Is there a shortcut to making great chile?
When we make chili we don't really use a recipe. Here is a close approximation to what we do:
Meat (beef, pork, lamb or some combination; usually beef or beef and pork for us), either ground or not. If not ground, grind using disc with large holes.
For each pound of ground meat:
1 large clove chopped garlic, more if you like garlic
half or more of an onion, chopped
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp or to taste NM red chile powder, not too hot)
1 tsp or so freshly ground cumin
1 tsp or so dry oregano crushd in your palm
1 can crushed tomatoes
Olive oil for browning
Salt and pepper to taste.
If you want beans, use a can of pinto beans or 1 1/2 cups of cooked pinto beans, more or less to taste.
Saute the onions in olive oil in a large pot. When they start to get clear add ground meat and garlic and cook over medium heat until browned. Pour off any excess fat (I use lean beef so I don't have enough fat to pour off).
Add tomatoes and can liquid and stir. Add chili powder, powdered chile, cumin and oregano. Stir and cover with some water. Simmer about an hour. You will probably need to add water to keep it wet.
Now add the beans if you want. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer fifteen minutes or so more and serve with shredded cheddar.
Quick and Darn Good Chili
1 yellow onion chopped
2 lbs ground beef
2 frozen Johnson's chili bricks
2 cans beans (kidney, black, pinto..your choice)
1 can beer (Mexican if you have it)
Spicy Bloody Mary mix
1 envelope dry taco mix
Hot red chili pepper flakes (to your taste)
Dice onion and saute, set aside
Brown ground beef, and add onion to it
Break up chili bricks into large pieces, add to beef mix
Pour in beer, enough BM mix for your desired consistency. (I used about 2 cups), taco mix and red pepper if you want it hot.
Simmer awhile so all melds well.
Taste and add more of whatever you think it may need.
Add beans last and simmer until beans are hot.
Chili bricks have been around for over 150 years or so. Initially chuck wagon cooked mixed the chili spices with dried beef and formed them into bricks so they were easy to fit into the wagons. When I was a kid they were sold on the shelves of grocery stores and I think there were beans in there, too. The idea is that you put them in a pot of water, heat and simmer and you have chili.
Today they are generally frozen or in the meat case.
I have had good luck tinkering with both Wick Fowler and Shelby. Swap out real onions and garlic for their dehydrated stuff. Take a chunk of meat, I usually use brisket, and cut it in decent sized cubes. A little bacon fact for browning the meat is nice. I add a few glugs of bourbon. It certainly isn't something I point to with pride as my special creation, but it is very tasty. Oh yeah, go easy on tomato and add masa only if it actually seems to need it.
re: tim irvine
Mixes like 2Alarm are a good introduction to a basic Texas style chile - the essential ingredients are
ground or diced beef
a large amount of a mild ground chile, e.g. ancho or New Mexico
a hot chile to taste
If a competition chili is more complicated, it is just trying to get an edge in complicated field, or move into another style.
I might get flogged around here since it's not homemade but I really like this one from McCormick's. This one is hot but they make an original and mild too I believe. I like it when I'm in a hurry or if I don't have all of the usual spices available to make a fresh spice mix.
There is no MSG or other junk in the mix. This is the ingredient list: Chili Pepper And Other Spices (Including Red Pepper, Cumin), Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Onion, Salt, And Garlic.
Love chili, esp. this time of year. Enjoy!