How To Make Great Chili Without a Recipe
Making Chili without a Recipe
I don't mean buy chili from the grocery store--I mean make it yourself. And make it your own. There is no reason in the world that you have to follow somebody's recipe, painstakingly measuring 1/2 teaspoon of this, 2 cups of that or 8 oz. of the other! That's no fun.
The earliest references to chili that I can find are of a stew consisting mainly of chili peppers, with or without meat, that was made to use up leftovers. Another dish, along with quiche, frittatas, soup, and casseroles, invented to use up leftovers! The wonderful thing about this is, if you follow a few chili rules, you don't need a recipe for chili--just use what you have along with some "standard" chili flavorings and spices.
The joy of chili is the creativity you can bring to the dish. So, let's explore chili!
(Thanks to jslander for the chili pepper pic at the top. Find his photostream here)
Intuitive Chili Wins for October, 2008!
Thanks for Supporting my lens!
Thanks to all of your votes, Intuitive Chili won the Fresh Squid contest for the month of October, 2008. Yay! I am honored to accept the award and look forward to many more years of happy Squidooing:)
And a special huge thank you goes out to Michelle Willow who runs the contest and helps to make Squidoo newcomers feel welcome. Thanks a_willow for all you do!
Cabaret Squidoo Feature!
I am honored to have this lens featured at Cabaret Squidoo on Election Day. Now you can vote for President and for Intuitive Chili on the same day!
The Case for Intuitive Chili - Think it. Feel it. Cook it.
This is chili a la me, and I even baked the bread:-)
Cooking without a recipe can be a little scary if you've never done it before, but think of it this way: have you ever had cereal? You pour some, maybe cut up some of your favorite fruit or throw on a handful of nuts or raisins--add some sweetener (if you're me), pour on some milk until it reaches....there! Well, you've created your own recipe for (Insert Name Here)'s Perfect Breakfast Cereal.
Now, expand that idea to other foods that might require a bit more cooking technique.
If you've never cooked before, you will want some reference materials. Even if you have cooked a lot but find yourself unable to deviate from a printed recipe, you'll want to understand basic cooking techniques, methods and ingredient function. Don't look for compendiums of thousands of recipes. Rather, search for books and articles that explain the "hows" and "whys" of cooking, not just the "what's."
Once you have a handle on basic cooking methods, techniques and ingredient function, you can make almost anything. Armed with that knowledge and some regional flavor profiles, you're good to go.
By that, I mean tomato+basil=Italian, corn+black beans+cumin=Mexico, feta cheese+olives+oregano=Greece. You get the idea.
In the case of chili, here's what you need to know:Chili is cooked by braising.Chili is Mexican in origin.Chili contains a lot of chile peppers, both fresh and dried.Chili is used for using up leftovers.Chili is often thickened with a corn product.
Knowing just these five facts about chili opens up a wide range of chili possibilities.
Not convinced? Here's the thought process:
- If chili is a braise, I will use tough cuts of meat. I can also throw in leftover cooked meats if I cut them in very small pieces.
- I will need a liquid to braise in. Hmmm--I'm thinking beer and beef stock.
- Mexican flavors: definitely cumin, Mexican oregano, maybe some beans, lots of onion and garlic, ooh, maybe some bitter chocolate or some cocoa powder, or maybe some coffee for a base note! Maybe a dash of cinnamon for a little "Gee, what is that flavor?"
- I'm going to need some peppers--from not to hot. I think some bell or Cubanelle peppers for a fresh, green base flavor. Then some minced or sliced jalapenos or serranos. I've got some dried chiles in the cabinet--I'll soften them up in boiling stock, hit them with the stick blender and voila, chile paste. Not hot enough? I've got some cayenne pepper and some hot sauce.
- What else do I have that I can throw in here? Leftover steak? Awesome. A container of corn? Why not?! A few pickled jalapenos leftover from taco night? In they go.
- Towards the end of cooking, I'll throw in some corn flour, cornmeal or grits to thicken it up. Heck, I could even use crushed tortilla chips.
And that, my friends, is chili.
The Best Chili Pot - You Can't Make Chili Without One!
What you're looking for is a deep, Dutch oven. It should have sturdy handles and be made of heavy gauge metal that will hold the heat and cook evenly. Cast iron is the way you want to go. Since acidic ingredients can react with cast iron cookware, it is best to get an enamel-coated cast iron pot. The all metal construction assures you that it will be equally at home on the stove top and in the oven.
Crock Pot Chili? - Why Not Crock Pot Chili?
Chili is basically a stew or a braise, and a crock pot is made for low and slow, moist cooking. If you have one stashed in the back of your closet because you couldn't bear to get rid of it after Aunt Sadie went to the trouble of buying it for you as a wedding present back in 1979, by all means, pull that puppy out and make some chili!
