Beautiful chili is in the eye of the beholder

A good chili recipe is as personal as a particular brand and style of underwear. One size does not fit all.

I recently saw a recipe for “the world’s best” chili. It called for cubed tri-tip steak, brown sugar, cumin and paprika — among other basic ingredients — and that was a good start, but it had no chili powder and no beans! How can that be considered “the world’s best”?

But see, everyone has a different perspective on chili. I think Cincinnati-style chili is delicious. It’s made with a little unsweetened chocolate and cinnamon, and it’s served over spaghetti with shredded cheese and chopped white onions on top (that would be considered as “four-way”). Apparently, the food company I work for once offered this sort of chili mix. While discussing it today, the Texans with whom I work found it unappealing. I guess it was a poor seller, too, which is why we no longer offer it, but in Cincinnati, it’s the only way to chill-i!

Some people think chili should be so spicy hot it’s rendered practically inedible. Some folks think “white chili” is a misnomer. Some aficionados think ground beef is a required ingredient.

I think chili must have both onion and green pepper (and if I have red pepper in the fridge then that, too). It needs some heat but not too much (I’ve found a little chipotle pepper in adobe sauce goes a long way). For nuance, it needs something “sweet” (I’ve used unsweetened cocoa powder, molasses or brown sugar in the past). And it must have beans — three-bean chili with black, white and chili beans is quite good.

My Beloved makes a mean chili. He uses leftover cubed steak or pork, kidney beans and, of course, lots of chili powder. I make him add green pepper and cumin. His chili is pretty darn good, but when he made it last week, he asked me if it was “the best chili I ever tasted.”

I couldn’t answer yes.

The best chili I think I’ve ever enjoyed was made by my sister, who I sometimes chide for being sort of unadventurous in the kitchen. But she got it right when she made chili with black-eyed peas! Oh, these black-eyed peas were so smooth and delicious! I don’t even recall what meat she used, but that bodacious brew hit all the right flavor notes. For me at least, it was the world’s best.

As noted by a reader in this forum once, different kinds of food require different kinds of drinks for different kinds of people. For me, the perfect beverage to go with chili: A Corona beer with lime.

What are your chili favorites? And what’s your beverage of choice?

11 responses to “Beautiful chili is in the eye of the beholder

  1. I like vegetarian chili made with lentils and a good strong red wine. I would LOVE to try the chili with black eyed peas…is it a secret family recipe…or can you share????

  2. Did Kay use blackeyed peas because the kids don’t like kidney beans? I have never tried it that way.

  3. Thank you Minnesota Transplant! That is a real compliment. I use black eyed peas, black beans and chili beans. Nummy! I use them, mom, because I don’t like kidney beans. Too hard. Too crunchy. But Minnesota Transplant is right, those black eyed peas are soo smooth. I can give the recipe if you’d like…

  4. Yes, that would be delicious! I love chili. And I’ve made it before sans kidney beans (which I LOVE) and used black beans instead ’cause Kay doesn’t like them. 🙂 My favorite secret ingredient in chili is a little bit (too much makes it bitter) of liquid smoke. The hickory flavor gives the chili a nice smokiness. And, you must serve it with cheese, sour cream and Fritos Scoops. It tastes even better if you just use the Scoops as your spoon.

  5. Love the scoops Karen!

    Okay, brown 1 pound hamburger or ground turkey with 1 large yellow onion, chopped and 1 green or red pepper chopped. Add:
    *2 cans petite diced tomatoes (fire roasted ones are good too) – undrained
    * 1 can thick and zesty tomato sauce (or reg.)
    * 1 small can tomato paste
    * 1 can rinsed, drained black-eyed pea
    * 1 can rinsed, drained black beans
    * 1 can medium chili beans
    * chili powder to taste (or whatever other spices you’d like)

    Simmer for 20 – 30 minutes. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese and frito scoops.

  6. minnesotatransplant

    All this talk about chili inspired me to make a batch today. With black-eyed peas. And I ate it with a Bud Light Lime and Fritos (not Scoops, but still, Fritos). It was delicious. I still have lentils in the pantry, so that’s next. And I’m putting liquid smoke on the next grocery list!

  7. It sounds really good. I finally ate half of Bob’s wild turkey breast. We made it into turkey nuggets ( much like chicken nuggets) one night and I used it in stir fry tonight. Now I think with the other half of the breast, I’ll grind it into ground turkey with my food processor and make your chili. Now Bob and Richard can apply for another wild turkey hunting permit and not feel guilty since we found the meat delicious.

  8. I like my chili spicy, with beans and ground beef, or a mix of ground beef and ground turkey. Serve it over regular Fritos (no scoops) or white rice, or both. The beverage of choice for me would be a margarita or a diet coke, not a beer fan. Two things I am sure of are that chili should never be, served over spaghetti or white, Sorry Minnesota transplant.

  9. Pingback: Stew throwdown | Minnesota Transplant

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