While I like slow cooked chili with tender chunks of beef, I sometimes just want a quick meal for a weekday. While I have been known to simply use a brand name chili, sometimes I like to go just a step further. This may take a few more minutes than simply opening a can, but the flavor is worth the effort.
As I was thinking about how to make this recipe, I realized that canned beans were all ready fully cooked and that the sauce of the my chili would be very thin and soup-like. I could simply mash a lot of the beans to thicken the broth to the state that I prefer. However, a simpler way was to add a can of refried beans—since this is already mashed pinto beans—that would thicken my stew nicely.
Depending on how many you are feeding, or how much leftovers you would like to have after the meal, you may use one or two cans of pinto beans. Cook’s Illustrated has identified Goya as the best brand of canned beans. They also discovered that a good can of beans could be better than using dried beans, because they are processed fresh in the fields, instead of laying around in storage for an unknown length of time.
Note: Followers of my blog may have noticed that I have not posted anything in over three weeks. Jan asked her publisher if they would be interested in a second edition of her book Cultures@SiliconValley. Stanford Press loved the idea and asked that she have it ready for publication in three months—people usually get a year of sabbatical to do a project like this, but SJSU did gave her a small grant. This was an impossible time frame to complete the task—as she had not even finished doing the interviews for the project, let alone having the interviews transcribed. This was an all-hands-on-deck situation, with the help of REV.com, myself—as editor and chief bottle washer—and Eilene—to type up the bibliography—Jan managed to send the manuscript off on Tuesday.
Karl’s Weekday Quick Beef Chili
1 lb. ground beef (80%)
1 Tbs. corn oil
1 large onion, diced
½ tsp. Kosher salt
1 Jalapeño pepper, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
3 Tbs. chili powder
½ tsp. black pepper
1 can (14.5 oz.) fire roasted tomatoes
1-2 cans ( 29-58 oz) Goya pinto beans
1 can (14.5 oz.) refried beans
1. Form the beef into one large patty.
Tip: The meat should form a disk half of an inch thick and 6-7 inches in diameter.
2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat and brown the beef patty well on both sides.
Tip: I usually use corn oil for Mexican dishes, but you may use any oil that you prefer.
Note: This is an America’s Test Kitchen trick. If you break up the meat and brown it in bits you will end up with hard, overcooked, meat rocks, before you get the good, flavorful browning that will make the dish taste “beefy.” By frying the meat in a patty you get the dark browned flavor of the Maillard reaction, but the meat in the center of the patty stays tender and moist.
3. Transfer the beef to a plate and spoon out all but two tablespoons of the grease from the pot.
Tip: Grease enhances flavor, however, due to Jan’s dietary restrictions I need to remove as much as possible. Use your own judgment on how much to remove. Too little fat and the spices will taste bland, too much and your chili will come out “greasy.”
Note: When the beef has cooled off enough, break it into small bite sized pieces.
4. Sauté the onions with the salt until starting to pick up some color, about 5-7 minutes.
Tip: The salt speeds up the release of the moisture from the onions and helps them brown more quickly.
5. Add the Jalapeño to the pot and continue sautéing for 2-3 more minutes.
6. Pull the vegetables to the sides and add the garlic to the hole in the center.
Tip: You may wish to add a half tablespoon of oil/grease to the garlic.
7. Add the tomato paste and spices to the garlic and sauté the mixture for 1-2 minutes, until very fragrant and the tomato paste has started to brown.
8. Add the can of tomatoes, with the liquid, and stir to mix the ingredients in the pot well.
Note: The only liquid in this recipe is the packing liquid from the various cans. Vegetables are packed with some of the water that they were processed in and it contains some of their flavor and nutrients. Don’t waste these by draining the can liquor down the sink.
9. Stir in the pinto beans, with their liquid, and add the beef and refried beans to the pot.
10. Simmer the chili for 10-15 minutes, to meld the flavors.
11. Serve and enjoy.
Note: While I like my chili strait from the pot, others like to add things to spice it up. You may provide bottles of your diners’ favorite hot sauce, or bowls of diced fresh onion, fresh chopped cilantro, shredded cheese, tortillas and/or tortilla chips on the side.