A few people over the years have asked my for my chili recipe but I’ve always been too lazy to write it down. Or maybe it’s that it’s not so much a recipe as a process. At least I never think about it as a recipe. I basically make two different kinds of chili: beef and chicken. Take the meat out of the beef recipe and you’ve got a vegetarian chili but I don’t count that as a different kind. It tastes exactly the same as the beef one except without any meat in it. Meat is mostly texture in chili rather than flavor.

I make my chili in a crock pot. You can make it on the stove top but believe me it’s a lot easier in a crock pot. You don’t have to stir it every twenty minutes to keep it from burning. That means you can ignore it. Works out much better for me. I also have a hand chopper that I use for chopping up the vegetables. It makes the task much easier and give me easy control over the size of the chopped veggies. I like to keep them a little chunky and have a little variety in their size. It’s one of those “As Seen on TV – Miracle Choppers” that I bought in the early 1990s and I’ve been using it ever since. The same one. A quick search shows me it’s still available. And pretty cheap.

Let’s start with the basic vegetable ingredients. Veggies – Green Peppers, tomatoes, onions, hot peppers, and broccoli. And then the spices – Cumin, oregano, garlic, basil, and thyme. That’s it. Pretty simple. Plus red kidney beans if you want beans instead of meat or if you want beans along with your beef. With chicken I’ve been using, and liking, chick peas instead of kidney beans. I used to use white kidney beans with my chicken chili but I like the chick peas better.

I use a five and a half quart crock pot for making my chili. That’s pretty big. I make a lot of it at once. You can cut the recipe down if you want to but chili also freezes well so you can make a big bitch and freeze half for later. I often chop up my veggies the night before I’m cooking, put them in the crock pot, and then stick the crock pot in the refrigerator. This is because I don’t want to have to do all the chopping in the morning. It doesn’t matter if you do this or not but you have the option.

So here is what I’d chop up and add to the crock pot.
The vegetables:
Three green peppers.
Three medium sized onions (slightly bigger than a baseball).
Four to six hot peppers.
Three cans of diced tomatoes. (Equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes is always better but not always available).
One head of broccoli.
The spices:
Five tablespoons of cumin.
Five tablespoons of oregano.
Five tablespoons of basil.
Five tablespoons of thyme.
Five tablespoons of chopped garlic. Usually I buy the chopped garlic in water in a jar and use that. Or you can chop your own.
These tablespoon amounts are just estimates too. I pour the spices onto the palm of my hand and guess it’s about a tablespoon. They are also intentionally low as I’ll taste the chili later and add more of what I think I need. I’ve also had a hard time finding thyme in the supermarket as of late. I have no idea why. But “Italian Seasoning” is easily found and reading the label reveals that it’s nothing more than a blend of oregano and thyme. So I use that when I don’t have any thyme. I think it has more oregano in it than time though but I often end up using more oregano anyway.

And a word about broccoli. If you’re not a fan of broccoli just add it and don’t worry. Those little tiny broccoli buds help thicken and sweeten the chili and won’t taste anything like broccoli. Chop them up fine and all will be good.

And a word about hot peppers. They’re the wild card. You never know exactly how hot they’ll be. The long hot peppers (rated medium to hot) that I’ve been using lately are fairly consistent but I notice they are growing them longer and longer. When I say one of these peppers I mean one that’s about six to eight inches long. I’ve seen them a foot long and I count that as two peppers. For milder chili stick with four peppers and for hotter go with six. You can also underestimate and add some of your favorite hot sauce latter on. You can always add a little heat but not take it away.

So I’ve got all that in my crock pot and I pull it out of the fridge in the morning. Then I add the meat. I usually use beef cubes for stewing. They didn’t have that at my local store this week so I used beef strips for stir fry. I think I had about a pound and a half of beef in there. Use whatever you want. The meat isn’t about flavor as much as it’s about texture. Keep the meat a bit chunky too. It’ll get smaller as it cooks and shred apart so think about a size that’s a little bigger than a forkful.

Speaking of texture I also add some ground turkey to the chili. Your standard supermarket package. I brown it off in a frying pan and then put it in. It doesn’t have to go in right away so usually I wait until lunch time to add it. I don’t often feel like frying things in the morning. You can use what ever ground meat you prefer but I find turkey the easiest. And once again it’s there for texture rather than flavor. It’ll end up tasting like chili no matter what.

One other reason I usually add the ground meat later is that sometimes there is too much liquid in the pot as the veggies cook and it threatens to overflow if more stuff is put in. I drain some of the liquid off with a ladle until there is enough room. This used to happen more in my five quart crock pot but less in my five and a half quart one.

I turn my crock pot on at about 8 AM. The first two hours on high and then the rest of the time on low. You could cook it on low the whole time or high the whole time and the cooking times would be different but that’s how I do it. And then don’t touch it. There is no point. It’ll take until about 1 PM until all the flavors cook and mix together and then you can taste it. I almost always add about two to three more tablespoons of everything at this point. More cumin gives it a more Mexican food flavor, more oregano gives it a more pizza-like flavor, more thyme gives it a more pine needle type flavor, more basil gives it a more sweet and woodsy flavor. Pick what you want or add them all. I might add some more garlic here too. Even garlic powered if I want a little more subtle bitterness. If it’s not hot enough for you than add some hot sauce. Try it again at 2 PM for one last adjustment if it needs it. It’s done when the beef falls apart under your fork (Usually by 3 or 4PM). If you’re using chicken it’s probably already done.

For my chicken and chick peas chili I take away two cans of tomatoes and add in a large jar of chicken gravy (16 ounces I think) and a large can of chick peas (32 ounces I think). I used to use chicken breast but have switched over to the dark meat. That’s because when eating chicken I prefer the light meat but it turns out I like the dark meat in chili a lot better. It absorbed the chili flavor much better and has a better texture.

I’m also a firm believer that chili tastes even better the second day. After sitting in the fridge overnight the flavors blend together even more and taste even better. So if you’re making chili for some occasion or to bring somewhere it’s okay to make it a day or two ahead of time. Chili keeps for a good long time in the fridge.

And if for some reason you have no time and want to make a quicker version of chili then cook everything in a frying pan first. Sauté all the vegetables, cook all the meat in a pan, throw the meat, veggies and all the spices into a pot, and cook that on the stove for an hour or two. It’s not quite as good as the slow cooking method but it’s still okay. And maybe cut the amount of ingredients in half if you’re doing it this way. Otherwise that’s a lot of stuff to cook in a pan.

One final thing is that when I want beef and red kidney beans in my chili I usually take out an onion and a can of tomatoes. Or maybe not add as much broccoli. For the vegetarian version I just don’t add meat and add beans instead.

The shopping list version.

3 green peppers.
3 medium sized onions
4 to 6 hot peppers.
3 cans of diced tomatoes.
1 head of broccoli.
Jar of cumin.
Jar of oregano.
Jar of basil.
Jar of thyme.
Jar of chopped garlic.
For Beef:
1.5-2 lbs Beef cubes for stewing
1 Package ground turkey
For chicken:
1.5-2 lbs chicken thighs (off bone)
1 can of diced tomatoes (instead of three)
1 large jar of chicken gravy
1 large can (32 ounces) of Chick peas
1 Package ground turkey
For Vegetarian:
4 sixteen ounce cans of red kidney beans. Or whatever other beans you like.