I've judged several chili cook-offs, competed a few times and most importantly, used to make a large batch (about 5 gallons) every other day. I know a little bit about chili and I love chili.
First things first, lets get the misconceptions out of the way.
- Beans? It. Doesn't. Matter. During every "pre-judging" meeting it's a topic. Most judges I've worked with won't use beans/no beans as criteria. I've made chili with black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans and without beans, and I'll tell you it's the balance of seasonings, spices and herbs that make a good pot of chili (friends and beer add lots, too).
- Spiciness? A cook better have a good reason for the heat. Heat for heat's sake is a poor excuse and is used by mediocre cooks to cover the lack of skills/palate.
- Vegetarian chili? Don't bother. Chili is a hearty dish, trying to "lighten" it up won't do much...except create gas.
- Chicken chili? See #3. In Texas, we call it White Bean and Chicken Soup. It's good, but it ain't chili.
- Here's the trick...are you ready for this? Cumin to chili powder ratio. Most recipes are heavy on the chili powder with only a smidgen of cumin. Wrong. The proper ratio is 3:2, cumin to chili powder.
2 lbs chuck roast, diced (slightly freeze it to make it more manageable, in a pinch use coarsely ground chuck)
1 medium yellow onion, small chop
2-14 oz can of peeled tomatoes with juice
1-14 oz can of tomato juice
5 large cloves garlic, mashed to a paste (about 2 tbsps)
14 oz can of beans, drained and rinsed (of your choice of bean type and optional)
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp cumin
3 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp dried oregano
½ tsp cayenne
6 oz beer of your choice (drink the rest)
About a can of chicken stock
S&P as needed
Brown ground beef with S&P; add onions, bay leaves, spices and cook until onions are translucent and soft; add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes; deglaze with beer; add tomatoes, tomato juice, beans(optional) and chicken stock; cook uncovered to reduce to the consistency of your choice.
Garnish with shredded cheddar, fresh diced red onions and/or chopped cilantro.
Serve with tortilla chips, corn bread, over Fritos (hello, Frito pie) or simply, and my favorite, with a warm corn tortilla.