|1 big can (28oz)||peeled whole tomatoes|
|1 big can (28oz)||crushed tomatoes|
|1 small can (8oz)||tomato paste|
|2||huge onions, white or yellow (not red)|
|1 head (up to 1/4 cup)||garlic, all cloves peeled and crushed|
|a variety (about 1 cup)||of interesting and fresh chili peppers, sliced/diced fairly small|
|dried oregano flakes|
|dried basil flakes|
|cayenne powder, and any other chili pepper powder you find interesting|
|ground black pepper|
|5-7 cans (16oz)||beans|
|5-7 lbs||beef (not ground), pretty much any boneless cut|
|or a combination of the two|
About the choice of fresh chili peppers: Vary it depending on your desired level of spiciness, e.g., all habañeros if you want it scorching, or a couple jalapeños and a bunch of anaheims if you're more interested in imparting flavor with a nice undertone of heat. I tend to go with what looks freshest in the store, but am particularly fond of serranos and pasillas. The seeds are the hottest part of a chile; remove them unless you want the result to be super-spicy.
About the choice of chili pepper powder: Most things labeled "chili powder" are actually pre-blended spices (which probably include paprika and cumin). Avoid them and just use individual ingredients, since it's easier to adjust the flavor with them. My favorite mild chili pepper powder is Chimayo Brand roasted red chile powder. Chipotle powder (which consists of roasted dried jalapeños) is also a good choice.
About beans: As with chilis, I like to use a variety but particularly favor black beans. (I'll usually use about 3/4 black beans.) It's best to drain and rinse the beans before mixing them in since it makes them less "farty."
About the beef: I usually use boneless brisket-type cuts. It's a good idea to cut away as much of the big pieces of fat as possible. Then cube it into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces.
If you're a vegetarian or a vegan (or just friendly with them), instead of just using all beans (which does work out just fine!), you can substitute for some of them pretty much any fake meat that will stay solid during the long simmer. The two actual products I've used for this are Boca Burgers (broken apart into chunks) and Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style (formed into nuggets and sauteed before adding them into the pot).
The mix of spices is really more art than science, but in general I'll end up using around an entire bottle (2oz) of paprika, and usually half a bottle each of cumin and oregano. I just use maybe 1 or 2 tbsp of basil. The amount of cayenne/pepper powder I'll vary depending on how hot the fresh chilis are; the sky's the limit here, depending on how spicy you like things. I generally don't use much salt, maybe a tablespoon or so, or black pepper, probably no more than a tablespoon. The key thing is to taste your concoction often, and let your tongue be your guide.
You'll need a pretty big pot for all this stuff. Start by roughly breaking up the whole tomatoes into vaguely bite-sized chunks. Put them in the pot, and then add the crushed tomatoes and the tomato paste. Mix that all up until the paste is all broken up and well distributed.
Next, add the onions and fresh chilis and about half the spices you expect to use. Mix it all up and then add your beans and/or meat. Let it boil on a relatively high heat until the onions turn translucent and the meat (if present) is thoroughly cooked. Once you've reached this point, it's time to taste it and adjust the spices as necessary.
Turn down the heat to barely a simmer. Stir often, until the mixture really is just simmering. Next comes the waiting. For as long as you can stand, cover the pot and let the thing just sit there and simmer, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot with your mixing spoon every now and then; otherwise viscous (but tasty!) goo will accumulate. Taste it and adjust the spices every now and then. It'll be edible in about an hour. In particular, the meat (if present) will have been sufficiently tenderized and the whole mixture will have boiled down enough to not be too soupy. However, it'll be much better if you can stand to let it cook for an entire day.
I suggest serving it over rice and under the grated cheese of your choice.
Recipe by Dan Bornstein (an original), firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.milk.com/home/danfuzz/.
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