Chili 101: Tips from experts on meats, seasonings and more
BY NICOLE MARSHALL MIDDLETON World Scene Writer
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
9/05/12 at 12:01 PM
The perfect chili depends on who's doing the tasting.
Some like it hot. Some like it green. Some like it with beans.
And college courses could be taught on the various meat choices.
To die-hard chili cooks, chili is more than a dish that you make in the fall when the leaves start falling from the trees. It's a community and a lifestyle for those who like their lives with a little spice.
"Chili is one of the six basic food groups," said Bill Biard, owner of the Hammett House restaurant and head judge of the Claremore Bluegrass and Chili Festival this weekend.
"All those other five and chili."
If there were a course called "Chili 101," it would start with the colors, Biard explained.
There are red chilis, with beef, tomato and spices such as chili powder.
Then there are green chilis, which are often tomatillo-based with pork and peppers such as poblanos and serranos.
And then there is the white chili, with chicken and white beans.
"Everybody has their favorite chili and their favorite way of making it," Biard said.
About 99 percent of chili cooks will use chili powder - containing ground chile peppers - for a red chili, explained "Chili John" Fenrich, veteran chili cook and chairman of the Oct. 27 Owasso Harvest Festival and Chili Cook-Off. So that deep, dark red powder is considered one of the building blocks of a big bowl of red. Yet not all chili powder is the same.
"There are all kinds of chili powder. The kind with ancho chiles give chili a deep rich color," Fenrich said.
Cooks often add cayenne pepper for the back heat and white pepper to give the chili some heat up front, he said.
"You don't want to be knocked to your knees when you taste the chili," Fenrich said.
At Hammett House, Biard prefers to keep his chili on the milder side so a wide number of people can enjoy it. The restaurant has been making and selling chili seasoning for many years so that fans can make it at home.
"I eat my chili so much down here at the restaurant, when I make it at home, it is going to be a lot different," Biard said. "It is going to be much darker, with darker chili powder and whole, peeled tomatoes and sauteed peppers and onions. I will add some beer to it and, right at the very end, I will add about a tablespoon of brown sugar."
Biard explained that a small amount of brown sugar takes the acidity out of the tomatoes - but be careful not to add too much.
You must also choose your meat wisely, the chili cooks said.
Fenrich said that he has found that a tri-tip, diced in about 1/8-inch cubes, is the perfect cut of meat for chili.
There's an art to cooking the chili for the perfect amount of time, too, Fenrich said.
"You want the meat to have body. You don't want to cook it so long that it gets mushy," Fenrich said. "But you also want to cook it long enough that it is not tough."
One of the most important ingredients doesn't come from the store, Fenrich said.
About 10 years ago at the World Chili Championship, a national cooking show asked Fenrich what makes a good chili.
"I said it's not really the meat, not really the sauce and not really the spices," Fenrich said. "It's how you stir the chili. Always stir it toward your heart. That puts the love in the chili."
Here are some recipes for chili to try at home.
1 pound ground venison or ground beef or ground turkey
2 onions, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 tablespoon jalapeno, finely chopped
1 14-ounce can Mexican-style tomatoes (like Rotel)
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika (smoked if you can find it)
1 14-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup water
1. Cook ground meat with onions and peppers in Dutch oven.
2. Drain excess grease and add tomatoes, sauce, seasonings and water, bring to a boil.
3. Add beans, and cover and simmer one to two hours.
4. Serve with toppings.
- Adapted from Food.com
HAMMETT HOUSE CHUNKY CHICKEN CHILI
1/2 cup cottonseed oil
8 cups chopped onions, diced
4 cups yellow, red and green bell peppers, diced
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup mild green chiles, diced
1 cup Hammett House Chili Seasoning
2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground oregano
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
8 pounds grilled chicken, diced
3 quarts crushed tomatoes
1 can chicken broth
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
6 cups chili sauce, preferably Hunts
1. In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell peppers, garlic and green chiles. Cook or saute, stirring constantly until softened, five to seven minutes.
2. Add the chili seasoning, cumin, oregano and cayenne. Cook, stirring constantly, one minute or more.
3. Add the chicken, tomato, chili sauce and pepper. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Ladle into bowl and garnish with a "dollop" of yogurt (or sour cream) and red onion.
- Bill Biard, Hammett House
VEGETARIAN CROCK-POT CHILI
2 tablespoons oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1/3 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon oregano
1 28-ounce can tomatoes
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/3 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 cans black beans, drained
2 cans red kidney beans, drained
1 can corn
1. Saute the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes until the onion is soft, about three to five minutes.
2. Add the chili powder and cumin and cook for two more minutes.
3. Place the onions and the remaining ingredients in a slow cooker, stirring to combine.
4. Cover and cook on low for six to eight hours.
- Adapted from About.com
What is chili powder?
It's not just ground, dried chili peppers.
Chili powder is a mix of chili pepper powder and other spices such as cumin and garlic powder. Chili powder can be very spicy depending on the kind of chiles and other ingredients in the mix. Paprika and cayenne can also be components of chili powder.
If you would like to try making your own chili powder, here is a recipe. Most grocery stores carry a good selection of dried chili peppers, but for a wider selection, try one of the Latin markets.
ALTON BROWN'S CHILI POWDER
3 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
3 cascabel chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
3 dried arbol chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1. Place all of the chiles and the cumin into a medium nonstick saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, moving the pan around constantly, until you begin to smell the cumin toasting, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside and cool completely.
2. Once cool, place the chiles and cumin into the carafe of a blender along with the garlic powder, oregano and paprika. Process until a fine powder is formed. Allow the powder to settle for at least a minute before removing the lid of the carafe. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Chili or chile?
These words seem to almost be used at random, but there are general rules to follow.
Chile is with an "e" refers to the pepper. Capitalized, it is a South American country.
Chili typically refers to the meat dish that may or may not contain beans.
Chili powder is the mixture of chiles and spices used to make chili.
People's Choice tips
If you have always wanted to see how your chili would do at a People's Choice competition, here are a few tips from "Chili John" Fenrich, who has been judging chili competitions for more than 30 years.
Original Print Headline: Chili101
- The main ingredient you need a lot of is enthusiasm. Once you add enthusiasm, everything else will take care of itself.
- You will need 10 pounds of ground beef. (Most successful teams go with what is called "tube meat" because it is sold in big tubes at the supermarket.) You will need some large cans of beef and/or chicken broth and large cans of chili beans, which are required in People's Choice chili.
- Many chili chefs go with powders for onion, chili peppers and chili powder, but you can use fresh peppers if they are in season and you want to go to the trouble of charring the chiles, peeling, seeding and finely chopping them.
- Remember, People's Choice Chili is made ahead of time and heated up (usually on propane camp stoves). A lot of teams have a party to fix the chili and come up with their booth/showmanship presentations.
- On the day of the cook-off, the People's Choice competition begins at 11 a.m. with teams giving out small samples of their chili to those who have purchased official tasting kits. Those with tasting kits can get a 2-ounce cup filled and then vote for their favorite.
- Make it fun for people to visit your booth and try your chili or salsa. They will remember the fun long after they have forgotten what the chili tastes like.
Nicole Marshall Middleton 918-581-8459
CHRISTOPHER SMITH / Tulsa World
Most chili cooks will use chili powder for a red chili, but not all chili powders are the same. CHRISTOPHER SMITH / Tulsa World
Vegetarian chili can be used to make a Frito chili pie. JOHN CLANTON / Tulsa World file