How To Make Chili Just Like Dad Does It
You might have noticed by stepping outside or looking at a calendar that winter is upon us. For dads everywhere, it’s a season when thermostats are set intentionally low, yard work is replaced with Sunday football watching, and your dad makes enough chili to feed a starving nation for a year.
Sure, you might have some issue with the whole thermostat thing (even though dad is backed by science on that one), and the football thing leads to dad hogging the TV when you’re in town, but you do love dad’s chili. It’s hearty and warm and probably a bit too spicy for your taste, to which your dad says it’ll “put some hair on your chest” like that’s a good thing.
But you don’t need to wait to visit home after dad’s made eight metric tons of chili to enjoy yourself a nice hot meat and bean stew. We’re going to tell you how to cook chili, just like dad.
If you have a slow cooker, this is a breeze, but let’s be honest here, you don’t, and it’s time to stop lying to yourself about how you’re going to “bite the bullet some day” and get one.
But that doesn’t matter! You don’t need any fancy slow cooking gadgetry to make some tasty chili. All you need is meat, spices, some choice veggies, some beer (hell yes), a big old pot, and something to watch on TV that’ll keep you in the apartment for a few hours.
First, though, you’ll want to go grocery shopping. Make a list (on your phone’s Notes app, obviously, not a real paper list, that’s for nerds) and get shopping. But first, a note on grocery shopping.
When you were growing up, you probably knew grocery stores as boring places that took forever to go through. Sometimes you’d find some candy or an unhealthy snack that you’d ask your parents to get, and depending on who was taking you shopping they’d either say “no way in hell” (mom) or “uh, sure I guess” (dad).
But grocery stores can be awesome, if you find the right one.
A lot of chains realized that the longer they keep you in a store, the more you’ll buy, so you can find grocery stores that have oyster bars, sushi bars, or actual bars where you can get a beer and drink while you shop. Grocery shopping is so much more enjoyable when you’re rocking a buzz by the time you get to the cashier.
So yes, you’ll need to do a pretty heavy grocery run to make chili, but you can make shopping fun. And besides, if you follow this recipe, you’ll have enough chili to last you the winter.
Now, the ingredients. You’ll need to buy the following.
- A few pounds of meat (preferably ground beef, though ground pork and ground turkey are fine if they have enough fat in there. Don’t get anything that is listed as “lean.” Fat is your friend here.)
- 2 cans of red kidney beans
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 1 little can of tomato paste
- Olive oil
- A few jalapeño peppers (1 if you’re a wuss, 3-4 if you want to go EN FUEGO with your chili)
- A habanero pepper (optional, if you want to create a fire swamp in your mouth)
- A big old sweet onion (yellow is fine)
- A shallot (if you can’t find one, just get a small white onion to substitute)
- A clove of garlic
- Chili powder
- Paprika (smoked, preferably)
- Salt and pepper
- Hot sauce of your choosing (Tabasco, Franks, Cholula and Sriracha are all acceptable)
- Fireball (if you have it, if not, get cinnamon)
This is just a baseline chili. Feel free to add or remove any ingredients you want. A good chili evolves over time, so the more you make chili, the more you’ll figure out what you like and don’t like. But for now, let’s make this chili. Here’s what you do.
Get the biggest pot you have (and if you don’t have a honking big pot, you’ll want to rectify that as soon as possible. You’ll end up getting a lot of use out of it, trust us) and pour a few glugs of olive oil in there.
Get the pan nice and hot and toss in your meat. You’ll want to mash away at the ground meat with a wooden spoon to get it into little ground-meat sized bits while you brown the meat. Once you no longer see any pink from the meat, and you have a nice little slathering of liquid fat, you’ll want to toss in some chopped vegetables.
This is a good point to mention that you want to have all your chopping done before you start cooking. Because otherwise, you’re going to have to either stop cooking the meat, or the meat is going to get burnt to hell while you struggle with chopping an onion which, no matter how often you do it, seems to always be more of a pain in the ass than it should be.
Toss in the vegetables that are not smushy.
So that means, minced garlic? In the pot. Diced onions? Pot. Jalapeños (with the seeds still in, damn you, embrace the spice)? Yup. Everything else is going to go in a bit later. But for now, stir and mix the veggies with the meat for a few minutes until they soften. At this point, you’ll be tossing in your spices.
Dump a bunch of cumin in there — 2 tablespoons at least, but you can’t really over do it with the cumin. Add a few tablespoons of chili powder and paprika, and add a generous pinch of salt and a good 15 seconds of pepper grinding’s worth of pepper. If you don’t have a bottle of Fireball lying around somewhere, toss in some cinnamon for good measure.
By this point, things are smelling pretty goddamn good.
Scoop out your little can of tomato paste, and mix it with the meat and vegetables. Once that’s more or less distributed, open and toss in your can of crushed tomatoes. No need to drain, the juice works in your favor. But it might still be a bit more “meaty” and less “soup-like” than you expect chili to be…
Which is why you’re going to be dumping a few beers into your damn chili.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just get some cheap beer, crack two or three open, and pour them into the chili. Yes, beer. Don’t question it, it will make your chili amazing. Trust us on this.
Bring this soup mix to a boil, and then lower the heat so it stays on a simmer, covered with a lid.
Go watch something for about an hour.
Then go back to your chili, grab your cans of beans, drain them, rinse them (this will help make the beans less…gassy) and toss them into your chili. Add the hot sauce of your liking at this stage as well, and let it simmer for at least another hour. There’s no such thing as cooking a chili “too long” so keep it going as long as you can, until the desire to stick your head in the simmering pot of deliciousness overwhelms you. Then, for your own safety, you should just turn off the heat and transfer the chili to a bowl.
And there you have it.
A metric shit-ton of chili, just like how dad makes it. Eat the chili, sprinkled with cheese, possibly while downing those extra beers, and begin the arduous process of getting all that chili into containers that you can keep in your freezer indefinitely.
Voila. Chili. Delicious, delicious chili.
Keep a container of it in the fridge, which should keep for 10 days, and when you’ve finished a container, swap out another container from the freezer. You’ll have enough chili that you should get sick of it, except that it’s so damn good. Then send the recipe to your dad, who will tell you the 10 things you did wrong, and how you should really be using whole tomatoes, or whatever.
But at the end of the day it won’t matter, because you will have conquered chili, and it was delicious.