This recipe offers a little heat and a lot of comfort -- especially when it is served over pieces of torn bread.
Attention to detail makes for a tender chili. Add the dried herbs and spices to the sauteed vegetables to release their volatile oils. Use your fingers to crumble the dried oregano into the pot; that will release more of its flavor. Cook the chili over low, even heat to keep the ground beef juicy (boiling can shorten its protein fibers). If possible, don't let the condensation that forms on the underside of the pot lid slide off onto the chili and water down its flavor.
The chili, which takes about an hour to make, can be prepared ahead, covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
Servings: 4 - 6
- 2 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 1 large carrot, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1 stalk celery, peeled to remove strings and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 3 to 4 teaspoons mild chili powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 1/4 pounds ground beef (80 percent lean)
- 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce (may substitute 1 cup homemade tomato sauce)
- 1 can (15 ounces) red kidney beans, with liquid
- 1 cup water
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 4 to 6 slices day-old crusty Italian or French bread, for serving (optional)
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onion, carrot and celery, and cook about 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Resist the urge to stir frequently, so the vegetables will caramelize rather than steam. Add 3 teaspoons of the chili powder, the salt, oregano, 1/4 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper and the garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Push the vegetables to the outside edges of the pot, increase the heat to medium-high, and place the ground beef in the center. Use the edge of a wooden spatula or spoon to break the meat into 3/4 -inch pieces. Sear the beef until it begins to brown on the bottom; don't stir it until the beef sears and you see steam rising. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink.
Add the tomato sauce and the beans and their liquid. Rinse the tomato sauce can (or container from leftover sauce) with 1 cup water and add it to the pot along with the bay leaf. Bring the chili to a rolling boil, then quickly reduce the heat to low. Taste; add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper for a spicier chili or 1 teaspoon chili powder for a deeper flavor. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the largest pieces of carrot are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
If serving over bread, tear 1 slice of bread into 3/4 -inch pieces and place in the bottom of each wide, shallow soup bowl. Ladle the chili on top; serve hot.
Adapted from a recipe by California cooking teacher Linda Carucci.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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