Like many of you, my love for cooking didn’t blossom until adulthood. Growing up, my parents both worked and couldn’t spend hours in the kitchen perfecting culinary creations. However, they each had a few wildcard recipes up their sleeves. One recipe, in particular, repeatedly won chili contests.
In youth, my first attempt at reinventing a recipe (not counting the grilled cheese disaster that damaged the countertop) was a healthy twist on that legendary family chili recipe. Today’s recipe is an evolution of that creation twenty years later.
What I love about chili is the variety of ingredients that come together to make something new and exciting. A good chili is all about the balance. Balance of flavors is exactly what will differentiate your chili from the meat in tomato sauce recipes. Everyone’s taste preference is different adjust the levels of spice, heat, smoke and freshness to make this your own.
Freshness can refer to quality ingredients, favorite brands and preparation that preserves the integrity of what you’re putting into your dish. (fresh cilantro and avocado garnishes on top, organic Muir Glen canned goods)
Smoke typically comes from using specific peppers that are smoked when dried. I like to amplify this characteristic to bring those flavors forward. (chipotle and liquid smoke)
Heat was what used to scared me the most about chili, so I tried to work out a way to bring the spice through without burning my mouth off. Nowadays, I don’t mind a little burn, and you probably don’t either (since you’re looking at a chili recipe right now). Use multiple heat sources that will leave your guests wondering which they enjoy most. (chipotle, smoked paprika, ancho, chili powder, green chilies)
Herbs and Spices can bring your flavor profile depth and dimension. Allow these ingredients to stew and merge into the chili for peak impact. (cumin, coriander, oregano)
You’re going to second guess a couple of ingredients in this chili recipe. Soy sauce, for one, helps give the chicken more umami or meaty flavor. This ingredient is common when using ground meats or making stews. I especially like using it with ground poultry recipes. Be sure to add a little at a time, and taste as you go. Do this and you’ll see your dish come to life.
Don’t skimp on the garnishes – they are half the fun of eating chili! Even if you’re not a huge fan of cilantro, you can still set some aside for guests. That fresh herb can add a lot. Having plenty of garnishes is a lot like going to a DIY Bloody Mary bar – you can’t go wrong.
This is not a traditional chili recipe but it is tasty and fun. I make this for group ski trips every winter. It can be made in the summer or as a dip. There’s something about chili that get friends excited. I love having it in my recipe arsenal, and I hope you do too!