The rectangular shape of this guy makes storage easier. Plus, you can make a gallon of chili at a time. The Cuisinart PSC-400 also comes with a handy 24-hour timer not to mention a cook book!
Books that Explain the Science Behind the Recipes - If you understand the "hows" and "whys" the "what's" will come!
While these books do contain recipes, their main focus is the explanation of cooking methods, techniques and the science behind cooking. You will find yourself referring to them over and over. I know I do.
So You Wanna Make White Chili - Lose the red ingredients.
Thanks to Closet Cooking for the photo. Visit Kevin's Closet Cooking Blog here
Sometimes, we're just in the mood for a lighter chili. One with brighter flavors than the deeply, darkly mysterious red chili. Do you really need a recipe for that kind? What do you think I'm going to say about that?
In order to make a white chili, you need to know that white chili is green. And, you'll have to lose the red ingredients. So, goodbye:chili powder/chili pastetomatoes (I don't normally use tomatoes, but there's no law against it)red beansred meat
Now what? What to use in place of these goodies?cumin, cilantrofresh chiles and tomatillosno beans or white beans/white cornturkey/pork/chicken
And there you have it: white chili
Here's how to do it:
- Sweat onions and garlic in oil
- Add fresh pork shoulder/dark meat turkey or chicken. If using leftover meat, add it later.
- Deglaze the pan with beer/chicken broth/vegetable broth
- Add fresh chiles and cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Throw in that bottle of green salsa you've been wondering what to do with.
- Add more broth and any beans/veggies/cut up cooked meat
- Simmer until wonderful.
- Thicken with masa, corn flour, tortilla chips or even some leftover cornbread stuffing (hello, post-Thanksgiving meal)
- Adjust seasonings, add fresh cilantro.
If you want it hot, make sure you add in diced or even pickled jalapenos, serranos or some hot sauce/cayenne pepper.
Enjoy your White Chili a la You!
Burn Your Recipes--The Culinary Motto for the 21st Century - The Gospel According to Chef Todd Mohr
See--I'm not the only one out there championing the cause of intuitive cooking. Check out all of Chef Todd's Cooking Coarse videos here
Stuff You Need to Make Chili - No Matter What Kind You're Making
Just because I say that you don't need a recipe doesn't mean that there aren't some ingredients that are vital. Having an array of dried chiles close at hand could be the difference between making chili and taking a pass. The poster is a great reference for Scoville units.
Links to Sites and Lenses on Chili
Check 'em out!
- Gator's Chili
This is Gator's Chili Lens. I love chili! Especially with Vidalia onions and Hatch ... Welcome to Gator's Chili Lens! My own recipe and all things chili! ...
- Chili Recipe For A Texas Style Chili
Chili Recipe for a Texas Style Chili that has won 4 World Championship Chili Contest. Featuring a Chili Mix from the Original Chili Recipe.
- Chili Recipes
"Turkey is added to create a spin on a classic chili recipe. Cayenne pepper, Old Bay seasoning and McCormick's chili mix also add flavor...."
- Best Chili Recipes Ever
"Are you a chili lover? If you are, then you are going to love 600 Recipes For Chili Lovers! Inside you'll find every imaginable version of chili. There's chilies with beans and without, with meat and without, vegetarian chilies, and low-fat variatio
- Chilli con carne
"Here's a tasty, hot chili recipe with a twist. Based on the old classical favorite, chili con carne, but with added peas and green peppers, for more taste and color. It's delicious and good for your health!"
- Easy Chili Recipes
"So you just got home, it been a long day and your tired. The kids are starving and you need to whip up something really quick."
- Chili Everyone Loves
"This Chili is time tested as I have made this recipe for over 25 years. I have received rave reviews and you will too. Perfect for the Crock-Pot."
- Fast-Easy Chili Recipe
Use tomato soup as a short-cut base.
Intuitive Chili Options - A Menu for Your Perusal
Thanks to Ryner12 for the pic. See the photostream here
Coming up short on ideas? Fear not, friends. Check out ingredient options by category.
"Meatloaf" blend ground pork/beef
Bacon or pancetta ( more of a flavoring, really)
Dark Meat Chicken
Dark Meat Turkey
Diced, pre-cooked white meat poultry
Vegetarian-friendly Protein Options
Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP)
Beans Beans Beans
Chile Options for Bulk
Fresh versions of:
Chile Options for Heat/Flavor
Fresh or dried/smoked/ground versions of:
Chipotle (dried or in Adobo sauce)
Red Pepper Flakes
Any kind of fresh beans
Any kind of dried beans
Tomatoes (there is a lot of debate about this. I say, use 'em if you want to)
Salsa (Well, it's a mixture of vegetables)
Any other broth/stock (lamb, veal...)
