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Recipe: Chili can be easiest route to dinner

  • LOS ANGELES TIMES
                                Lots of crunchy, sharp and creamy toppings turn a simple bowl of beef and chili into dinner in an instant.

    LOS ANGELES TIMES

    Lots of crunchy, sharp and creamy toppings turn a simple bowl of beef and chili into dinner in an instant.

Several years ago, my partner and I spent a month in San Antonio, where his family lives. We were both unemployed at the time, so we spent the days driving around the city, exploring and eating all the wonderful food. We consumed a lot of chili.

We ate the “authentic” kind, consisting of cubed beef chuck or sirloin cooked in a mole-like gravy of hydrated and pureed dried chiles, and we ate plenty of the Tex-Mex kind, in which ground beef stands in for cubed and is seasoned with ground chile powder made from a mix of dried chiles, but often of the New Mexico varietal.

Beans and tomatoes — highly contentious ingredients to add to chili in Texas — were found in several iterations we tried. After sampling so many, we decided that the ground beef version with beans — but with tomato paste, not canned tomatoes — was our favorite. It has been a staple of our quick weeknight dinners ever since.

Consisting of just ground beef, beans and spices, it’s incredibly easy to execute for beginner cooks (there’s nothing to even chop!) and is ready from start to finish in under 30 minutes. Once it’s ready, we dole it out in bowls and top it with cheese, sour cream and diced avocado. We use red onions and scallions because I like the sharp bite of the former and the vivid color of the latter. The only thing that’s not allowed in the chili is greens or vegetables of any kind — that would be sacrilege.

Easy Beef and Bean Chili

This simple chili may be flavored in different ways. Experiment with single ground chiles in place of the mixed chile powder; ground coriander along with the cumin; or smoked paprika for smoky depth and an extra rich red color. Just keep it simple so the spices shine through. You can also use ground lamb, bison or turkey instead of beef, or vegan meat substitutes. For chili-cheese hot dogs, fries or nachos, top with finely shredded cheddar cheese.

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (preferrably double-concentrated)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney, pink or pinto beans, undrained
  • 2 cups beef or chicken stock (or water)
  • Shredded sharp cheddar or colby jack cheese, sour cream, diced avocado or guacamole, diced red onion and thinly sliced scallions, for serving

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high. Add beef, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring to break it up, until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with chile powder, cumin, oregano and paprika; cook, stirring, until spices are toasted in fat, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, until lightly caramelized, 1 to 2 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over beef and cook, stirring, to cook off raw flavor of the flour, about 1 minute.

Add beans, liquid and all, then pour stock into empty can to help loosen any stuck beans and add to pan with rest of the stock. Stir everything to combine, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened and slightly reduced, about 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and season again with salt and pepper.

Serve chili in bowls topped with cheese, a dollop of sour cream, avocado, red onion and scallions. Serves 4.

Nutritional information unavailable.

Variations

>> No-bean chili: Omit beans and their liquid and double the beef for a total of 2 pounds.

>> Vegan chili: Substitute 1 pound Beyond Meat for ground beef and substitute vegetable stock, mushroom broth or water for beef stock.

>> Seasoned ground beef for tacos: Cook the recipe through the caramelizing of the tomato paste, then remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Use as a filling for tacos.

>> Make ahead: Chili will keep refrigerated for 5 days.

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