I never grew up with chili, but I understand that there are some Very Strong Opinions out there about what makes a “true” or “authentic” chili. Fortunately, what I primarily care about is whether I get a delicious meal out of my efforts. Authenticity comes a distant second, if it figures into my plan at all, because I know how much cross-pollination happens in cooking due to commerce, war, and other intermingling. For instance, tomatoes are a food cultivated in the New World, yet figure prominently in “traditional” Mediterranean and Northern Indian cooking…but I’m sure not going to tell a Greek that their horiatiki salata is bogus.
I had a few pounds of venison that needed a treatment different from my usual stifado, and this time around, I decided chili was going to be it. When I want to make a new dish with a high likelihood of ending up with a tasty result, the first place I check is the Serious Eats website. I was not disappointed; Kenji has published one of his usual exceedingly thorough writeups on the topic here.
If you opt not to read the writeup, then here are the basics a great chili needs per Kenji:
- A rich, complex chili flavor that combines sweet, bitter, hot, fresh, and fruity elements in balance
- A robust, meaty, beefy flavor
- If using beans, beans that are tender, creamy, and intact
- A thick, deep red sauce
Below is my adaptation of the recipe, which involves some changes to make it appropriate for my situation. I put the ingredients for the chili sauce base in their own group to reduce the intimidation factor of the ingredients list. I also made some small substitutions to avoid going on a treasure hunt for ingredients I don’t keep on hand, since I knew from experience what substitutions worked. Finally, I have an Instant Pot and I’m so past spending hours at the stovetop when I don’t have to, so what started out as a stovetop recipe is now a pressure cooker recipe.
For the original recipe, go here.