Simply Awesome Beef Chili

Cook’s Illustrated does it again.

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces bacon (about 8 strips), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium onions, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans favorite beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree
  • Table salt

Directions:

  1. Fry bacon in large heavy-bottomed nonreactive Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring frequently, until browned, about 8 minutes. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat, leaving bacon in pot.
  2. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, oregano, and cayenne; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and add half the beef; cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink and just beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add remaining beef and cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
  5. Remove cover and continue to simmer 1 hour longer, stirring occasionally (if chili begins to stick to bottom of pot, stir in 1/2 cup water and continue to simmer), until beef is tender and chili is dark, rich, and slightly thickened.

Slow Cooker Option: At the end of step 3, transfer the cooked beef mixture to a slow cooker; add the rest of the ingredients as directed in step 4. Cook the chili on the high setting for four hours.

Adjust seasoning with additional salt. Serve with lime wedges and condiments if desired. Good choices for condiments include diced fresh tomatoes, diced avocado, sliced scallions, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro leaves, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese.

If you are a fan of spicy food, consider using a little more of the red pepper flakes or cayenne–or both. The flavor of the chili improves with age; if possible, make it a day or up to five days in advance and reheat before serving. Leftovers can be frozen for up to a month.

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