I remember never being a fan of homemade chili growing up. Sorry Mom. We did use ground venison as the meat of choice which was an obvious awesome touch, but other than that, the flavor was mild and unimaginative, the kidney beans were dry and tasted like stirofoam, and what preadolescent in their right mind enjoys giant chunks of soggy cooked whole tomatoes, green peppers, and onions? Besides that, Homemade Chili was the budget meal where you could make one giant pot and feed your family of five off of it for the next week. And let me tell you, to my twelve year old budding tastebuds, Chili tasted just as good (or in this case bad) the second, third, and fourth time around as it did the first.
So it took me a long time in my adult life to have any interest whatsoever in trying to tackle the task of mastering homemade chili or even experimenting with it whatsoever. But eventually no matter who you are, the economic realities of being a young twenty-something set in when you are still working in an entry level job, paying back student loans, trying to save for a wedding, and there are those weeks and periods where finances are tight and you need to find ways to stretch your food budget for a few days until the next paycheck comes in.
I still remember, during one such period, turning to the first ever Cooking Light Cookbook that I had ever owned (a wedding gift from my former boss) and leafing through the pages when I spotted a picture of a single bowl of chili that through the magic of a master food photographer had managed to make it shine like a beacon of glory to penniless paupers who still craved a quality home cooked meal. So I set aside my doubts and took a crack at this mecca of a chili recipe and have never looked back. Now, when I crave a comforting bowl of this childhood staple (which in my actual childhood was never so comforting) I turn to this appropriately titled recipe -- "All American Chili."
The flavoring of this chili is so sophisticated it makes budget feel gourmet. The wine infuses everything as it cooks down and concentrates to form a nice sweet contrast to the smokiness of the spices and the heat of the sausage. Roughly chopping the whole tomatoes before adding them to the stew helps them to break down even further during the cooking process and gives it a more rustic feel. And cooking the chili for an extended period not only helps with the overall taste but allows for enough time for those drab kidney beans to get moist all the way through and significantly reduces the stirofoam factor. Finally, at only 375 calories a bowl for this hearty meal, you can enjoy to your hearts content without any of the guilt. I served this on Wednesday for our gaming group with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and frito chips for garnish. It fed a hungry crowd of 7 and still had enough leftovers for two more bowls the next day.
PreparationHeat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove casings from sausage. Add sausage, onion, and the next 4 ingredients (onion through jalapeño) to pan; cook 8 minutes or until sausage and beef are browned, stirring to crumble.
Add chili powder and the next 7 ingredients (chili powder through bay leaves), and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine, tomatoes, and kidney beans; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Uncover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard the bay leaves. Sprinkle each serving with cheddar cheese.
Note: Like most chilis, this version tastes even better the next day.
8 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups chili and 1 tablespoon cheese)
CALORIES 375(29% from fat); FAT 12g (sat 4.6g,mono 4.1g,poly 1.1g); PROTEIN 28.9g; CHOLESTEROL 59mg; CALCIUM 165mg; SODIUM 969mg; FIBER 8.2g; IRON 5mg; CARBOHYDRATE 33.7g