A blanket of snow gave a surprise visit in Alabama today and, in typical Southern fashion, we celebrated by closing the city and cooking. I made a pot of my famous secret-recipe chili – one of my favorite dishes.
The chili is shown here atop one of my homemade tea towels (instructions in Alabama Stitch Book and a great project to do with kids). These tea towels are just as important in my kitchen as my secret chili recipe. In an apple red and peacock mix, they serve (literally) as everything from pot holder, placemat, bib and napkin to, yes, tea towel. We keep a stack of them in the kitchen. Maggie will not eat a meal without one of these tucked around her neck and held on with a clothes pin. (There might be a redneck joke in that one.)
So… here you have my secret chili recipe.The secret is really in the homemade chili powder:
Homemade Chili Powder
I make a supply of this by doubling or tripling the recipe then storing in an air-tight jar.
3 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon cumin (I love cumin so always add an extra shake or two)
3 teaspoons cayenne (best picked and dried from the garden and ground just before using)
3 teaspoons dried oregano
Optional: 1 tablespoon garlic powder – I prefer to use fresh cloves and eliminate the garlic powder. I add the fresh cloves during cooking (see below).
I always find the best way to test a chili powder is to just smell it. If it smells like chili you would like to eat then it is perfect.
1 lb. ground beef (preferably locally raised and grass fed)
Worcestershire sauce in desired amount
3 cloves garlic, pressed
Olive oil, a turn around the pan
1 onion – chopped (I prefer the chop a bit on the larger size for a hearty chili)
Homemade chili powder – as much as you can take or about 6 tablespoons
6 cups stewed tomatoes (from your garden if possible)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Generously douse your ground beef with Worcestershire sauce before you start your cooking and set aside.
Press 3 cloves of garlic and set aside separately (garlic reaches its full potential and is ready to use after sitting for approximately 10 minutes!).
Chop your onion. In a large pot, coat bottom of pan with olive oil and saute chopped onion over low heat until it just begins to caramelize. Raise heat to medium, add meat and excess Worcestershire sauce and cook until almost brown.
Add pressed garlic and chili powder, stirring and turning constantly for a few minutes. Turn heat to high only to raise temperature and quickly add stewed tomatoes – a quick steam to release all the flavors.
Turn heat immediately back to low and simmer for as long as you can stand. I have boiled chili up to five hours. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Continue to simmer and add additional water or beer as necessary to keep chili from getting too thick and sticking to the bottom of the pan.
If you have time, cool and let chili sit in refrigerator overnight. If you don’t have time, just go ahead and add the beans, following the instructions below and eat.
We sometimes cannot wait until the next day and have to have this for supper before adding the beans… At my house, this stage is called 1/2 Chili. Serve 1/2 Chili with hoop cheese, sour cream, hot sauce and nacho chips – our family favorite.
If you are using dried beans, wash and soak your beans overnight in salt water.
Cook dried kidney beans in 6 cups water and keep adding water (or beer) as needed until beans are soft.
Alternately, if you are using canned beans, simply add beans to warmed chili and stir constantly over low heat for about 30 minutes. Cooked beans & chili will stick to the bottom and burn if not watched, loved and stirred constantly.
If this happens, don’t tell anyone and skim the unstuck chili from the top – being careful not to scrape the bottom – and serve with hoop cheese, sour cream, hot sauce and cornbread.