Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chili Three Way

I'm not sure how this recipe found it's way to our family, but it was a staple growing up and is now my go-to chili recipe. When I think of chili in today's sense, I think of the 3-alarm variety—the kind that will light you up. Or I think of all those weird concoctions that you see on those challenge shows or at chili cook-offs, with ingredients like beer or chocolate or venison meat (I've obviously been watching way too much Food Network). But like most of my mother's recipes, this one is straight forward, straight up traditional chili. You may wonder why the chili powder is left to the end as almost an mother hates spicy food, so this chili is definitely of the mild variety. But it doesn't have to be. My husband and I made it one time for a "Big, Bold Reds" wine tasting party and he added red chilis from the garden and a jalapeno or two. We were all sweating after the first few bites, and we actually turned on the air conditioning in November. But it was painfully delicious.

Chili Three Way was the way my mother usually served it and we could decide which of the three we wanted to include: plain chili, or chili with spaghetti (because this chili could really be a hearty pasta sauce as well), or chili with spaghetti and topped with tamales. Now about these tamales...they were from a can. This was the only way I had ever experienced tamales until in the past 10 years or so, when I started ordering them in restaurants, wrapped in corn husks and filled with cheese and peppers, carnitas, asada, or any number of things. But tamales in a can?! What in the world? And what possessed my mother to ever decide to grab those of the shelf? Someone must have told her to do it specifically for this recipe, because I can't imagine she would have ventured down the international foods aisle otherwise. So I would say, add the tamales on top if you want, but get them fresh and not in the can. I'll never be able to eat those canned things again.


1 medium onion, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 lbs. ground beef or turkey
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cocoa
15 oz can of dark kidney beans
salt, pepper, and chili powder to taste

Saute onions and pepper in olive oil until soft. Add meat and stir until lightly browned. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir in cumin, cocoa, chili powder, salt and pepper. Simmer slowly for about 45 minutes. Add kidney beans and continue simmering for about 30 minutes. Serve with traditional chili toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, diced scallions, and sour cream. OR serve over spaghetti and top with GOOD tamales for Chili Three Way!

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