Hello there! Mr. ABC Chef and I made our annual trip to California to celebrate Christmas with my side of the family. We had a great time meeting up with some friends, picking a bunch of citrus at a vacation rental home, watching Gotham with my sister and brother-in-law, and celebrating a late 2 year anniversary with Mr. ABC Chef. Needless to say, we ate LOTS of carbs and meat, and barely no veggies- someone’s jeans were uncomfortably tight on the plane ride back 🙁 . Now, it’s time to eat better and lose some of that major pudge :O We returned to the Midwest, only to be greeted by rain and cold the day after we got back. The redeeming quality of winter is that it is the perfect time for soups, stews, and all other cold-weather yummies.
Today I’m sharing the recipe for the tasty chili I made when Mr. ABC Chef’s long time video game buddies came over to meet for the FIRST TIME in person, as well as what you can do to make your own chili bar. (Nope, no psychos- they were a bunch of normal and rather funny nerds from diverse backgrounds. Whew) I decided on chili because I could make a big batch for not too much $$, provide variation with almost endless chili topping options, and I could prepare it well in advance to make sure it was ready when they arrived. I made this chili the day before company came, so that all the flavors could marinate, and sink in overnight. Mr. ABC Chef says that people eat one serving so as not to appear rude, but seconds and thirds means they actually liked it. I hope our new friends’ seconds and thirds meant something!
How to Make Your Own Chili Bar
1) Make the chili the day before your guests arrive. (See below for my recipe)
2) Prepare a carb (or three!) and (optional) salad
I made cornbread from this recipe (with traditional hard red whole wheat) , rice, and oven baked fries (scroll down for an easy recipe), and one of our friends kindly prepared a salad.
3) Prep chili toppings
Soft and/or creamy: cheddar cheese, sour cream, avocado, fresh tomatoes
Aromatics: Scallions, red/white onions, garlic, cilantro
Salty and/or crunchy: Saltines, Fritos, tortilla chips, bacon bits, tostadas
4) 30 minutes before friends arrive, heat up your chili, and keep warm on the lowest simmer your stove can handle! Alternatively, keep the chili warm in a slow cooker.
5) Take out all the toppings and utensils for each topping, as well as other tableware and flatware needed.
Lots of Chilies Chili
Easily feeds 9-10 people with leftovers
3 Tbsp canola oil
6 poblano peppers
1 dried chipotle pepper
3 medium onions, chopped
2 red bell peppers, diced
1-2 jalapenos, minced
1 head garlic, coarsely chopped
3 pounds ground beef, coarsely ground if possible
1 pound Italian sausage (loose- not in casing)
1/4 cup ancho chili powder
2 Tbsp Hungarian paprika
1 Tbsp: garlic powder, onion powder, cumin
2 tsp each: cayenne pepper, coriander, kosher salt, black pepper, oregano, fennel seeds
1/2 tsp espresso powder (optional)
1/2 tsp cocoa powder (optional)
6 ounces tomato paste
28 ounces crushed tomatoes, divided (14 + 14)
20 ounces canned tomatoes+green chilies
1 cup chicken stock or some chicken bones+1 cup water
3 cups dried beans- any combination of kidney beans, chickpeas, and black beans, rehydrated and cooked- ~ 8 cups total, OR 4 cans beans, rinsed
0) Before you start making the chili, soak the beans overnight in water (filtered water if you have hard water, like we do) and a pinch of salt. Cook the beans until they are tender (1.5 hours to 2 hours). A slow cooker or rice cooker is great for this! Cook different kinds of beans separately, if you want to retain the pretty tan color of the chickpeas.
1) Heat oil in a large stockpot (at least 6 qt), and sautee poblanos peppers and chipotle peppers until they are fragrant. Remove the peppers from the oil and blend with 14 oz of the crushed tomatoes.
2) Add the onions, red bell peppers, jalapenos, and garlic into the pot and sautee until the onions are softened.
3) Add the ground beef and sausage in batches, and brown the meat.
4) Add spices: chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, cayenne, coriander, salt, black pepper, oregano, fennel seeds, espresso powder and cocoa powder (If you are using them). Mix thoroughly to coat the meat and sautee until the spices smell good. Add the tomato paste and stir around to heat up the tomato paste and somewhat sautee it.
5) Add the tomatoes+peppers combination from step #1, and then add the remaining crushed tomatoes, as well as the canned tomatoes/green chilies. Add chicken stock and beans, additional water to rinse your tomato cans, and bring to a boil. Once everything boils, simmer for at least 2 hours. Give the chili a stir every 30 minutes or so, and if it looks like it is low on liquid, add some water to prevent it from burning. At the end of the 2 hours, adjust for salt and heat (cayenne pepper or jalapenos, or both), and cook some more, cool and refrigerate overnight, or eat!
-Who has time for cooking their own beans? If you do, consider cooking your beans over buying them canned. I much prefer the taste and textures of home-cooked beans. If you cooked your own beans, save the cooking water for rinsing the tomato cans of residual tomato-y stuff. Nothing goes to waste.
-If you can’t find the poblanos and/or chipotles, feel free to omit them!
-Fennel seeds are optional too, but help give the illusion of lots of Italian sausage, so I do like them very much.
-If you don’t have chicken stock, perhaps you have chicken bones? Toss them in, instead of the stock, and remember to fish them prior to serving.
-Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients- you probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry!
Easy Oven Baked Fries
1) Get russet potatoes- calculate about 1/2 to 3/4 potato per person.
2) Wash and slice potatoes into strips about the length of your middle finger 😀 (thickness of your choice- skinnier will bake faster and be crispier, fatter will bake longer and be creamier/softer).
3) Soak potato strips in plenty of water for about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 425F.
4) Drain the potatoes: grab handfuls of potato slices and transfer to a colander. You’ll see white sludge on the bottom of the soaking bowl- that’s potato starch, that you do NOT want on your fries. Alternatively, dump the slices into a colander, and rinse thoroughly to remove any starch that might be sticking to the potatoes. . Blot the potato slices dry with clean kitchen towels. Toss in a bowl with oil.
5) Arrange potato slices on baking sheets, making sure not to crowd them.
6) Bake at 425F until they are golden brown.
7) Toss with salt, pepper, and/or other seasonings- try this chicken spice rub or Old Bay, perhaps?