Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Just Right" Spicy Chili

For as long as I can remember, I have always liked spicy foods. In fact, I remember while I was growing up, my mother would always make two pots of chili for the family, one that wasn't very spicy at all for herself and my brothers and sisters while the other was extra spicy for my stepdad and me. I can remember my uncle Mike bringing potato chips for me on a regular basis that were extra crunchy and jalapeƱo flavored. Even as an adult, I love spicy food, going so far as to put red pepper flakes on my macaroni and cheese, hot pepper sauce and Cajun seasoning on my pizzas, and continuing to spice up my chili.
Of course, everybody has their own ideas about what good chili really is... Some people insist that if you add macaroni then it's no longer chili, but goulash. Some people don't like kidney beans or chili beans. Some people put corn in theirs. Some people make a tomato-based chili, while others have more of a broth base, and still others are cream-based. It really is all a matter of personal preference! But since this is the kind of chili I grew up eating, I'm somewhat partial to this method of preparation. Although, I do add some stuff that I'm pretty sure my mother didn't think to add back in those days, like chorizo sausage... If you've never had chorizo, it's a spicy, Mexican-style sausage, and I really like the added layer of flavor this gives to certain things, like chili. Depending on where you live, you can sometimes get it right from your local grocery store's meat department, where it's usually made fresh. And, depending on my mood, I eat my chili with macaroni. If I'm not in the mood for macaroni, though, it's definitely sour cream, diced avocado, and shredded cheese or cheese curds on top! YUM!!
One of the best things about chili is that you can make a ton of it and it tastes just as good, if not better, the next day. It also freezes really well, without any noodles in it, so you can make a lot of it and then save some of it for a later time. Another thing that's convenient about it, unlike some other soups, is that you can prepare all of the stuff beforehand and then put everything in a slow cooker to simmer all day.

1 lb. ground sirloin
1 raw chorizo sausage, casing removed
½ medium onion, chopped
1 (64 oz.) container tomato juice
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz.) can spicy chili beans
1 (16 oz.) can kidney beans
1 (2.87 oz.) container chili powder
2 - 4 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
Cooked macaroni, optional
Shredded cheese, optional
Sour cream, optional
Diced avocado, optional

In a large dutch oven or stockpot, combine the hamburger, chorizo sausage, and onion; salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the chorizo is cooked through and all of the meat is browned and the onion translucent. When the meat is cooked through, add the tomato juice and sauce, diced tomatoes, chili and kidney beans, chili powder, and red pepper flakes (crush the red pepper flakes a little in your hands before adding to the chili, as this helps to release the flavors and oils in the dried seeds). Allow to simmer on medium heat for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to marry and yummify; the longer it simmers, the better it gets. (This would be a good time to transfer the chili to a slow cooker if you want it to simmer all day.) Serve the chili over macaroni and/or with any of the other additional toppings.

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