Adapted from several sources but mostly America's Test Kitchen's Cook it in Cast Iron.
Note: Though this is a simple chili, it still cooks in total (sautéeing, simmering, etc.) for about 1 hour. A lot of the time is hands-off, and you can work as you go—as the onions and peppers (if using) sauté, you can measure out the spices and mince the garlic. Once everything is in the pot simmering away, you can prepare the garnishes: grate cheese, dice onion or scallions, pluck cilantro leaves, etc.
As always, the chili tastes better the next day, so don't be afraid to make it in advance.
Finally, I've had success simply using diced onions and no peppers, so I've made the peppers optional below—I always feel guilty buying them when they aren't in season. Also, I taste-tested 3 brands of crushed tomatoes, and I found the one pictured in the photo above (Cirio Italian Crushed Tomatoes) to be the tastiest. —Alexandra Stafford
grapeseed or olive oil
1 to 2
onions, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
red or green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, optional
cayenne, plus more to taste
tomato paste or ketchup
garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups
chicken stock, homemade is best
1 1/2 to 2 cups
cooked beans, any kind you like, or one 15-oz can beans, drained and rinsed
can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
tablespoon vinegar, optional
Grated cheese, chopped cilantro, chopped scallion or onion, for garnish
Heat the oil in a large pot over high heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and pepper, if using, and immediately turn the heat down to low. Season with a pinch of salt and add the chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Cook, stirring every so often, until the vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic and cook for another minute.
Add ground beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon until no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the stock and beans, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to gentle simmer, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes.
Uncover, add the crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chili has thickened, about 20 minutes. Taste. If it needs a little bite, add the vinegar. If it needs a little sweetness, add the sugar. If it needs more salt, add a big pinch and cook for 5 minutes more. Taste again, and adjust with more salt, cayenne, vinegar, or sugar. Serve with cheese, cilantro, and scallions on top.