Happy National Chili Day! Again, I’m a bit stymied why this day happens on the last day of February. The same with Margarita Day last week. I mean, who wants a frozen drink in the worst month of winter? And chili denotes football tailgates more than homebound snow days.
Whatever. You won’t catch me ignoring it. I’ve got a pot bubbling away.
My family recipe comes from Grandpa. It’s a more traditional method, meaning we use dried chili peppers and go through all the trouble of seeding and chopping them up. Yes, I learned as a child to always wear gloves when handling spicy peppers, fresh or dried. And boy am I glad for these nitrile versions out now, because those cumbersome, elbow-length, dishwashing gloves sure didn’t help the delicate process of removing seeds.
Our recipe isn’t very spicy. We prefer flavor over the sensation of scorched taste buds. Of course, the beauty of this recipe is you can adjust the heat by using different dried peppers or by adding whole, fresh peppers “to taste.” A super mild ancho is my favorite dried pepper for chili, but I’ve added some guajillos, and am curious how a batch made with Hatch would come out. Mmmm, the mellow earthiness of cumin with a slow afterburn—I can’t wait for my batch to finish!
So, if you want to try something new, here’s what I’ve got on my stove.
2 ½ pounds ground chuck
5 dried peppers, seeds removed and chopped fine or ground
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons Mexican sage (substitute: oregano)
1 quart tomatoes (I get diced so it’s not so messy, but whole has more flavor)
4 cloves crushed garlic
1 pound small red beans (substitute: kidney), pre-cooked or from a can (16 oz)
5 fresh chili peppers (optional, I don’t use), type dependent on desired heat level
Brown the meat. In a pot, add the meat, dried peppers, cumin, Mexican sage, tomatoes, and garlic. If using whole tomatoes, crush the tomatoes. Add the fresh peppers if using them. Cook on low for 1-hour, stirring occasionally to ensure the bottom doesn’t burn. Add salt to taste. Add beans and mix. Serve when warmed through.
NOTE: Grandpa was adamant, DO NOT use onions or chili powder. Yes, sir!