Saturday, February 28, 2009

Recipe: Cheater's chili

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I would like to be the kind of cook who makes every single thing from scratch. Or, at least, I would like you to think that I'm the kind of cook who makes every single thing from scratch. But I'm a bad liar. So here's my confession: I don't. I take shortcuts with prepared and packaged food items all the time. I admit that I am powerless over whipped cream from a squirt can, Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, and the chili seasoning mix that comes in a little envelope and has the chili recipe on the back.

I know there are more flavorful chili recipes out there. I've seen them. But with the mix I can have the chili simmering in 10 minutes and can then go do something else until dinnertime. And, with a little doctoring (what, you think I wouldn't tinker?), it's really pretty good.

Cheater's chili
  • 3 lbs ground beef, turkey or a combination
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 envelopes chili seasoning (I like McCormick's but they're mostly the same - some spices, lots of salt)
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes with liquid
  • 2 cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder (the secret ingredient for all good red chili)
  • pinch of cayenne or dried red pepper
  • Garnishes: crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese, hot sauce, sour cream
Saute the ground meat in a large pot over high heat until it's no longer pink. Add the onion and cook, stirring, another 3 or 4 minutes, until the onion is softened. Add the chili mix, tomatoes, beans, cocoa powder, and cayenne or dried red pepper. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer, covered, at least 45 minutes and up to 3 hours, checking the pot occasionally to make sure it's not too dry (if it is, add a little water). Serve hot with crushed tortilla chips, cheese, hot sauce and sour cream on the side.

By the way, this makes a big pot, and it tastes even better on the second, third, fourth and fifth days. After five days, freeze whatever's left for a future dinner.

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