I used canned beans for quick weekday chili. Cook’s Illustrated has identified Goya as the best brand of canned beans, because they are processed fresh in the fields, instead of laying around in storage for an unknown length of time. This is more of a weekend variation on the theme.
A few days ago I made meatloaf hamburgers, basically a meat loaf mix formed into patties and dressed as a hamburger on a bun—I did not post it, because I was hungry and I did not take a photo. I was planning to make chili, and I thought that instead of just breaking plain hamburger into bits I could form the meatloaf mix into meatballs for the chili.
In the past, I would just toss the bread crumbs and milk onto the beef and mix it in. This turned out to be a mistake, because this actually prevents the gluten in the bread from binding your loaf together. Soaking the bread first allows the gluten to unwind and stretch out—this mixture of liquid and bread is called a panade. These strands of gluten then bind with the protein strands of the meat to give your loaf—or in this case meatballs—some structure.
Karl’s Weekend Beef Meatball Chili
½ cup bread crumbs
¾ cup milk
2 tsp. olive oil
½ cup onion, finely diced
½ tsp. Kosher salt
½ cup celery, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
2 Tbs. dry sherry
1 Tbs. soy sauce
½ tsp. black pepper, cracked
¼ tsp. baking soda
¾ lb. ground beef (80%)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Anaheim peppers
1 poblano pepper, roasted, peeled and diced
1 Jalapeño pepper, diced finely
½ green bell peppers, diced
2 medium beefsteak tomatoes
2 Tbs. corn oil
1 large onion, diced
½ tsp. Kosher salt
¼ cup cilantro stems, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
3-4 Tbs. Karl’s Four Chile Chili Powder
1-2 cans ( 29-58 oz) Goya pinto beans
1 can refried beans
1. Put the bread crumbs in a small bowl and stir in the milk.
Tip: Whenever I buy a loaf of bread the last few inches seem to end up on the shelf to dry out. When I have collected 3-4 of them, I either grate them on a box grater (for coarse crumbs) or toss them in a blender (for fine crumbs). I put the crumbs in a plastic bag in the freezer until I need them for a recipe.
2. Let the panade rest for 15 minutes.
3. Heat the oil in a medium pan, over medium high heat, and sauté the onions with the salt until just starting to pick up some color, about five minutes.
4. Add the celery and continue sautéing until the vegetables are soft.
5. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pan and sauté the garlic in the hole in the center for one minute, until fragrant.
6. Add the tomato paste to the garlic and continue cooking and scrapping until the tomato paste has started to darkened, about three minutes.
7. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sherry, soy sauce, pepper, and baking soda.
Tip: The baking soda changes the Ph of the meat and causes it to retain more of its moisture as it cooks.
Note: Let this mixture cool for a minute, so that it does not partially cook the egg when you add it to the meat mixture.
8. Put the beef in a large bowl and mix in the panade, the onion mixture in the pan, and the egg.
9. Mix the meat mixture well and then let it rest for 20-30 minutes, covered, in the refrigerator.
10. While the meat is resting, rinse and stem the peppers.
Tip: Many people roast their peppers whole and then struggle to remove the seeds from the hot floppy chilies. I prefer to cut the peppers in half length wise and to then remove the seeds while the peppers are cool and firm. I then lay them skin side up on a pan to roast. This technique has the further advantage of not having to rotate your peppers in the broiler to get an even char.
Note: If I am making a quick chili I do not bother removing the peppers’ skins. This is a balance of time and flavor. The skins can sometimes leave a bitter taste.
11. Cut the tomatoes in half at the equator and remove the seeds.
Tip: Scrape the seeds into a sieve and reserve the “jelly” in a small bowl. Discard the seeds.
12. Lay the peppers and tomatoes skin side up on a lipped baking sheet.
13. Broil the vegetables—2 inches from the heating element—until the skins are blistering and starting to blacken.
Tip: If necessary, rotate the peppers to expose all sides to the heat.
14. Remove the tomatoes after 2 minutes and set them aside to cool.
15. When the peppers are done, put them in a plastic bag to cool.
Tip: The cooling peppers will steam the skins and make it easier to remove them.
16. When the vegetables are cool enough to handle remove the skins.
17. Chop the tomatoes and add them to the bowl of tomato “jelly.”
18. Dice the peppers and reserve them in a separate bowl.
19. Lay some aluminum foil over a lipped baking sheet and put a wire rack on the tray.
Tip: Spray the rack with Pam.
20. Form the meat into one tablespoon sized balls.
Tip: I Pam a tablespoon measuring spoon and take out level spoonfuls. I then roll them into a ball.
Note: Wetting your hands keeps the meat fat from sticking to your hands.
21. Set the meatballs on the wire rack, so that they are not touching each other.
22. Set the baking tray in the oven and broil the meatballs until well browned on both sides.
Tip: About 8-10 minutes per side.
23. When the meat balls are done set them aside.
24. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven and sauté the onions with the salt until starting to pick up some color, about 5-7 minutes.
Tip: I usually use corn oil for Mexican dishes, but you may use any oil that you prefer.
Note: The salt speeds up the release of the moisture from the onions and helps them brown more quickly.
25. Add the cilantro stems to the onions and continue sautéing for another two minutes.
26. Pull the vegetables to the sides and add the garlic to the hole in the center, sauté for one minute more, until fragrant.
Tip: You may wish to add a half tablespoon of oil/grease to the garlic.
27. 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.
28. Add the tomatoes and any juices and use the liquid to deglaze the pot.
Tip: Scrape the bottom of the pot to remove any fond from the vegetables to prevent it scorching.
29. Add the diced peppers to the pot and continue cooking for 2-3 more minutes.
30. Add the rest of the beer and stir to mix the ingredients in the pot well.
31. Stir in the pinto beans, with their liquid, and the can of refried beans.
Tip: Continue stirring until the refried beans are no longer in large lumps.
Note: In the past, I have crushed some of the beans to thicken my chilies. I realized that refried beans come pre-crushed. Adding one can thickens this stew quite nicely.
32. Add the meatballs to the pot and simmer the chili, for at least 15 minutes, to meld the flavors.
33. 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.