Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vic's Award Winning Chili

It's chili season. At least that what many of the September and October issues of the food magazines have suggested. Clearly, as the cold weather sets in there is nothing more comforting than a bowl of hot chili with all the fixings and a side of corn bread. Throughout the fall and winter months my chili is a welcomed meal, which I make quite often.  My chili recipe is a traditional one, but in the interest of health, I use ground turkey instead of beef.  To compensate for the bland flavor of the turkey I add lots of veggies like celery, onions, garlic, green peppers and canned jalapeno peppers. Then I highly season it with lots of chili powder, cumin, some rubbed sage, a pinch of cinnamon and either a teaspoon of cocoa powder or instant coffee.

But, the best chili recipe I know is for my dad's chili. My father, Vic, who just celebrated his 98th birthday, was in the food business as a grocer and than a restauranteur until the ripe old age of 83. Though he has a treasure trove of mostly Italian recipes, (he emigrated to the U.S. from Calabria, Italy) his chili recipe was once rated among the best in the state by Michigan Living magazine.

Though a rather traditional chili, it has a robust, authentic chili flavor and is deliciously spicy, with just the right amount of heat. It is a hearty chili that leans more towards a soup, great for soaking up crackers or freshly made corn bread. It was a favorite item among his customers in his restaurant and a standard at my husband's hunting camp for many years. 

Dad's recipe makes a large, 2 gallon amount, enough to feed a hungry group of hunters for 2 nights straight. I have cut the recipe in half, for more practical applications. Even this, however, will both serve an average family while still providing plenty more for either the freezer or another day's meal. Though incredibly good all on its own, a garnish of cilantro, chopped green onion, a dollop of sour cream and grated cheddar or colby cheese elevates it to crazy good!

Vic's Award Winning Chili

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium green pepper, diced
2 medium onions, diced
28 oz. undrained whole tomatoes, broken up
16 oz. crushed tomatoes
16 oz. water
40 oz. can of mild chili beans
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
3 T. chili powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. garlic, granulated 
pinch ground anise seed
1 medium bay leaf
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

For garnish:
chopped green onions
chopped fresh cilantro
grated cheddar or colby cheese
sour cream

Cook ground beef in a large dutch oven until no longer pink. Drain excess fat.  I ground my own beef from a chuck roast. I removed much of the surrounding fat so there was no need to drain any excess fat.  The meat was lean and tasty.

Add the onions and green peppers and cook until veggies begin to soften.  

Add all the remaining ingredients - tomatoes, water, and all the spices -  except the beans and simmer for 2 hours. This helps all the flavors blend together and the spices to fully penetrate the veggies and meat.

Add the beans and simmer until the mixture returns to a good simmer. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Serve with all the 'fixings' --  dollop of sour cream, topped with some chopped cilantro, grated cheese and  green onions - muy delicioso!

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