Guest Author - Lori Phillips
That steaming bowl of red, otherwise known as chili, garners a near-cult like following. My husband, a native Texan, spent most of his adult life tweaking his chili recipe—all beef, no beans. But there are many variations of chili that vary even within the same region, each swearing loyalty to his version.
Canned chili? Any true chili lover will eat it only as a last resort, critiquing each spoonful. Me? I admit I’m spoiled by my husband’s savory, rich and spicy chili made with meaty chuck, and yet as a foodie, I appreciate nearly every food for its own qualities. Canned chili has a place in my pantry for its convenience.
Rarely will we eat canned chili straight (did I mention we were chili snobs?) but I buy it when it goes on sale and keep it on hand as the main ingredient in many quick and simple recipes. Sometimes, some browned ground beef will amp up the meat factor but the seasonings are already in the can. These are my favorite ways to use canned chili:
Chimichanga: Spoon a bit of canned chili down the center of a flour tortilla. Top with grated Cheddar or Jack cheese. Add chopped onion, if you like. Starting at one end, fold the tortilla over the filling, folding in the sides when you get to the middle and then continue to fold to the end. Secure with a wooden toothpick. Deep fry in hot oil. Drain on paper towels. Serve with salsa, guacamole and sour cream or spoon some enchilada sauce over all and top with more grated cheese.
Chili-cheese Omelet: Fill an egg omelet with heated canned chili and grated cheese. Top with more. Garnish with chopped green onions.
Frito Pie: Pour about 3 cups of Frito corn chips into a greased 9 x 9 baking dish. Pour on a can of chili. Sprinkle with chopped onion and grated Cheddar cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven until cheese is hot and bubbly.
Tamale Pie: In a skillet, brown a pound of ground beef. Although these are optional, add about ˝ cup of chopped onion and a small can of diced green chiles. Stir in a can of chili. Pour this mixture into a greased baking dish. Prepare cornbread or corn muffi mix according to the box instructions. Spread the batter over the meat mixture. Bake at 350 degrees until the cornbread topping is golden.
Chili-stuffed Baked Potatoes: Heat the can of chili and spoon some on top of baked potatoes. Top with grated cheese and onions. For ease, “bake” the whole potatoes in your microwave. Scrub the potatoes then prick with a fork or slice a third of the way through the center. Wrap them in a wet kitchen towel and zap on high. Depending upon the size, thickness and quantity, it takes only about 4 minutes.
Navajo Tacos: Prepare some fry bread and fill with heated chili, shredded lettuce and grated cheese. Salsa on the side. Fry bread recipe: Combine 4 cups flour, 1 tsp. salt, and tablespoon baking powder. Mix in 1 ˝ cups water. Knead for a minute but do not overknead or it will toughen the dough! Pinch off some dough and form thin patties. Deep fry in hot oil, turning to cook the other side. Drain on paper towels.
Chili Spaghetti: Easy and delicious. Cook some spaghetti or any other pasta shape in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Drain well. Top with heated canned chili, grated cheese and chopped onion.
Chili Tortas: Fill split bread buns with heated canned chili, grated cheese and chopped onions.
Chili Cheese Enchiladas: Soften corn tortillas in hot oil (but do not fry crisp). Drain. Then fill the corn tortillas with chili and fold up. Continue with the remaining corn tortillas and chili. Place them in a greased baking dish. Top with enchilada sauce, grated cheese and chopped onion. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes, removing the foil for the last ten minutes.
Chili Cheese Mac: In a skillet, mix together a can of chili with 3 cups of *cooked* elbow macaroni and 1 cup of cubed Velveeta cheese. Stir and heat until everything is bubbly.
Nachos with Chili and Cheese: Top of plate of tortilla chips with some heated canned chili and grated Cheddar cheese. Place under a hot broiler until cheese is melted and golden brown around the edges. Serve with salsa on the side.
And don’t forget the obvious! A can of chili makes chili hamburgers and chili dogs simple to prepare at home.