It's a potluck, ski resort, NFL Game Day, summer competition, and winter gathering staple.
It's warm, filling, better when made a day or so ahead, and easily accommodates a crowd.
Many cooks have a recipe they've been coddling for decades, tweaking and savoring, while raking in the compliments. But for those still searching for their personal chili nirvana, we present three belly-pleasing options for you to try.
First up, Chuck Wagon Chili. This is the one I've been making for more years than I care to admit.
I buy chuck blade steaks or London broil, and cube the meat by hand, while imagining I'm working on the drop-down table of a wagon in the open air. I like this recipe for its meatiness, spicy enough but not too hot flavor, and the touch of molasses and richness from a can of refried beans mixed in.
I usually serve this chili with some grated cheddar on top (sometimes smoked cheddar, if I have it), and a touch of sour cream to smooth out some of the heat.
From my travels in the Southwest around Santa Fe and Albuquerque, I developed a great fondness for green chiles. There they show up at every meal: in omelets, sandwiches and, of course, chili.
Red, beef-based chiles can overwhelm the green chile flavor, which is why when I feel the call of the Goodnight-Loving trail I make a batch of this White Bean and Chicken Chili.
It's pretty quick to put together, using boneless, skinless chicken thighs and canned cannellini beans. I have a number of friends who prefer not to eat red meat, and this one makes them very happy.
Let's not forget our vegetarian friends, either. This Vegetarian Chili is another from my longstanding portfolio of go-to dishes. Colorful, very tasty, and packed with protein, it's a chili even meat-eaters warm up to. For a true barbecue note, hunt down some smoked tofu if you can. It's firmer, dices very well, holds up to stirring, and brings a wonderful outdoorsy, by-the-campfire note to the bowl.
All of this chili needs a little something on the side. The salad I'll leave to you, but we are King Arthur Flour, and that means baking something.
Try a batch of these Corn and Green Chile Muffins for sopping up that last bit of goodness, or just because they're darned tasty. With some cheese both inside and on top, they're moist and tasty. You can make them as zippy as you like, or keep them on the mild side for a counterpoint to the fire you put in on your chili spoon.
I hope you'll try one (or all) of these tried-and-true chili recipes, and let us know what you think. What better way to make good use of your indoor hours this time of year, than to cook up a batch of chow from the sunny Southwest?