My old chili recipe basically involved a pound of ground beef, a can of tomatoes, and a flavor pouch I got at the store. I’ve been occasionally experimenting with different meat combinations and doing my own spices. my last effort came out pretty good, but I just felt like trying something different. For this one, I tried a mix of dark and white chicken with a little pork for fat and extra flavor. I also wanted to add a bit of corn flavor to it, but not with kernels. Due to a misunderstanding about hominy, I ended up with corn meal. The corn meal actually added interestingly to the texture, and though there’s not a strong corn flavor, I think it enhanced the overall experience. Making the long-cooked caramelized onions was also fun, but I think they got lost in the final mix. And the paste made from some of E’s large collection of dried chilis added a really nice flavor. Finally, I made corn cakes to go with the chili. It was excellent served over the corn cakes, and both warmed up well for lunch the next day.

1/3 – 1/2 lb boneless chicken breast, cubed
1/3 – 1/2 lb boneless chicken thigh, cubed
1/3 – 1/2 lb boneless pork country rib, cubed
1 onion, diced
1 large shallot, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 sweet potato, cubed small
1 can pinto beans, drained
1/4 c coarse-ground corn meal
~4 tsp chili powder
~4 tsp ground cumin
dried hot or smoked chilies
2 dried smoked chilies
butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar

Saute the garlic and shallot in butter for a couple of minutes, then add the onion and saute until soft, about ten minutes. Keep adding butter as necessary to keep them moist and creamy. Add salt, pepper, and sugar, cover, and simmer on low until caramelized and reduced, 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the dried peppers in boiling water until soft. Grind them with a little of the water in a food processor to make a paste and put aside. If using cumin seeds, toast them in a dry pan on medium and grind them. Meanwhile, arrange the cubed meats on a silpat on a baking pan and freeze them for 30-40 minutes, until just hard enough to run through the food processor. Pulse them briefly in small batches until all the meat is ground.
Heat a small amount of oil in a large pot. Brown the meat. Add the tomatoes, sweet potato, beans, and reduced onions. Add some of the chili powder, cumin, and chili paste to taste. Let the pot simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Add more of the chili and cumin to taste, as well as the corn meal and salt, to taste. If too thick, add some water. Let simmer for a long long time, adding spices to taste and water if it gets too thick. Serve with grated cheese and freshly-chopped scallions, spooned over corn pancakes.
The combination of spices and flavors worked out nicely. I think I’d add a bit more of the smoked peppers, or maybe switch in a little more beef again for a meatier flavor. The effort expended on grinding my own meat, though, was not really worth it. I’m not sure how much it really effected the final flavor, and I think my grind ended up producing to many small pieces of meat, so you don’t really get the discrete bites of meat in the chili that you get if you buy ground meat and let some of it stay in clumps. Next time, I’ll probably just get ground meat at the store, and maybe just do chicken and beef. I’d also like to experiment with hominy, see what that does to the flavor.