Chilly weather is definitely chili weather, so as is my usual custom, sometime before Halloween, I have a couple of pots of chili on the stove while I’m watching some weekend football.
Of course, I make at least a gallon of any style I make, so I can squirrel away some for those colder days ahead when I just want to come home, change into something comfortable, and have a bowl of my chili without having to cook.
There are, of course, many different styles of this classic dish, and everyone has their favorites. There’s also the age-old argument about whether or not chili should have beans in it (I’m a bean man myself) and just how “spicy-hot” real chili should be. I fall somewhere in the medium category.
If you’ve ever been to a chili cook-off, you’ve certainly seen (and tasted) many of the ways people add their own “special” ingredients to make their recipe unique. Generally, in my opinion, while it might make their chili taste “different” from the rest of the competition, rarely does it make it taste “better.” In fact, most are esoteric and annoying.
Chili, in my mind, is a comfort food, something that should have a pleasing, familiar taste and something that’s satisfying. Elk chili with “secret ingredients” like vintage chocolate, loganberries, 5-star anise or Dr. Pepper doesn’t really rock my boat. Likewise, while I’m as tolerant of spicy, hot food as most everyone, I’d kind of like to taste my chili and not fight through the heat to enjoy it.
When I create a chili recipe, I try my best to increase and intensify the traditional flavors of chili. I choose the best meats, fresh vegetables, freshly ground spices, and fresh chilies, and when I do stray from tradition, I might lightly smoke my chili meat or add a nuance of mustard seed or balsamic vinegar or soy sauce to brighten the flavors of the meat. You won’t really taste these occasional additions, but they’re there, supporting the star ingredients.
At Nino’s, we currently have three chilis on our “menu,” all available in our refrigerated coolers at an aisle end cap. For Nino’s, and our customers, I’ve kept traditional flavors and modest heat so that they appeal to the broadest sector of our customers’ tastes. Our current flavors are Firehouse Sirloin, White Bean Chicken, and our most recent addition, 3 Bean Chipotle, which is a fabulous vegetarian addition to our lineup.
We’ve published our recipe for Nino’s Firehouse Sirloin Chili, and I’ll offer it to you once again below. In addition to this recipe, there are some additional ingredients you could add, depending on your personal tastes. Among them are liquid smoke or chipotle powder (if you’d like to imitate a smoky meat taste), the aforementioned soy sauce or balsamic vinegar (if you’d like to intensity the beef flavor a bit), and of course, you can add more jalapenos or another hotter chili, such as habanero, if you’d like more heat.
FIREHOUSE SIRLOIN CHILI (Serves 4: Makes 8 cups)
Beans or no beans, this chili recipe is right down the middle from a heat and spice perspective. I personally like the chili beans in it, and for that matter, you can add black beans or other beans, if you like. This recipe has been my own personal “at home” chili, and I think you’ll find it VERY well received by family and friends.
1 1⁄2 lbs. Ground Beef 8 oz. Sirloin Beef 1 cup Vidalia Onions, medium chopped 2 Tbsp. Garlic Cloves, minced 2 Tbsp. Jalapeno, minced 28 oz. Diced Tomatoes with juice 28 oz. Tomato Puree 2 Tbsp. Cumin 2 Tbsp. Chili Powder 2 oz. Red Wine 1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar (heaping) 1⁄4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper 1 cup Red Kidney Beans
Sauté onion in a small amount of vegetable oil until transparent. Add garlic to onions and sauté briefly. Add jalapeno, and sauté one minute longer.
Add ground beef to sautéed mixture, and brown. Once all ground beef is cooked, add all remaining ingredients, except beef sirloin.
Simmer 2 – 3 hours.
Broil sirloin and cool. Cut sirloin into 1/2″ pieces. Add to chili and let simmer 1 hour longer.
Add water and salt and pepper to adjust seasonings and consistency as desired.
Chef Pete Loren is now in semi-retirement, after a storied 40 plus year career. He now serves as the Chef Emeritus at Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace. Explore more recipes HERE.