Of all the one-pot dishes you might make this holiday season, I’ll argue that a big ol’ batch of chili is the easiest. There’s no roux involved. It doesn’t require sourcing or cleaning seafood. It’s fun to serve with a topping bar. And it’s universally beloved by kids and adults.
Chili is so fast and easy that sometimes I make it too much, so I’ve been working on keeping it interesting.
Here are five ways to enliven your chili habit as you head into frenzied holiday entertaining. Enjoy.
Think beyond beef.
Venison, chicken, turkey, pork and vegetables all make great bases for chili. Here, I’ve done veggie chili with fresh squash, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, corn, bell peppers, salad peppers, two kinds of beans, onions, tomatoes, chili powder, cumim and turmeric. Easy, healthy and delicious.
Get creative with a starchy side.
Chili loves corn, which is why it’s often accompanied by corn chips and corn bread. But don’t stop there. Pictured here with my veggie chili are rosquillas, Nicaraguan masa “cookies” that aren’t sweet. They taste like crunchy corn bread. I picked these up from Ideal Market, a regional Latin American supermarket here in south Louisiana.
Play with textures.
Who says chili has to be made from ground meat? One of my favorite ways to make chili verde, for example, is to use boneless skinless chicken thighs as well as ground chicken. Paired with sautéed onions, garlic, peppers, tomatillos, white beans and spices, it’s punchy and delicious.
Introduce new toppings.
To the topping bar of requisite grated cheddar, chopped onion, avocado and chips, try chopped fresh tomatoes, roasted poblano peppers, caramelized purple onion and different cheeses such as Gouda with beer or cotija. Use a squirt bottle for sour cream or thinner crema from a Latin American market.
Embrace the power of fries.
Chili cheese fries? Yes. Imagine how good that tastes after a rough night of holiday partying. You can get as fancy as you want to with the fries. Double-fry them to ensure epic crispiness, or just buy a good quality bag of frozen. Smother with chili and cheese, and get to work. You’ve earned it.