Chili is one of those crazy American foods that have a thousand different recipes, all of which are right (except for the ones that aren't). The first chili was likely Native American: game stewed with hot peppers. In a Balkan context, a venison or boar paprikash wouldn't be too far off. The great civilizations of Mexico gave chili the tomato, the Spanish brought cattle to the American plains for the beef, the Texans turned chili into a cult, and the Depression spread it across the United States. With that in mind, here's a recipe for a basic chili that shouldn't be too alien to Balkan tastes:
Cut 500 g of good stew beef into 1 cm cubes. Brown the meat. Add 250 g of tomato sauce, enough beef broth to cover the meat, salt, pepper, and as much paprika as you dare. Let it simmer as the meat becomes tender, and let the broth reduce. If you want, you can add cooked kidney beans, up to 500 g, and let it simmer fifteen minutes more.You can serve this by itself, with sour cream or grated cheese or yogurt, with a pilaf or over egg noodles. But it goes really well with the taste of maize, and I usually make corn bread to go with it. Americans don't use paprika all that much in their chili. It's a little too mild. We use chili powder, which is a little like an Indian masala spice mixture, except we usually don't grind our own, but get it pre-packaged. Most commercial mixtures are mainly ground dried chile peppers, cumin, Mexican oregano, and garlic powder, in roughly that order. It's rather an exotic flavor combination, especially for American comfort food cooking. What can I say. If you use hot paprika and Italian oregano in place of the ground chile peppers and the Mexican oregano, you won't be too far off. There are many, many, many ways one can tweak chili recipes. There is the traditional 'beans/no beans' divide. There is the more recent vegetarian/meat chili split; since I am firmly on the carnivore side of the debate, I have to recuse myself from that discussion. Mushrooms will add richness of flavor, and a little bittersweet chocolate will add depth, but take away some heat. Since I am a pepperhead, I might throw in some chipotle -- smoked jalapeno -- peppers to heat my chili up, or sometimes a few habanero peppers. Most people find habaneros too hot. I use habanero sauce like ketchup. But I grew up with one of the mildest chilis out there, Green Bay Chili. This recipe is my mom's, so it's authentic, although I have converted everything to metric units.
Brown 500 g of ground beef in a skillet. Drain the fat and put the ground beef in a soup kettle. Add two to three liters of tomato juice, enough to cook 500 g of spaghetti. Bring to a boil, and add those 500 g of spaghetti. When the spaghetti is cooked, it's done. Salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls; some people like the meat, some people like the noodles. Serve with slices of Colby cheese, and make sure the can of chili powder is on the table.The amount of tomato juice might seem extravagant, but we canned our own from the garden. (The secret ingredient is dill.) You can use other sorts of yellow cheese -- Cheddar works just fine -- but Colby is mellow and creamy and melts perfectly over the hot spaghetti. Lately my dad has been adding chopped onions to the broth right before serving. He's such a wild man.