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PortWatch

February 15, 2012

Simple chili satisfies

A big pot of chili is popular fare for a wintertime bash or family get-together.

One reason, I am sure, is that it is a fairly simple dish to put together. And it can be one of those "anything goes" dishes.

You start with a big pot. Then you start adding stuff. Meat, onions, tomatoes and anything else you like. Eventually you end up with a dish called chili.

You can add beans, too, although folks from Texas consider that a no-no. And forget about beans for competition chili.

Chili-making experts (some call themselves chili heads) who compete in cook-offs conjure up recipes with a laundry list of ingredients. Some call for using three or four varieties of chili powder along with other herbs, spices and different kinds of fresh chilies.

The goal, of course, is that when that list of ingredients is cooked and simmered for a while, it will all come together into an award-winning chili.

But many cooks just don't have time for that. And they don't keep exotic ingredients on hand.

I often get calls from readers (and family members) who say, "Tell me how I can make this dish with ingredients I am familiar with," or "Give me a recipe for something that doesn't have a lot of ingredients."

Today's recipe is just that. It's made with six ingredients, not counting salt and pepper and the oil for sauteing the onion.

For this recipe, I sauteed the onion until it caramelized. This added a bit of sweetness to balance the chili powder. The other key point is to use a good bloody Mary mix — one that has good seasoning and a little spice to it. One of my favorites is Mr. & Mrs. T spicy bloody Mary mix; another is Zing Zang. But you can use any variety.

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