(In the weeks leading up to our Slow Food on a Fast Food Budget Potluck on March 13, we will be publishing some of the recipes from the draft cookbook, both to give participants a sense of the sorts of recipes that already exist in the cookbook and to share some of the recipes that we’ve developed. This recipe is a simplified version of a delicious and inexpensive chili recipe that even beginning chefs should be able to put together without much difficulty.)
The World’s Second-Greatest Chili
Serves 12. Approximate ingredient cost: $1.40 per person.
1 28-oz can red kidney (or other) beans
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted if possible; or 2-3 fresh tomatoes in season)
3 lbs. ground beef (or cubed beef for stew if you’d prefer)
6 tbsp. pure ground ancho chile (not regular chile powder)
2 tsp. ground cumin
3 tsp. salt
2 medium onions, diced
8 garlic cloves, chopped
4 tbsp. Canola oil
4 tbsp. corn meal (optional—for texture)
Chef Rick Bayless and his daughter Lanie published a recipe called The World’s Greatest Chili. It starts with searing ancho chilis in a cast-iron skillet until their skins blister. It might, actually, make the world’s greatest chili. Unfortunately, it also requires a food processor, which a lot of people don’t have.
This is not that chili. But it’s very close. It’s based on the same recipe, with a few modifications designed to make it easier to cook. And it’s really, really good.
Start by putting a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Dice the onions and, if using stew beef (it makes the chili slightly better, but ground beef is slightly cheaper), cut the larger pieces in half. Add the oil, beef, and onion to the pot, and cook for ten minutes, draining off excess fat once or twice along the way. Add the garlic, tomatoes, chili powder, and cumin, and stir for five minutes to cook. Add 4 cups of water and the salt, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes to an hour. Add beans (and corn meal for thicker texture if you want), stir, and simmer for the last five minutes.
The 19th-century French culinary author Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Chili illustrates the truth of this statement: Everyone who makes chili tinkers and experiments, adding a little of this and a little of that—because chili is so good that you can’t go too far wrong. So try this recipe first; next time, add whatever seems right to you—a little cocoa powder, maybe, or some peppers, or some hot sauce, or whatever. Make it your own, and let your chili tell us who you are.