Isn’t chili one of those things you anticipate eagerly, waiting until the first hopeful glimmer of a fall breeze to pin that recipe that looks oh-my-god good to your new Fall Foods board? It is for me, at least.
Some of my greatest fall memories include whipping up a huge batch of chili, college football on (Roll Tide only, please), windows open. In college, I was particularly fond of these days, living close enough to the stadium to hear the roars that were echoed on my TV. O used to doubt how big of a football fan I could possibly be if I only went to one game my entire time at college.. until this autumn. Now he sees me busily slaving over pumpkin bread, chili, pot pie, and caramel apples, stopping only to burst out into a quick row of “Yea Alabama!” And, let’s face it, I get to sing our touchdown song a lot.
I’ve made probably four or five chilis in my life, which is quite a lot, unless you’re a chili cookoff-hopeful! Most of us grow up with a certain type of chili, and cling to it throughout our adulthood, letting it remind us of when mom made it for us and grated our cheese for us, too. Only O gets someone to make his chili and grate his cheese, but his life is an exception. I’ve spoiled him completely. I’m like a cast on a broken arm that turns all pale and wimpy on the inside–O is doted upon and cooed after. At work, he’s a beast. I envision him as Perry Mason, locking up the bad guys, camera #2 zooming in as he has a revelation and starts, “But your honor.. if this man is innocent, then..” and always ending with, “I rest my case.” Feared by the opponents and loved by victims!
At home, he’s a baby. He literally pushes his bottom lip out when he endeavors to get his way. A true man, right? That being said, I have been on the hunt for a truly spectacular chili, with little success to speak of. Until this recipe.
It has “championship” in the title and was published by Saveur, yet it simply looked too thick to be excellent, and where are all the vegetables? No beans? Peppers? Huh?
Yet my blind faith in Saveur and its reviewers pushed through and carried me to an unbelievable victory! This championship chili was thick, but so delicious. The meat was perfectly tender and superior to any ground beef I’ve ever tasted in a chili. The flavors were complex and rich and spicy–I added a bit of chili powder for my own tastes. I served it over elbow macaroni, topped with an ungodly amount of cheddar and chopped white onions–my homage to the chili of my youth.
Is there anything more pleasant than a crisp fall day spent at home watching football, a pot of chili on the stove? 30 minutes of active work and 2 hours of the smell wafting to your spot on the couch, feeling like a badass, working on a hunger to rival a teenage boy’s. Make this. It’ll become your new favorite, too.
Here’s what I did.
Woody Desilva’s Championship Chili
Adapted from Saveur
4 lbs. beef chuck, trimmed and
cut into 1⁄2″ cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper,
4 tbsp. canola oil
5 medium onions, chopped
7 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 6-oz. cans tomato paste
4 tbsp. dried oregano
6 tbsp. chili powder
1 bottle dark beer
1 3/4 cups water
2 tsp. ground chile pequín
or cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. sweet paprika
1 tbsp. Tabasco
1 tsp. ground cumin
4 tbsp. masa harina or corn meal (we used corn meal, so as to help stay within budget! [and avoid more bags of junk in our cabinet])
1. Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 6-qt. pot over high heat. Working in 4 batches, brown beef, about 3 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beef to a plate.
2. Add onions and garlic; cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Return beef to pot; stir in tomato paste. Cook, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pot with a wooden spoon, until tomato paste is caramelized, about 12 minutes. Add oregano, chili powder, chile pequín, paprika, Tabasco, and cumin; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
3. Add water and beer; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender, about 2 hours. Stir in masa harina; season with salt. Simmer, stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes.