I’m not a chili “purist” (whatever that means seems to depend on where you were raised), and I’m sure adding kidney beans draws attention to this fact immediately. I do have a bit of beef with chili con carne that tastes more like spiced tomatoes though. As its name implies, the focus should be on chilies and beef, and that’s unachievable if you’re working with too much beyond that.
Instead of tomatoes, I opt for tomato paste, and instead of beef broth, I bolster the beefiness with concentrate. Ideally you’d make your own meat glaze, but the blend of several chilies and spices masks the “unnatural” flavor ordinarily imparted by a lot of store bought products, so I think it suffices in this application. The only thing that would make this better is substituting ground beef for a stewing shoulder cut or similar, but sometimes you simply don’t want to wait that long for dinner! Leftovers freeze well, but they’re even better the next day, and make a great topping for Michigan-style hot dogs or taco filling, so I can’t say that ever happens.
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 onion, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- (optional) a handful of mixed, mild dried chilies (such as pasilla, ancho or guajillo)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons beef concentrate (such as Better than Bouillon or Bovril)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 16 ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
- salt, to taste
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef well in several batches, transferring the cooked beef to a bowl for later.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the onion in the residual fat. If the stuck beef bits (fond) look like they will begin to burn, add a few tablespoons of water and scrap them away from the pan, then continue cooking until the onion is tender.
- Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, dried oregano, cayenne, pepper and mixed chilies, if using, and cook for a couple more minutes to bloom the spices.
- Return the beef to the pan, stir in the tomato paste, beef concentrate, water and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for one hour.
- After one hour, add the rinsed kidney beans and warm through. Add a bit of water to dilute (or, alternatively, simmer down), then season to taste with salt if necessary. Remove the whole chilies before serving, unless you’re into that kind of thing.
Serve with crusty bread and a dollop of sour cream, if desired.