When it comes to my own "perfect" chili, I do have some personal preferences. First, I prefer chunks of slow-braised beef to the traditional ground. I use spicy andouille sausage for a little Southern kick; it really adds a subtle punch that ground pepper just can't pull off. Lastly, I always use a various mix of beans. I know that somewhere out there the purists are flinching, but it's what my mom does so I do too. Other than that, every pot I make seems to be different. It's what I love most about chili. No two batches are ever alike. Just like the cooks that make it. Here's my standard base recipe. Use it as a jumping off point and go make it your own!
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In a large Dutch oven or cast iron pot, heat a few tablespoons canola oil over medium-high to high heat. Thoroughly pat the beef dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Working in small batches, sear the beef cubes until all sides are deep brown and a dark fond is forming in the pot. Add more canola oil to the pot if it looks like it is starting to burn. Remove the beef to a separate bowl after browning each batch. After the beef is cooked, add the andouille to the pot and saute for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the andouille and set aside with the beef.
Lower the heat to medium. Add a couple more tablespoons of canola; toss in the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds. Pour in the beer to deglaze the pan and remove the fond from the bottom of the pot.
Meanwhile, use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the tomatoes into chunks while still in the can. Add the beef, andouille, tomatoes and juices, chicken stock, chili powder and cumin into the pot. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer the chili for 1 1/2 hours. Add the beans and season with cayenne, salt and pepper. Continue to cook the chili for an additional 30 minutes to an hour, until the beef is very tender and the beans are warm.
Remove from the heat. Bring to room temperature then transfer to the refrigerator. The chili will naturally thicken up as it cools. (I recommend serving this chili 1 to 2 days after cooking. It just keeps getting better and better.)
To serve, reheat on medium-low until warm. Serve with scallions, Cheddar cheese, sour cream and cornbread.