A steaming bowl of chili cuts through winter’s chill
Hoping to warm up your winter days from the inside out?
Try a steaming bowl of chili, local cooks say; there’s 100 ways to cook it, but only one perfect for you.
Chili is one of Ron Jinkins’ favorite ways to cope with the cold of winter. Jinkins leads the Krewe of Phoenix’s chili cook-off team every year with his secret family recipe.
“It’s just a really good cold-weather food,” he said.
Natchez Fire Department
The Natchez Fire Department is somewhat known for their chili. The department participates in the Natchez Children’s Home-sponsored chili cook-off every year, and Lt. Robert Arrington said the recipe changes every year.
The base recipe for the department’s chili includes ground beef, ground pork, onions, bell peppers, jalapeños and beef stock.
For last year’s chili cook-off, the firefighters added lemon zest and chili-seasoned tomatoes.
“We try not to make it too spicy,” Arrington said. “We try to keep it pretty toned down because we know there are kids at the chili cook-off that won’t enjoy it if it’s too spicy.”
The chili cook-off isn’t the only time the department makes chili, though. The firefighters make test batches using different ingredients throughout the year to prepare for the cook-off.
“The guys come in every year, and we try different stuff,” he said. “It’s really fun for us.”
Slick Rick’s Café
The chefs at Slick Rick’s Café stick to virtually the same recipe for the restaurant’s chili, but co-owner Mary Ann Simons says Slick Rick’s organic chili spice is what really makes their chili special.
“It’s just as if you went to your kitchen and pulled out fresh thyme, oregano and all these other spices for your chili, except it’s already mixed for you so you don’t have to do it,” Simons said.
Slick Rick’s occasionally serves bowls of chili at the café, but Simons said the chili is more of a staple of toppings for other dishes, such as burgers.
The ingredients include one to two pounds of extra lean meat, one to two cups of diced onions, chili spice, chopped garlic and a low-sodium beef base.
The recipe calls for the cook to brown the desired amount of meat in skillet or Dutch oven, then add chopped onions and sauté for three to five minutes until tender. Add garlic and cook another minute, add the chili spice to taste, then beef stock or another liquid of your choice.
Natchez Cook Courtney Taylor has a few ingredients she said makes her chili delicious, including Sazón Goya seasoning.
“It really adds a lot of ‘umph’ to a pot of chili,” she said.
The quality of the chili powder also makes a difference in a recipe, Taylor said. She recommends Maxine, Cowtown or Mild Bill’s chili powder.
“You would be surprised what a difference it makes,” she said.
Taylor’s recipe calls for fresh ground meat, fresh onions and fresh garlic. Brown the meat and sauté the onions then add the garlic. Add a good quality tomato sauce, beef broth and beer, and let that simmer for up to 30 minutes.
A tip for chili cooking, Taylor said, is to use a pot with a heavy bottom.
“It distributes the heat better, so you won’t scorch the bottom of the chili,” she said.
Another ingredient Taylor uses to thicken her chili is masa harina, which is a type of traditional flour used in Mexican cooking.
Taylor adds spices and seasoning early in the cooking process and also at the end. The seasonings include cayenne, paprika, black pepper and cumin.
“You want to marry them with the other things, but you also want them to have a fresh bite,” she said.
Jinkins is tight-lipped about his family chili recipe. The recipe was given to Jinkins by his son Brad, who perfected the recipe over several years and won a major competition with it.
“He’d kill me if I gave it away,” Jinkins said laughing.
Jinkins’ recipe won first place in the judge’s away at last year’s children’s home chili cook-off. He said the key to the recipe and really any chili recipe, Jinkins said, is the blending of the spices and seasonings.
“We probably use 10 different kinds of seasonings in our recipe,” he said.
The recipe changes depending on what the chili cook-off rules are, Jinkins said.
“If they let you add pork, you can do that, if you they let you add hominy, you do that,” he said. “But the real key is the seasoning.”