Chili for realz

I’m informally designating today as my one-year anniversary of hardcore cooking. Good friends and regular readers already know this story. So y’all can skip the next two paragraphs. Go on ahead, I’ll never know.

Last August, I came home from a month of speech camp with massive anxiety. No job, no prospects, and badly banged-up self-esteem. I decided, if I wasn’t going to be adding any income to the household, the least I could do was contribute work that would cut down our weekly expenses.

Hence, the cooking. For less than a hundred bucks a week we could both eat really, REALLY well. This year, as I’m about to re-enter the workforce, I’m feeling kind of angsty about where the time to cook will come from. Gotta work on my repertoire of things that re-heat well. Gotta do something, cuz the thought going back to takeout kinda disgusts me now.

Yep, I’ve turned into one of those a*hole food people.

One thing on the agenda is to make gallons — literal gallons — of chili. Right now, while tomatoes are cheap and taste perfect. Chili keeps well in the freezer for months, so the more I crank out, the more quick meals I’ll have through the fall.

I know I’ve covered chili on this blog before, but I wanted to share the recipe with fresh tomatoes instead of canned. The process isn’t substantially different. Just a little more prep but a lot more flavor. I don’t know who invented chili, but bless their memory all the same.

Chili on the “For Real” (a.k.a. with fresh tomatoes)

What I used:

  • 1/2 cup dry red kidney beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
  • 8 or 9 medium tomatoes (I can’t remember for sure — say a pound pint* and a half)
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion
  • 1 medium green bell pepper
  • 1 small red bell pepper
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • Anaheim, serrano, and red and green jalapeno peppers
  • 5-6 shakes mild green Tabasco sauce
  • Cumin, parsley, cilantro, and cayenne
  • Salt and pepper

Phew! Okay, so the first thing was to pre-cook the beans. Following the package directions, I let them go for a good hour before starting the chili prep proper. Next I put the ground beef on medium heat with some salt and pepper, and blanched my tomatoes.

In two batches, because I was using my big pot for the chili — duh…

I was thinking the other day, I don’t believe I’ve ever broken down my blanching philosophy. I bring the water to a good rolling boil, then carefully add the tomatoes (or peaches, or green beans, or whatever). Then I bring the water back up to boiling, and let it go for 3-5 minutes. For these tomatoes, I gave them the whole five. After that I fished them out with a slotted spoon and gently relocated them to a giant bowl of ice water.

While all that browning and boiling were going on, I was chopping up all the veggies except the hot peppers. Those go in later. Then I put the browned beef aside and drained most of the grease, using what was left to sweat down the veggies.

Oops. Over-drained the grease. No worries, just sprinkle in some olive oil.

You’ll notice I used celery here, which falls outside my usual onion-bell pepper-garlic trinity. In this recipe it adds some much-needed moisture. Without the extra juice from canned tomatoes, that’s a big bonus.

Once the onions started turning slightly transparent, I dumped in the beef and beans and reduced the heat to low.

The beans should be *almost* done at this point. Think al dente.

Next went in the tomatoes. Again, to conserve moisture, I peeled and shredded them right over the pot. That way all the drips ended up in the chili and not on the cutting board. I hope it goes without saying, I cut out and discarded the stems.

It was looking a little dry, so I added in a few ladles of the tomato-blanching water. Then I stuck a lid on all that and let it simmer while I diced up the spicy peppers.

L-R: 1/2 a serrano, 1 red jalapeno, 1 green jalapeno, and 1/4 Anaheim

I chucked those in the pot and added the Tabasco, cumin, parsley, and cilantro. Taste. Oddly not that spicy. So I added some cayenne. And a little more salt and black pepper.

Stick on the lid and it’s ready to simmer.

Now my favorite part of chili making. Walk away. Go do other stuff. I mean, I do check on it from time to time, give it a stir and a taste, maybe adjust the seasoning. But the standing around, bent over a cutting board? That crap is over. I gave it an hour, maybe more. The biggest thing was making sure the beans were good and tender.

Actually, forget what I just said. THIS is my favorite part of chili making…

You know, the eating.

We had some for dinner, and lunch the next day. The rest I stored in a freezer bag. I’ll be super grateful to thaw that out, some chilly night this fall. (See what I did there? That joke’s for my Dad.)

Yeah, it took a while, but most of that time was spent sitting on my butt. And it’s so worth it, to have real-life-from-scratch chili! I bet this would be awesome in a crock pot too. If I had a crock pot. Are you listening, Santa?

I close, dear readers, by begging for your favorite freezable recipes. I’ve got two weeks until school starts and I need to do some hoarding. Recommendations?

Updated Aug. 10: Pints? Pounds? Whatever! Read what you write, girl.


3 thoughts on “Chili for realz

  1. The Santa joke was for Daaaad too. Thanks Misty for my first ever blog credit. I can't wait to try the recipe…Have you tried this in white fashion with chicken or turkey for us perennial dieters?


  2. You're welcome for your first ever blog credit! Though, to be fair, I've credited you for my love of corny jokes for ears and ears now. Wakka wakka wakka…

    I'd imagine a straight substitution of ground turkey for ground beef would work perfectly. Although, I suspect you'd have to add a bit of extra oil when sweating the vegetables, to keep them from scorching.

    That said, my pal Jamie posted this recipe for white chili the other day. I'm dying to try it myself!


  3. Seems pretty meat, veggie, and tomoto heavy and light on the beans. I am trying to reduce meat consumption, so I need more beans!!

    How big is your freezer babe? Got enough room for all the good stuff you should be putting up?


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