Earlier in the year, I wrote about the food I make as soon as the mercury starts rising. There's also a food I look forward to making as soon as the mercury starts falling. Nothing is better on a cold night than a bowl of homemade chili. I love chili and would eat it year round, but my husband doesn't share my enthusiasm. In fact, he refuses to eat chili until the temperature is lower than 60 degrees outside. The weather finally cooled off and I was recently able to make my first batch of chili for the season.
There are a lot of variations when it comes to chili recipes. There is white chili, also known as chicken chili, and the more traditional red chili. Some recipes use beans; others don't. Some use meat; others are meatless. Some are mild; some are three alarm hot! I've even seen chili recipes that use cinnamon or chocolate.
For the first 15 years I was married, I made chili using my mother's recipe. It was a simple, yet tasty, recipe that only used five ingredients: ground beef, chili seasoning, chicken broth, tomato sauce and chili beans. Over the years my tastes changed and I wanted a chili recipe that had more texture and spice.
A couple of years ago, I was looking through a cookbook and found a chili recipe that sounded so good I went out and bought the ingredients that day. The recipe used 2 1/2 times more ingredients than my mother's recipe so I was skeptical about the outcome. I'm glad I decided to give the recipe a try because it's the only chili I make anymore.
After the meat, onion and celery are browned, all the ingredients are combined in a crock-pot. To prevent cross contamination, I use one spatula when I brown the meat and another one when I mix the meat with the other ingredients. The chili needs to be stirred occasionally while it's cooking. I try not to stir it more than once an hour since heat escapes every time you remove the lid on the crock-pot. The more you remove the lid, the longer it will take for the chili to cook.
Like most soups and stews, chili is better a day or two after it's cooked since the flavors have had time to blend. I reheat the chili in the crock-pot, but you can also reheat it on the stove or in the microwave. No matter which method you choose, check and see if you need to add some water to the chili before it's heated.
I like to give new life to leftovers so I use the chili another night for taco salad. I put salad greens on the plate, ladle the heated chili on the salad and sprinkle shredded cheese on the top. I put the plate in the microwave a few seconds, just long enough to melt the cheese. To dress up the plate, I put tortilla chips around the salad.
I hope the weather will be cool -- not cold -- this fall and winter so I can satisfy my craving for chili. If not, I'll have to perform the experiment and see if my husband will eat chili on a day when it's warmer than 60. I think he will because he likes chili more than he's willing to admit!