Tomato juice (again, use it if you like it)
Herbs and Spices
Chili Powder (a blend, usually of ground chiles, salt and some cumin)
Salt and pepper/white pepper
Poultry Seasoning (for white chili)
Sneaky Flavoring to Make People Wonder Why Your Chili Is So Good
Cocoa powder (don't go crazy)
A bit of unsweetened chocolate
Your favorite hot sauce
A splash of vinegar
Lemon or lime juice
A hint of clove
Ground nuts or seeds (like pumpkin)
Ground up corn tortillas
Crushed Tortilla chips
This is a pretty complete list, but please feel free to add some extras in the special Ingredient Guest Book!
Should You Put Beans in Your Chili? - If You Like Beans, yes. It is Intuitive Chili, after all!
Two of the big fights in the chili world are tomatoes versus no tomatoes and beans versus no beans. Check out one chili cook's take on the bean issue.
Chili Ingredients to Have on Hand - The Raw Ingredients
Maybe you want to make intuitive chili, but you don't have any ingredients to start with. No matter how intuitive your chili, you can't start if all you have in the house is Kit Kat Bars. Seriously.
Perfect for white chili, Cannellini beans are very creamy and lend a nice texture to a chili.
Yes, you can dip tortilla chips in it, but it makes a heck of an addition to chili, as well.
Chili Makin' Tools You'll Need - You at least need a pot, right?
I'm not advocating purchasing a fancy enamel-coated cast iron chili pot for a billion dollars, but there is some stuff you'll need.
What a great deal this is: one slow cooker, three different sized crocks! I love it. And don't scoff at the slow cooker--it has its uses, and cooking a killer chili is one of them.
Get back to your roots with the OXO Good Grips Wooden Tools. Made of solid beech wood, these sturdy Wooden Tools are comfortable and durable. A natural oil finish coats the wood, leaving a clean, dark glaze. Safe for non-stick cookware and comfortable to hold, the Wooden Tools are handy for a host of cooking tasks.
Hardened and tempered high-carbon stainless steel from Solingen, Germany / One-piece full tang blades / Handles that are triple riveted with nickel rivets
This silicone trivet offers a resting spot for hot pots to keep Formica or Corian safe from melting or blistering. However, it also protects counterops from scratches; prevents mixing bowls and cutting boards from sliding during use; and functions as a pot holder, jar opener, and garlic peeler. Measuring 8 inches round, this trivet provides a smaller surface to cover the bottoms of round pots or bowls. The silicone material is heat-resistant to 675 degrees Fahrenheit so heat won’t transfer through the cover and a patterned surface keeps the trivet from slipping or sliding on any counter surface. This counter cover is flexible enough to roll up and store compactly in a drawer or has a hole in one corner to hang from a hook. This product comes in a rainbow of different colors and is dishwasher-safe. --Cristina Vaamonde
Quality kitchen tools can easily turn tedious meal preparation into a fun culinary experience. OXO's Good Grips utility cutting board has all the makings of a top-notch cook's aid. Crafted from thick polypropylene, the surface is durable, nonporous, and odor resistant; it is also impervious to deep scratches and maintains the sharp edges on kitchen knives. A juice groove around the perimeter of one side keeps liquids contained, and soft handles at either end make it easy to transport and keep it from slipping on the counter. The cutting board is designed to be used on both sides, doubling a cook's work capacity without adding bulk. Measuring 10-1/2 inches by 15 inches, this versatile size handles medium to large jobs. It is available in a range of handle colors and goes safely into the dishwasher between uses. --Kara Karll
I'd love it if you could leave your favorite chili ingredients here for me and visitors. If you'd like to leave a general comment, please leave it in the guest book towards the end of the lens. Thanks!
My Other Cooking Lenses - Enjoy!
Although I have many interests, my real passion is cooking and baking. Here is a list of those lenses. I hope you will stop by and take a look!
- Intutive Stew
A close cousin of Intuitive Chili, but about stew!
- Baking and Pastry Techniques
My lens focused on baking methods and techniques more than recipes. Lots of information on ingredient function. If you ever wanted the low down on leaveners, this is the lens for you!
- Lazy Braising
My newest lens, born on November 6. It details my method of making a meal that tastes like it took four hours in forty minutes. Lots of variations for this one. I hope you like it.
- Intuitive Soup
Are you sensing a theme? This is my newest lens, trumpeting the joys of making homemade soup without a recipe. Enjoy!
Have a favorite style of chili? Just want to stop in and comment on the lens? Feel free--can't wait to hear what you think!