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: byrd
                                      Joan Kureczka

                                      Yep. Dark Chocolate and cinnamon does it for me too.

                                    2. I find the chili is a great place to use tofu and include extra veg. My secret seasonings include a lot of the usual suspects: high quality cocoa powder, cinnamon, paprika, fenugreek and I also fininsh it with a large quantity of lime juice. I'll often make a vegetarian chili that goes over well with all kinds of eaters but you can even just add the tofu and vegetables (zuchinni, carrots, parsnips, celery, green beans) to a chili with meat just to ensure that everyone's getting a little bit healthier meal than they'd expected!

                                      1. A couple of minutes before turning off the heat, stir in some garlic pushed through a garlic press, and a handful of chopped cilantro leaves.

                                        1. I use a puree/liquid that I make from dried ancho chiles.

                                          First I seed the dried chiles, then fry them in a little oil on both sides, till they puff and are fragrant. Then I transfer them to a large bowl of water to soak. After a couple hours you'll have some very soft chiles (which I mash into a paste) and a large bowl of black chile water. I reduce the chile water over medium heat, till I have about a half cup or less. (THis takes a while)

                                          The reduced liquid keeps forever in the fridge and adds an amazing depth and smokeyness to everything (especially chile) I realize this sounds like alot of work, but I make a big batch and add it to alot of different stuff!

                                          1. Like you, I use both pintos and black beans in my chile. I also throw in some corn. I love the combo of corn and black beans in other recipes so, to add corn to chili seems a real natural.

                                            1. Molasses and real beef stock are great.

                                              1. I use lots of flavor enhancers mentioned here, including chorizo, smoked paprika and ancho and chipolte chili powder. I also use a beef marrow bone. It really makes the chili very rich!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: mgcook

                                                  One of my richest chilis was made with oxtail. I don't usually put beans in my chili, but in this case, black beans worked well to bind some of the fat.