Tell someone you’re planning to cook chili in 20 minutes and they’ll ask what brand you’re reheating.
It is, after all, a notoriously time-consuming dish to prepare, at least when you’re making a proper chili. Between the large hunks of meat, dried beans, and chiles that need to be hydrated, you need to plan for at least a day of cooking when you make it the traditional way.
But the traditional way is not (always) the 5:30 Challenge way. It is, perhaps surprisingly, possible to make a full-flavored chili in less than 30 minutes, but you need to allow yourself a few shortcuts. Canned white chili beans — those packaged with traditional aromatics and, often a few chile peppers, are a great starting point. So are canned chiles themselves; chopped green chiles are an excellent product for many recipes, including this hearty dish.
Another trick: Skip the abundant seasoning blends required of most beef chili recipes. Instead, make a relatively mild green chili with pork. This will allow you to amplify the flavors in the chili beans and chiles with just a bit of cumin and cilantro.
Simply brown the ground meat in a bit of oil, leaving large pieces of pork intact to add textural interest to the final dish. Let it simmer along gently with the cumin, beans and chiles until you can’t stand it any longer — 10 minutes will get the pork fully cooked through and all of the ingredients nice and mingled. It’ll also allow you some time to assemble whatever toppings you’d like.
Indeed, it’s the toppings that really allow you to personalize this dish. Keep it simple with cilantro, or add lime, avocado, diced jalapeno and sour cream. A pot of white rice on the side is also a nice touch — and it’ll make it possible to stretch the dish out to serve six. You could even take a cue from the American Southwest and serve your chili with hot flour tortillas. Any leftovers will make for excellent lunchtime tacos.
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Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com