Chili -- Inside And Out

It must be chili season. Everyone's talking about it; everyone's making it (I know because as soon as I decided to make it, chili postings started popping up on blogs everywhere). I got an email from Cookstr the other day with the top 10 chili recipes, and the more I looked through those recipes, the more I started craving chili. And in spite of living right down the street from one of Bon Appetit's top chili spots (No. 7), I decided to make my own.

I remembered a recipe from Art of the Slow Cooker that I had been wanting to try for a while because it's a no-bean chili. Everyone has his own opinion of what makes chili chili. I've heard that the original Texas chili recipes were devoid of beans, and I'm a big fan of that. I like beans sometimes, but I prefer a hearty, meaty chili poured over some wide egg noodles or white rice; topped with cheese; and flanked by warm, buttered corn bread (it's perfectly acceptable to use a box of Jiffy cornbread mix, in my opinion).

So it was with this in mind that I set out to make Andrew Schloss' Sirloin Chili (No Beans).

Following the recipe, first I seasoned the meat (sirloin cubes rather than ground beef are used) with some salt and pepper and then browned it in oil and moved it to the slow cooker.

Then I took my diced onion (I used a very large onion) and green pepper and sauteed those in the same oil. Now, here's the part where we can debate whether I actually made chili. I was supposed to add chiles and garlic to the pan at this point, and I left the chiles out. Here's my reasoning: I'm a wimp when it comes to spicy hot foods! I was making the chili on Tuesday night, but we weren't going to eat it until Wednesday night -- and you know what would happen to those chiles overnight. So because I knew the heat would only intensify, I played it safe and didn't add any chiles (later ground chile is used).

Then I added some flour seasoned with cumin and oregano.

Next in: some beef broth and crushed tomatoes. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of crushed tomatoes, but I just threw in the whole 28-ounce can. I figured since the chili would have until the next night to thicken and I'd have to reheat it, during which time it would likely thicken more, this would probably be okay (it was).

Once it finished heating, I poured this whole mixture over the meat and left the slow cooker to do its thing. I put it on high since I wanted to go to bed at some point that night, and high would only take 4 to 5 hours. After the 5 hours, I moved the chili to some Tupperware to cool and put it in the fridge.

The next night, I poured the chili into a pot, set it on the stove, added the ground chile to it, and let it heat until it was thick and piping hot.

As the chili was heating, I baked cornbread, made rice in the rice cooker, and boiled up some egg noodles.

My boyfriend ate his chili over rice, which is more traditional.

I had mine over egg noodles, which I prefer.

It wasn't spicy hot, but it did have a little kick and all the essential chili flavors. It definitely was comforting and warming on a chilly night.

Note: I took the leftover chili for lunch that week, and the flavor intensified each day but never got too overpowering. It microwaved well too; the meat stayed tender.

How do you like your chili? Are beans essential or a no-go? Do you like it super hot or mild? Do you make it in the slow cooker? Do you use ground beef, sirloin, a mixture of meats? Some people add squash or potatoes, do you? And what do you serve it with? Can't wait to hear your chili ideas!