Please know, Gentle Reader – and I hope this does not come as a shock – that my love for barbecue is at most one notch above my love for chili con carne. To get there, I will tell you a story.
One of my father’s best friends moved to Texas when I was young, and sent my parents a recipe called Chili por el Animo, or Chili for the Soul. My mother started making it, and even added some notes at the bottom, like making sure to use a wooden spoon.
Here is the original recipe, now framed in my kitchen:
Over the years, I have made dozens of batches of this wonderful chili. I have stories and fables to tell, which I will share elsewhere. But suffice to say that I have added a few things and refined some, so that I now present to you Chili del Cielo.
Here is the full recipe:
So, let’s get started.
I find that fresh vegetables make the best chili. So I start with the peppers and onion.
Of course, we can vary the heat of the chili by the amount of peppers we use. I find that a medium amount, as shown here, makes what I consider a pretty mild chili.
Chop the onions and peppers medium.
After chopping the peppers, put one finely chopped jalapeno aside.
Here’s the meat, beans, and tomatoes.
Brown the meat and sauté the onions, peppers, and garlic.
Drain the fat from the meat if you wish, but don’t rinse. You want a little of that fat remaining on the meat, as it will absorb some of the flavors from the peppers better.
Add the tomatoes and beans (with liquid) to the meat. Note, for variety, you can try different kinds of beans.
Then add the sautéed vegetables.
Here are the spices.
I find the lid from a jar of parmesan cheese holds exactly 1/4 cup – so it makes a great measuring cup for the chili powder.
I also wait until after I add the beer, to add the cinnamon and paprika.
Next, add the beer.
Note, I am adding a whole beer. To be honest, it was shared with me by my Dad’s friend, that he originally figured he was drinking beer all day while making the chili, and when he thought about it, he would add some beer. He figured that over the space of making the batch, he added about a whole beer, out of the six pack he drank. The choice is yours.
At this point, add the remaining fresh jalapeno. I find that the fresh pepper adds to what is provided by the sautéed peppers.
Now, bring to a low boil, and then move it to a small burner, and simmer, covered, for 2-1/2 hours or so.
Stir about every 20 minutes or so, and taste it after an hour or so, and add salt and/or cayenne pepper as you see fit.
Then, move the lid so there is a gap, and turn up the heat slightly, and “cook down” for an hour or so, cooking off some of the water, and thickening the chili.
At this point, it’s ready to go. I serve mine with some chopped fresh onion and grated cheese.
Refrigerate any leftovers, but know that the peppers will continue to do their magic, and the leftover chili will be noticeably spicier than the fresh chili.