6 keys to making the perfect chili, according to a Texas golf-club chef
We live today in a divided land, with starkly opposing views on such pressing questions as the proper role of government, the rightful place of charter schools in public education, and whether chili recipes should include beans.
Place Severin Nunn in the pro-bean camp.
Nunn is the chef and director of food and beverage at Bluejack National, a private golf community in Montgomery, Texas, that is home to the first Tiger Woods-designed course in the United States.
On the 6th hole of the course is a comfort station, and at that comfort station, doled out in generous bowls that you can take to go, is some of the best chili you will ever taste.
With all due respect to meat-only chili-lovers (nothing wrong with that style, Chef Nunn says), this delicious version is made with beans.
Beans, of course, are not the only component. Chef Nunn’s recipe has, as its foundation, four different cuts of high-quality beef, slow-cooked nine herbs and spices, including cumin, coriander, dried ancho chile, black pepper, Mexican oregano and Hungarian paprika. The beans (a medley consisting mainly of red pinto beans and chili kidney beans, with a scattering of black beans) add earthy texture and an extra layer of carbohydrate comfort that is perfect, Chef Nunn says, on a cold day.
Even in Texas, cold days are not unheard of. With winter approaching, Bluejack residents and members have been enjoying the chili around the club’s outdoor fire pit.
That’s a good way to eat chili. But what about preparing it? Here are 6 pointers from Chef Nunn on how to do it right.
1. Cook it low and slow
Like a good transition into your downswing, chili isn’t something you should rush. Slow cooking means slow cooking — anywhere from 90 minutes to four hours, depending on the size of your batch. Preparing chili quickly by cranking it on high heat will toughen up the meat without allowing time for the flavors to cohere.
2. Use fresh spices
You could cheat by going with ingredients like garlic and onion powder, but then you’re only really cheating yourself.
3. Use beef stock, not water
Convenience can be the enemy when it comes to cooking. Yes, making your own stock will take a little longer. But the final result will taste worlds better than chili made with water from your tap.
4. Brown the meat — and the vegetables
One of the great delights of chili is its complex, layered flavor — a complexity that comes partly from the seasonings you use, but also from the time you spend softening the onions (and any other veggies, like onions, celery, tomatoes, and peppers) so they turn sweeter, and browning the beef until it takes on a beautiful, caramelized crust.
5. Find the right degree of heat
How spicy is too spicy? That’s subjective. And it might take some trial and error to find your preference. But in the end, Chef Nunn says, you’re looking for balance of southwest spices balanced with enough heat to add allure, but not so much that it “overpowers the meaty warm feeling that chili should elicit.” Chef Nunn didn’t say this explicitly, but many chefs will tell you that when in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of less heat, and it isn’t hard to add more at the end.
6. And to top it off?
“If chili is prepared properly,” Chef Nunn says, “toppings are not critical.” Condiments, he adds, “are all up to the consumer.” At Bluejack National, the chili is offered with an abundance of optional add-ons, including these four traditional extras: Fritos, freshly sliced onions, grated cheese and homemade hot sauce.