Do you have a secret ingredient in your chili recipe?
Many chili recipes claim to have a secret ingredient to the sauce. When you live in Cincinnati, chili is a big deal. There is a chili restaurant on every corner, and we put it on everything: spaghetti, potatoes, hotdogs, fries, and yes, sometimes in a bowl. The secret ingredients in Cincinnati-style chili are cinnamon and chocolate. This recipe, from my good friend Marty, is a more traditional style, and the secret ingredient is a can of beer that adds a significant and surprising flavor boost.
Easy Make-Ahead Dinner
I kick off the recipe every year on Halloween night. When the kids were little, they would come home from school and only think of the fun night ahead. It is always busy with last-minute costume emergencies or other unexpected details and having dinner ready to go makes the night more enjoyable. Plus, chili is easy to share with neighbors or eat between doorbell rings.
What to Serve with Chili?
Ingredients, Substitutions and Equipment
- Grass-Fed Beef is my preference for its health benefits, but it costs more. Lean ground beef or ground turkey also work.
- Red, orange or yellow works well; it does not have to be a green pepper
- I use a pilsner or lager beer.
- I prefer the smaller red beans, but kidney beans can be substituted for red.
- Equipment needed: Dutch oven or stockpot.
- Using jalapenos for a garnish adds extra heat and color, but cutting them can be tricky. I recently cut a jalapeno without gloves and rubbed my nose. I did not realize I had some juice on my fingers. Water and soap were not providing any relief. I called daughter #2, and she told me to use rubbing alcohol followed by milk. I did not have any milk in the house, but the yogurt was perfect because it created a cooling mask. Check out these links from @kitchn to help:
How to remove seeds and membranes from a jalapeno
What to do if you feel the pepper burning on your hands
Another Secret to Great Chili - Toasting Spices
Toasting the spices early in the cooking process before adding the liquid will provide more flavor to the stew. This process unleashes the aromatics in the ground spices.
- The spices will release more flavor by gently heating them in a bit of oil with the meat.
- Then add the onion and pepper to continue toasting the ground spices while the vegetables soften.
- Don’t let the spices burn as they will taste bitter.
Why is Chili so Popular?
The secret to chili’s popularity is that it checks off many boxes for the busy family cook:
- Great make-ahead meal
- Quick to prepare
- Low carb & high fiber
- Wonderful leftovers dish that tastes better the next day
- One-Pot meal so clean-up is easy
- Ingredients are easy to keep on hand for a pantry meal