For the longest time, I abhorred chili. It’s not exactly a staple in a traditional Taiwanese home, and my family rarely ate at “Western” restaurants, so the only chili I knew was the school cafeteria version: a concoction of mystery meat and orange-colored grease that smelled like a combination of sweaty socks and taco seasoning. Mmm! I felt sorry for anyone who was eating it, especially since it was often served with tortilla chips (call me weird, but I don’t like tortilla chips. At all. No matter what brand or what I’m dipping it in. Just not a fan!). After I left home, I did encounter more palatable chili, but I still didn’t like it enough to make it at home, much to Johnny’s disappointment. It wasn’t until I became a mom that I began appreciating the virtues of homemade chili. I can make a large batch and feed my family for days (it also freezes well!), and there are lots of ways to vary the leftovers — chili-topped baked potato, anyone? I can make it in the slow cooker or on the stove top. Plus, my boys are huge fans of strong flavors, and they just eat it up. On a cold fall day, it’s comforting to have a pot of chili simmering on the stove and corn bread or biscuits baking in the oven.
I have two go-to recipes for chili, and last night of them — Smitten Kitchen’s beef chili. I like that it has carrots, onions, green peppers and tomato sauce in it. The beef is very tender after simmering, and there’s just the right amount of beans. The sour cream, cheese and jalapeno biscuits she made with the original recipe look amazing, but I was in the mood for fluffy cheddar biscuits (from my New Best Recipe cookbook), so I made those instead. I’ll admit that making the chili and the biscuits took quite a bit of time — two hours from start to finish — but I now have leftovers for the whole weekend, so I consider the time well spent. You also can cut down on a lot of the time by baking cornbread from a box mix or buying ready-made bread instead of making your own biscuits.
- 2 large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 carrots, diced
- 3 pounds ground beef
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon crumbled dry oregano
- Dried red pepper flakes, to taste (I used 1 teaspoon)
- 2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce or 2 cups fresh tomato sauce or tomato puree
- 1 1/4 cups beef broth
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 3/4 cups or 1 19-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 green bell peppers, chopped
- Sour cream, grated cheese and green onions as garnishes, if desired
- Heat the oil over moderately low heat in a large pot and cook the onions until they’re soft (about 5 to 10 minutes). Add the garlic and carrots and cook for one more minute.
- Raise the heat to medium and add the beef, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon until the beef is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and pepper flakes and cook for another minute.
- Add the tomato sauce, broth and vinegar and simmer the chili, covered, for 35 to 40 minutes. Add the beans, bell peppers, salt (I used about 1.5 teaspoons) and pepper to taste, and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, until the bell peppers are tender.
Cheddar Cheese Biscuits (From The New Best Recipe)
This recipe makes a dozen biscuits. Every time I make these, I wish that I had made twice as many, so you may want to double the recipe. They go fast!
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes, plus 2 tablespoons melted for brushing tops of biscuits
- 1 cup of grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (I just used a bag of pre-shredded cheese)
- 3/4 cup cold buttermilk OR 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-fat or whole-fat plain yogurt (I used whole-fat plain yogurt)
- 2-3 tablespoons additional buttermilk (or milk, if you use yogurt instead of buttermilk), if needed
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Put flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in a large bowl and whisk together thoroughly. With your fingertips, a pastry cutter or two knives, mix the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Gently mix in the grated cheese (I used a spatula to do this).
3. Stir in buttermilk or yogurt with a rubber spatula or fork until mixture forms into a soft, slightly sticky ball. If the dough feels too dry and isn’t gathering into a ball, sprinkle dough with the extra buttermilk (or milk, if you used yogurt). I always need to use all three extra tablespoons of milk, so don’t be afraid to do so. Be careful not to overmix the dough. Form the dough into a large, rough ball.
4. With lightly floured hands, divide the dough ball into 12 portions. Lightly pat each portion of dough back and forth a few times between floured hands until it begins to form a ball, then pat lightly with cupped hands to form a rough ball. Place the dough ball on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat with 11 other dough portions, placing dough balls one inch apart on the cookie sheet. Brush the tops of the dough balls with melted butter. (If you don’t want to bake these right away, at this point, you can cover the dough balls with plastic wrap and refrigerate them for up to two hours.)
5. Bake until the tops are light brown, 10 to 12 minutes, and serve immediately.
Now, you can serve the chili and biscuits two ways. There’s the traditional route, with the biscuits on the side:
Or you can do it as pictured on the original recipe at Smitten Kitchen, with the chili ladled onto the bottom half of a biscuit and topped with the other half of the biscuit:
I really loved it on the biscuit, and I can’t wait to make the sour cream, cheese and jalapeno biscuits sometime to go with the chili. I can tell you that this was gobbled up immediately in both forms. If you’re having the same rainy weather as we’re having here in Southern California this weekend, I suggest you gather all the ingredients for this now, so you can curl up tonight with some piping hot chili. Enjoy!