This isn’t a food blog.
I think people get chili wrong often, and I think my chili is above average, and I’m going to share the secrets I learned from my mother that make it so good.
First some facts: if you’re from Texas, you will want to refer to this recipe as bean stew. I am not from Texas, so, to me, chili is any soup that is bean and tomato based and seasoned with chili powder. The meat is totally negotiable, which I fully understand is sacrilege to the Texans in my life. This particular recipe is vegetarian (vegan if you wish), but the secret ingredients are applicable to meat chili as well.
Second, some opinions: soups and stews are not exact sciences. It is ok to approximate, make substitutions, etc. I like following a recipe when I don’t know what I’m doing or for a technically challenging dish, but soups are usually easy for me to get a handle on, and I can manage proportions from memory and feel. This intuitive approach comes from cooking for most of my life and following a lot of recipes first. What I’m saying is, my approach to cooking is not for beginners, because I’m not breaking down the basics. If you basically know how to make chili already, do that and add my secret ingredients. I think you’ll like it better. As general soup wisdom goes, the longer it cooks, the better it tastes (with rare exception), and alcohol makes everything taste better. Wine, beer, vodka, rum, brandy. Take your pick.
Ok, if you aren’t just rolling your eyes about this interminable description and scrolling through to the recipe, here’s the deepest secret that nobody knows. Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud of the tree called life–well, at least, here’s the secret my mother taught me: use mustard, brown sugar, and chocolate (not enough chocolate for it to be considered mole–I’ve done that and I’m over it now). They all cut the acidity of the tomatoes and add layers to the flavor. The chocolate also deepens the color and creates a more stew-like texture. Plus, mustard and chocolate are binding agents, so your fat won’t separate.
Ah, at last. The recipe. What you came here for. What you skipped the description for.
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium-large onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 C (2-3) carrots, finely chopped
1-3 jalapenos, finely chopped (this directly impacts how spicy your chili is, so know your audience)
5 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 Tbs cumin
3-4 Tbs chili powder
salt and pepper to taste (beans are like black holes for salt, in my experience, and I always use more than I think I ought to)
1 cup barley
1 large can San Marzano tomatoes
2 – 15 oz cans kidney beans
2 – 15 oz cans black beans
1 1/2 cup vegetable stock
1-2 Tbs Dijon mustard
1-2 Tbs powdered or baking chocolate (I literally put a fancy truffle in my last pot, because it was the only chocolate I had on hand)
3 Tbs brown sugar
2 shots of tequila
(Top with grated cheese, sour cream, cilantro)
- Heat olive oil in large pot at medium high heat. Add onion, carrot, jalapeno, and garlic. Saute.
- Add cumin and chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.
- Combine remaining ingredients. Break up tomatoes with a spatula. Bring to a boil while stirring regularly. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour or until the barley is fully cooked (a tender but still springy texture). The longer you cook it, the better it will taste, so keep simmering as time allows, and add more water or stock if needed.
- Serve with cheese, sour cream, and cilantro as desired.
- (you can do all of this in an instant pot as well, and set to pressure cook for 30 minutes. I have yet to do this so it doesn’t shut off because its thinks it’s burning, but you should try it and see. Maybe an extra cup or two of stock would help).
- (If you want to use meat, simply add your pound or so of preferred meat after the veggies and before the spices. You’ll want to brown it for texture and flavor. You can skip the barley too).
- Serves a goodly number of people, like probably 6-9.