To my credit, I made it to the last week of August before I started pulling all of my hearty, comfort food recipes. There was a week of crisp, pre-fall mornings and that just did me in. Rustic, buffalo checked décor went up and cold weather recipes came out. Currently, it has been in the 80’s all week (for which I should be grateful) but it’s no matter, my heart has already gone and set itself on fall…and Pumpkin Macchiatos. My first course of action this fall was to make chili and cornbread. Chili is the quintessential fall food meeting all necessary aspects: comforting, hearty, flavorful, and simple. There is just something about good chili and cornbread that settles deep into your soul and warms you up from within.
I’ve tested all sorts of chili over the years with all varieties of add-ins: peppers, sausage, corn, hot sauce, you name it. They’ve all been amazing but at the end of the day when I think of great chili, I think of my Mom’s. Andrew seconds that by the way. Whenever I make chili he asks me if I can ask for my Mom’s recipe and/or make it like my Mom makes it. I’m not offended at all because it really is darn good.
The trick is simplicity. Stash the extra components for another recipe and strip your ingredients down to the bare essentials of what constitutes a pot of chili: meat, beans, tomatoes, chili powder…and onion and garlic and salt and pepper. So my mission in life has been to comprise a simple chili recipe that comes close to Momma’s (because my Mom is so good that she doesn’t measure and can’t give me a tangible recipe). The result of that mission is my first, personal recipe. “Cheryl Shaulis, successor to Pioneer Woman.” Hm…sounded better in my head. Anyway! I started with what I knew and made some personal tweaks. And if this term of success means anything to you, Andrew went back for two bowls. #winning
I know you’ve been waiting for the recipe with bated breath, so I won’t ramble on. Let’s make chili!
PERK: You probably have most of this stuff in your pantry and even if you don’t, it’s so…I hate to use the word cheap but, cheap to make!
First things first. Dice up a medium onion and toss in a skillet with some garlic (for me, some means excessive) and oil.
If dicing an onion makes you cry, there is a better way! I bring it up because I didn’t know before Pioneer Woman taught me a year ago during one thanksgiving prep session (yes, she is my culinary hero) and I don’t want anyone to be left in the dark on this awesome trick. Here’s how to perfectly dice your onion and not bawl your eyes out in the process:
Cut your onion in half and quickly rinse in cold water. The cold water dissolves the sulfur compounds that are released when the onion is cut, which irritates your eyes.
Once the onion is rinsed, cut off the root end. I leave the other end intact because it holds the onion together as you cut. Onions can be so slippery, you know.
Then make tight, vertical cuts into the onion without cutting through the other end. Re-rinse the onion in cold water if it’s especially potent.
Finally, make small cuts horizontally to give you perfectly diced bits.
Anyway, back to the oil, onion, and garlic in a skillet. Saute said contents over medium-high heat for a couple minutes or until translucent & a slight crisp on the edges. Yum!
Let’s not talk about the terrible stove photography. I’m blaming it on the poor, refrigerator blocking natural light. Ugh.
Next, add your meat. I season the meat with salt and pepper at this point. I’m all about allowing the flavors appropriate time to meld together.
Since we’re on the subject of meat, let’s take a minute to talk about meat choice. I was raised on good ol’ beef in my chili. But I was looking for ways to make this recipe on the lean, healthy side so I opted for turkey. I have to say, I didn’t notice any difference in flavor–it was delicious! I also love the fact that it eliminates that greasy, oily quality in the chili.
Once the meat is completely browned, drain off any residual grease.
While your meat is draining, toss your beans into a strainer and give them a good rinse.
When it comes to my beans, I love variety. You really can’t go wrong, so add in what you like. I used one of each: black beans, blackeye peas, light red kidney beans, and dark red kidney beans.
The hardest part is over! Not bad, right?
A quick word on the tomato products. Andrew and I are not tomato fans. My personal reasons involve a tomato based breakfast, food poisoning, and having to pay repeatedly to use the insect infested, public restrooms while traveling in Turkey. I missed seeing the Black Sea because of those tomatoes. I’m holding a grudge.
All that to say, we both prefer our food to be tomato piece free. But you have to have tomato in your chili or it just, isn’t chili. So I tweaked this recipe to use tomato sauce combined with crushed tomatoes for a thicker consistency. Diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes…tomāto, tomäto.
Combine your meat, beans, and tomato cans in a large pot. Add in your magic chili dust…I mean, chili powder…and give a good stir.
Put the pot on the stove to simmer for 20 minutes.
I usually let the mixture heat through before I add in water to thin out the consistency to my liking. We like our chili on the soupy side, so I add 2 cups of water for the 3 cans of tomato.
After I’ve found the right consistency, I focus on flavors. We also like a little kick in our chili so in addition to any extra salt or pepper, I toss in a little cayenne or paprika.
While the chili is simmering, I work on the cornbread. Yes, I unashamedly make our cornbread from a box. Let me tell you, I have made the fancy, homemade cornbread in a cast-iron skillet. But the husband prefers the gluten-free, box cornbread. Who am I to complain?
My secret for making naturally sweet, serving size cornbread? Coconut oil and muffin tins. The coconut oil, doesn’t actually make it taste overly coconut. It does make the cornbread perfectly sweet, we don’t even use honey anymore. The muffin tin makes perfectly moist, little cornbread muffins that are easy to dish out and eat.
Just about the time that the cornbread muffins are popping out of the oven, the chili should be ready to devour. Add preferred toppings (AKA: gobs of sour cream & cheese), snuggle up on the couch, and dig in!
This recipe makes roughly 8-10 servings, depending on how hungry you might be. It’s always so unpredictable with us. 😉
Cold Snap Chili
WHAT YOU NEED
1 large onion
2-3 tsp of minced garlic
1-2 TB of extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ – 2 LBs of lean Burger or Turkey
Salt & Pepper, to taste
4 – 15oz cans of beans (black, blackeye, kidney)
2 – 28oz cans of crushed tomato
1 – 28oz can of tomato sauce
3 TB chili powder
2 cups water
Paprika or Cayenne, to taste
WHAT TO DO
- Combine diced onion, minced garlic, and olive oil in pan; saute until onion is translucent and golden brown.
- Add in meat, season lightly with salt & pepper; cook until completely browned through.
- Drain off any excess grease from the meat and add to large pot, in addition to: rinsed beans, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, and chili powder.
- Return pot to stove, simmering for 20 minutes. As the mixture is cooking, add 1 cup of water at a time until desired consistency. Finally, add paprika or cayenne until desired flavor.
- Allow to cool slightly before adding favorite toppings, enjoy with some cornbread and a good book!