Its cold outside, which means it’s the perfect time for chili. You would have to travel for miles to find someone who doesn’t love a hot, steaming bowl of it, especially this time of year. But that is where the fellowship ends when it comes to chili. There are a number of people who pride themselves on their chili recipes. Their special mixture of spices, meat (and/or beans-we’ll get to that), is proprietary. There are strong preferences, and allegiances that rival those of collegiate and pro sports, and depending on where you live, even national heritage. It’s not simply geography that dictates what kind of chili you prefer, sometimes a household is divided over this issue. How we like our chili—hot or mild, red meat or white, beans or no beans, —is personal.
Even more debatable than our preferences, is what, exactly, chili is and where it came from. Chili, and its history, is complex. The recipe is simply a stew of water chili peppers, herbs, and most often, meat, with origins going back hundreds of years. In modern times, the debate has centered on whether chili is Mexican or American.
Rick Bayless, a chef who is an expert in Mexican cuisine and who has traveled throughout Mexico extensively, says that it is a matter of reversing the name. In Mexico, they make a stew of chilies and meat. They refer to it as Carne con Chili, either Chili Colorado or Chili Verde. They also have a dish called Carne Guisada, which has many of the flavorings as those of our Chili con Carne. In Mexico, it’s Carne con Chili, and in America, its Chili con Carne, or just chili. Both preparations are closely related, but the Chili con Carne, that most of us have come to love, and for which there are many recipes, seems to date back to hungry Texas cowboys inventing a trail-hearty stew of dried beef and chili peppers.
The difference today between Chili con Carne and its Mexican sister is that we, being Americans, have spun our chili in countless directions. A big moment in chili history came when beans and tomatoes were added. Since then, the discussion has become fiery. With or without? What will it be? The answer is obvious. With the idea of culinary liberty for all, we should be accepting of those who want to put beans, tomatoes, seitan, tofu, or a list of other continually evolving ingredients in their chili. In the interest of culinary harmony, my recipe for SLOW COOKER DIVA-STYLE CHILI can be customized to suit your tastes. Hot or mild, red, green or white, the wonderful thing about chiliis that it is, as they say, its’ all good!
SLOW COOKER DIVA-STYLE CHILI
Yield:12 servings (1-1/3 cups each).
No matter which side you chose in the great chili debate, this recipe allows you to customize your chili. No matter how you decide you like your chili, it will result in a delicious bowl of hearty goodness!
3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into cubes or 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper
½ to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cans (16-ounces each) kidney beans or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
3 cans (15-ounces each) tomato sauce
1 can (14-1/2-ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup water
1 can (6-ounces) tomato paste
Add all ingredients to standard slow-cooker pot and cook on medium setting for 8-10 hours.