Sunday, October 3, 2010

Soup Weather: Super Secret FvF Family Chili

As much as I give Mr. FvF a hard time about being a picky eater, I used to be one too. I still am in some capacities. When I was little, I hated onions. I'd really only eat them when they'd cooked down over several hours, in my mom's soups and my dad's famous chili. Turns out, that's a great way to get my husband to tolerate them, too.

This chili is one of the many comfort foods from home that I craved when I lived on my own. I learned how to make the basic recipe, then tweaked it a bit to my own liking. Once the air starts to cool down in the Gem City, I start craving it again. When I was single and had the recipe firmly cemented, I'd make a big pot of it and invite all of my dude friends over. Then, naturally, they started craving it, too.

Now, this chili is not Texas chili, not Cincinnati chili, and above all, it's not complex - it's very basic. It has what, for some people, is an unexpected element that gives the chili it's own unique flavor: brown sugar. Here's what you'll need:

3 lbs ground beef
1 large yellow onion, diced
5+ tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 C brown sugar
2 tbsp salt
1 large can tomato juice
2 10 oz cans dark red kidney beans

In a large stock pot over medium heat, start browning your ground beef. About halfway through, add your diced onion. By the time the meat is cooked, your onion should be soft and translucent. Here's a tip - if you like your beef super-granulated (a la Skyline), use a higher fat content and cook it in a little beer. It'll just fall apart. If you like bigger chunks of ground beef in your chili, use a leaner meat and don't stir as often to break up the beef.

Drain any fat and liquid from the beef and return to the stove on mid-low heat. Add your spices, salt and brown sugar, stir and cook for a few minutes. Now, add your kidney beans and your tomato juice, increase the heat and bring to a low boil. Once it's started bubbling, reduce the heat a bit and simmer for at least 2 hours. About 1 hour through, it's safe to have a taste test and check it for seasoning levels. Adjust any way you like it, for heat, salt or sweetness. As with most soups and chilis, the longer it simmer, the better it tastes. Don't make the mistake of trying to taste test it any sooner than one hour, though. I did that the first time I made it, then called my dad in a panic because it tasted like rancid V8. The flavors have to cook and jive together for a good while before the flavors started to meld.

This chili is more than hearty enough to eat on its own, but we Southern Ohioans like to serve it over spaghetti with heaps of shredded cheddar.


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