Put the word classic on a dish, and other cooks are bound to protest that you’re full of beans. Well in this case, they would be right. Literally. No one is about to win the chili wars any time soon (beans, no beans, vegetarian, chicken, turkey, beef, pork, shredded meat, ground beef, hand-chopped meats), but we can all agree that the season has come for this soul-warming dish. And this one is full of beans.
This gound-beef chili begins with dried (not canned) red beans, onions, and two kinds of chile powder instead of a generic powder. Tailor your own with moderately hot ancho chile powder made from dried poblanos, smoky and very hot chipotle chile powder (smoked dried jalapeños), oregano, and cumin.
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Canned beans, while convenient, have been processed with high heat and contain a lot of sodium. To cook your own, buy dried beans from a store that does a brisk business with its bulk products. After soaking overnight (you don’t do anything here) the beans should cook in 35 to 40 minutes. Older beans will resist softening no matter how long they are in the pot.
When cooking the beans, salt will not toughen them, though your grandmother might disagree. At a gentle simmer the beans will stay intact and the texture will become creamy rather than mushy. Add hot water if the water level drops so the beans stay submerged. Cool them in the liquid in the pot.
Now to the meat: While some cooks will tell you that the ground beef should have plenty of fat, we prefer to use lean beef and a little oil. Ground turkey or chicken, or a combination of ground pork and beef, and even a few slices of bacon are also popular. Brown the meat with the onions, add the spices, and give them a minute to release their flavor before adding tomatoes and water. Add the beans at the end so they keep their structure.
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Classic beef chili with red beans
When the crowds gather at your house for a casual Sunday meal, on game days, or after school sports, you’ll be ready.