Chili, three ways
A crowd pleaserThree chili recipes worth cheering about

Chili, three ways

As Old Man Winter sets up shop and the football season starts to get interesting, it's time to bring out the classic crowd pleaser.

(Photo from public domain)
(Photo from public domain)

As Old Man Winter sets up shop for the next few months, I’ve been on the lookout for simple ways to stay warm.

Chili in most any form does the trick.

In addition, football season gets really interesting in January, and a pot of chili is an ideal halftime meal.

Fans can serve up an easy-to-hold mug, and return to the couch to cheer for the team. The following three recipes offer different takes on this crowd pleaser.

White chicken chili
This dish offers a light, but still hearty bowl of spicy warmth. Braising the chicken with all of the seasonings infuses the meat with lots of flavor while keeping it moist. It is a great winter meal, and it freezes well. So make this a double and pull out the spare when you are strapped for time.

Serves six
4 boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 lime, zest and juice
1 1/2 cups Pilsner, lager, or any light-ish beer (or more as needed)
2 cups chicken broth (or more as needed)
2 teaspoons chili powder (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 15-ounce cans white beans, drained
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, plus more to garnish

In a large pot on medium heat, heat the oil and sauté the garlic, onion, lime zest and seasonings. When fragrant, add the chicken breasts and sear them on both sides.

Lower the heat and add the broth, beer and lime juice. Cover and simmer for 90 minutes until the chicken is very tender and falls apart when poked with fork.

Check the pot occasionally to ensure there is sufficient cooking liquid; if needed, add more beer and broth.

When done, the liquid should be reduced and slightly thickened. If this is not the case, turn up the heat and boil it for five minutes to thicken/reduce sauce. And, if the liquid has evaporated too much, add some more beer and broth and cook briefly.

Pull the chicken apart with two forks until it is completely shredded.

Add the beans and cilantro, and cook another 30 minutes to blend the flavors.

Serve with additional chopped cilantro.

Vegetable chili
The beauty of this dish is its versatility. You can toss in pretty much any vegetables you have on hand. And even though it is vegetarian, it packs a flavorful punch so your carnivores will likely embrace it.

Serves six to eight
2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups chopped mixed vegetables: bell peppers, zucchini or other squash, corn, carrots, peas, string beans, spinach or other leafy greens, potatoes, yams, etc.
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped finely (if desired)
2 cups vegetable broth
3 15-ounce cans beans, drained (choose pinto, kidney, black or a combo)
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup cilantro plus more for garnish

In a large pot, heat the oil and sauté the onions, garlic, jalapeno (if using) and seasonings. When fragrant, add the remaining vegetables and sauté until all the spices are evenly distributed over the vegetables.

Add the broth, tomatoes and beans; stir.

Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes until the vegetables are soft and totally cooked through. Adjust the seasonings, add the cilantro and serve.

Texas-style beef chili
My husband makes this dish frequently. We call it Texas style for two reasons.

First, it uses cubes of meat, which is de rigueur in the Lone Star State. This contrasts with chili containing ground beef, which we more commonly see around here. Secondly, true Texas chili does not include beans, so this recipe is a creative and delicious hybrid.

A word on the meat: My husband prefers to splurge with sirloin, and the results are stupendous, but we have also made this with chuck, stew meat and short rib for a more economical and equally tasty result.

This chili gets better after a day or so as the flavors blend, so if you have the ability to make it a day ahead, that is recommended.

Serves six
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons oil (or more as needed)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds beef (chuck, short ribs, stew meat or sirloin) cut in bite-sized cubes
2 whole jalapeno peppers, chopped (seeds removed if you want milder flavor)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon ground ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 bottle dark beer
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 whole dried red chili (such as ancho or guajillo)
2 15-ounce cans kidney beans

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil and brown the beef. Add the onions, garlic, spices and chopped jalapenos. (Add more oil if the contents start to burn.)

Add the tomatoes, beer, cocoa powder, cornstarch and whole dried chili. Stir to blend. Add the beans with the liquid. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about two hours until the meat is fork tender. PJC

Keri White is the food columnist for the Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.

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