Considering the vast quantities of chili powder I like to make, it should come as no surprise that I make vast quantities of chili. This is IPB Manor’s weekly standard, in part because it’s delicious and uses up a lot of summer produce, but also because the leftovers make for fantastic lunches. I realize chili is, for some people, a religious thing, and they would find my approach to it bordering on profane; to them I say, “Well, I’m from Jersey. What do you expect?” Anyway, here’s the skinny on how I make my own cavernous vat of the stuff.
Start by sweating up (in a VERY large pot) a boatload of chopped veggies of the “chili base” variety in a few tablespoons of oil. I go with about 4 average-sized yellow onions (or white, or red, or any combo thereof — whatever’s on hand, and whatever will yield about 2-3 cups when chopped), six cloves of garlic (minced), 6 bell peppers (I like to go with 2 each of green, yellow and red. This week I had just red and green from the farm) and hot peppers, finely minced, to taste (my preference is 3 habaneros. Some might find this a bit on the “rocket hot” end of the scale, but I feel like anything sub-habanero coming from my grocery store really tends not to taste like much of anything at all). Once everything’s softened up pretty well, stir in a heaping tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, 3-4 heaping tablespoons of chili powder (my homemade chili powder is very cumin-y, so I don’t have to add extra, but back in the days of using storebought chili powder, I’d toss in a tablespoon or two of ground cumin as well), and a few teaspoons of kosher salt. Let that get fragrant for a minute or so, then stir in 3 pounds of ground pork (or turkey, or beef, or any combo. I don’t eat beef, and used to make this exclusively with turkey, but I like the flavor and slightly increased fattiness of the pork), and let that brown up while stirring regularly to make sure everything’s getting well combined. Once the pork is evenly cooked, stir in one large (28 oz.? Is that the standard large size?) can of diced tomatoes and one bottle of beer (I use Yuengling Black and Tan, but anything would do. And the recipe I started out on my life’s chili journey with just called for two cans of tomatoes). Let that come to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes or so. Once all the flavors have melded, stir in four 15-ounce cans of beans that have been drained and rinsed (I use two cans of kidney and two of black beans) and a handful of chopped fresh cilantro. Heat until the beans are warmed, then serve over brown rice and top with grated cheddar cheese.
Now, when I first started out, I was using a recipe I saw on Food Network that was totally vegetarian — instead of meat, it called for 4 zucchinis, coarsely chopped. That’s a nice alternative for the non-meat-eating set, and also a useful outlet for those piles of summer squash threatening to overtake my fridge. Another alternate route to take with this recipe is to go all “Cincinnati-style” and put in a teaspoon or so of cinnamon with the other spices and then serve atop buttered egg noodles. Either way, this is the meal we most commonly eat at IPB Manor — I’ve probably been making this once a week now for at least three years. And I hope to never stop, because it’s quick, easy, and frankly, scrumptious!
(Oh, and this week I had a bit of extra get-up-and-go, so I whipped up a cornbread in which I — gasp! — “winged it” by adding chopped jalapeno and fresh corn kernels to the recipe on the back of the Quaker cornmeal container. It was shockingly out of character for me. But quite tasty!)