MEXICAN MONDAY: CHILI CON/SIN CARNE
Happy Monday y’all!
With a new week ahead, it’s time to plan out your meals for the upcoming week (or am I the only one that’s already dreaming of what to eat on Friday?) and I’ve got just one to cover some very specific cravings.
I’m talking chili con* carne! Perfect for your next family or friends gathering, this dish is not only easy to make but packed with flavour. All you need is a little time and some simple ingredients, and you’re good to go. Pack up the crunchy taco shells, soft avocados and fresh sour cream because it’s time for a Mexican food fiesta.
* Or for my vegetarian friends out there, I’ll be offering its meat-free option: chili sin carne
Time 2 hours
Costs €1.75 per serving (based on Dutch supermarket prices)
First things first is probably a trip to the grocery store. Or maybe you’re in luck, because this dish requires few things you probably don’t already have in your pantry. The ingredients to this dish and what to look out for:
|Ingredient||What to look for|
|Onions (2 pieces)||While red onions are used often in Mexican dishes, I prefer the classic yellow one as its flavours are more subtle and it softens more easily.|
|Garlic (1 clove)||Nothing, except for fresh ones! Nobody likes dried garlic.|
|Chili pepper (1 piece)||This one’s a personal preference; my family and friends can attest I suck at spice, so I opted for a subtle kick by removing the seeds from this cayenne pepper. Feeling bold? Keep ’em in or substitute with a spicier version, like habanero.|
|Spices||The flavours of Mexico: chili, cumin and (Mexican) oregano. Buy a seasoning mix or better, blend your own so you can adapt according to taste.|
|Ground beef (400 grams)||This is where the con and sin come in: for a regular chili con carne, lean ground beef will do but for a meatless Monday, opt for a vegetarian or vegan ground beef. You’d be surprised by how real it tastes!|
|Beans (200 grams, drained weight)||While not a must, I like the added flavour and texture of beans. Opt for red or kidney beans.|
|Tomato paste (500 grams)||To create a smooth sauce, I chose for passata but if you prefer a chunkier chili feel free to use diced tomatoes.|
2. Preparation (5-10 minutes)
You’ve got everything ready, so you’re ready to get going! Before the actual cooking starts, there’s some prepping that needs to be done. Good news: it’s barely any work. Because who doesn’t love cooking with minimal effort. 😉
a. Chopping the aromatics
Here, I’m referring to what’s gonna help you kickstart your chili: onions, garlic, and chili. Dice the onion and mince your garlic. Small pieces will help them soften and release flavour more quickly. For the chili, slice in half and decide how spicy you want to go: a chili’s heat is hidden in its seeds and as such removing them will remove the punch. Slice in small pieces.
b. Blending the spices
If something’s true, it’s that flavour is a matter of taste. Some dislike cumin, others love some extra spice. There’s plenty great spice mix recipes online but I tend to go with my guts. A little tip: cumin and oregano can be quite overpowering, so make sure your blend mainly consists of chili and paprika powder. For example: 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon cumin & 1/2 teaspoon oregano.
c. Drain the beans
Last, open your can of beans and drain over the sink. I prefer to give them a little rinse, as salt tends to be added for conservation purposes and can make your dish overly salty. If you prefer fresher produce, you can use dried beans that are soaked in water overnight and boiled for 1.5-2 hours.
3. Cooking (1.5 hours)
Yep, couldn’t really skip this step, could I? This is where the magic begins. Make sure you got some time on your hands, because chili gets better the longer you let it simmer. I like to use a large casserole pan, also known as braadpan, that can be closed off with a lid to keep the moisture in.
Step 1. Fire! Or well, heat up your pan.
Step 2. When hot, add your oil. I use sunflower oil as it is relatively tasteless and has a high smoking point (doesn’t burn easily) but feel free to use olive or any other type of vegetable oil you got at home.
Step 3. Once the oil is heated (it should sizzle when you add your ingredients), add the chopped aromatics. Turn down the heat to soften, not burn the garlic, onion & chili. Stir occasionally.
Step 4. When your aromatics are softened (your onion should be transparent and the garlic slightly browned), add in the ground beef. Take your time and keep the heat low, as this will ensure the meat slowly releases fat instead of turns rubbery. Stir from time to time to break the beef in pieces for even browning.
Step 5. After about 5 minutes, your meat should be cooked through. Turn down the heat and add in the tomato paste, together with the spice blend and a hint of salt. Mix completely and cover the lid. Let simmer for 1.5 hours, stirring occassionally. Then, uncover to let some moisture out, keeping an eye on when it no longer seems watery.
Step 6. Have a quick taste and see if your chili needs any more seasoning. Add if necessary and put in the kidney beans. Cover and let sit over low heat for 5 more minutes.
Step 7. Ready to feast!
Now for the good part! Because what’s all this cooking for? The eating of course! This dish is so packed with flavour, it can easily stand on its own with some tortilla chips to scoop it up with. However, Mexicans can never get enough of flavour and as such there’s plenty of foods to serve this chili with. Here are some ideas:
This one’s a real DIY. Give your guests the opportunity to make the taco of their dreams by placing out on the table all the ingredients they need to build one. Feel free to let your imagination run free and get whatever you seem fit for a tasty taco. Taco shells are unmissable but some other faves include: guacamole, sour cream, grated cheese, chopped tomatoes and ice berg lettuce.
The perfect filling for a soft-baked enchilada. Add to a tortilla (known as wrap in the Netherlands), making sure not to add too much. Roll up and place in a baking dish. Cover with tomato sauce and sprinkle on cheese. Bake until cheese starts broiling (10-15 minutes) and serve with some sour cream and guacamole. Great for a Winter day.
- Chili fries
Want to indulge in some guilty pleasure? Serve your chili on top of some crisp french fries and top with jalapeños and grated cheese. Perfect cheat meal or late-night snack.
5. Wine Pairing
To really top it off, I love my food with a great wine pairing. This spicy and hearty dish needs a relatively strong wine to stand up to; a medium- to full-bodied red wine will do the trick. Some personal favourites are tempranillo, malbec and syrah.