Inside the slow-cooker, the weekend’s batch of chili was just about ready to serve.
Chunks of white-meat chicken stirred in a milky broth with boiling great northern beans. Translucent onions, sauteed beforehand in a pan of olive oil, and green chilis bubbled up.
As a final garnish, Aaron Pietras added a flourish of red jalapenos grown in his backyard garden. His chili creation was complete, and dinner was ready.
“It’s simple. It sits heavy, so one bowl will usually fill me up well,” he said. “And it’s fairly economical. Chicken breast, beans, that’s not terribly expensive. By the time you get done,you can feed a family of four for a couple of days.”
Cooler weather and football mean that chili season has returned. But while fans of the chunky stew agree that the mix of beans, meat and spices are best when the temperature drops, opinions are fiercely divided on what makes the best bowl. From standard tomato-based creations to lighter chicken broth chilis, from mild and zingy to sweat-inducingly spicy, everyone has a take on the dish.
The endless combinations of ingredients and styles, along with the relative ease in fixing it, makes it an ideal meal.
“I’m not one that likes to follow a hard recipe, where I have to do it a certain way,” chili enthusiast Jim Buist said. “I may look at three or four different recipes then just add in a few different things on my own.”
His strategy when cooking vegetarian chili is to throw a variety of ingredients on hand in the slow-cooker and let it simmer for hours. He developed his recipe back when working with a college ministry.
The go-go lifestyle of college students required a meal that could be prepared quickly and ready at any time. He found that with a handful of canned goods mixed together, he could make a tasty, inexpensive stew.
“It’s pretty quick and easy to make. The time-consuming thing is opening the cans. This recipe, you don’t have to put a whole lot of thought into it,” he said.
Canned chili beans, black beans, white beans and black olives all go in together. Corn and chopped celery give it a textural crunch. A hint of lime gives it a sweeter citrus taste.
Beist’s secret ingredient comes last — a can of beer.