Chili Night!

20130825-195528.jpgTonight we decided to make chili in the crockpot. We both like almost exactly the opposite kinds of chili. I like traditional flavored chilis with thin broths, she likes BBQ flavored chilis with thick broths. We both like them to have beef as the main protein and a tomato base. Tonight we decided to make a thick, traditional flavored chili.

Normally I would want to make this in the crockpot in the morning and then let it cook all day so the flavors could all blend in the pot. But we didn’t go grocery shopping until late this afternoon and we wanted chili for dinner so I did things a little differently this time.

I started by making the sauce in the crockpot. In a crockpot liner bag I mixed,

1 small can tomato paste
1 can rotel chili starter
1 can diced tomatoes with sweet onions
1 jar tabasco brand chili starter
1 tbsp butter
1 can pumpkin puree

My wife has written before about how we use pumpkin puree to thicken some of our curries and stews. It’s a great, nutrient dense way to thicken a dish without adding cream or fat. It absorbs the flavors of the dish and adds a bland orange color.

Then I mixed some of my own chili seasoning. I don’t like to use the stuff at the grocery store because they use a lot of grain products in the mix. Instead I just make my own out of spices I have in the pantry. Tonight I used

chili powder
crushed red pepper
cayenne powder
garlic powder
mustard powder
ginger powder
paprika
rosemary
salt
pepper
cumin

For me, traditional chili seasoning is all about the cumin and the chili powder. Everything else gives dimension to the flavors, but those are the two that form the base of what I like in a chili. I put this aside for a while and began working on the meat and veg.

For the meat we used one pound of 93/7 ground beef and three slices of precooked bacon which I put a fine dice on and set aside for later. Normally we get 90/10 grass fed beef but tonight we just didn’t want to hit one more store so we went ahead and just grabbed what they had on the shelf at the grocers. I put that in a skillet and put the heat on medium and while that was browning I got to work on the veg.

green bell pepper
red bell pepper
red onion
jalapeno
baby portobello mushrooms
minced garlic

I put a fine dice on all of that and put it in a bowl on the side. I like to use fresh veg when I make chilis and soups, but in a pinch I’m willing to settle for frozen. Tonight I had the luxury of taking my time and prepping my food so I went with fresh everything. In the past I used to put beans and corn in chili, but I don’t eat those foods anymore which is I why I went with the mushrooms. They give a similar mouth feel and a similar umami flavor profile to the dish. And they’re great for you.

About the time I finished prepping all that food the meat was done browning so I tossed the bowl of veg in with it and tossed it for a minute with the beef and the fat that had cooked out of it. After a few tosses I added the bacon and the chili seasoning I’d prepared earlier to the skillet and continued tossing it for another five minutes or so to cook down the veg. Then I added it all to the crockpot and stirred it in with the sauce.

I cooked it on high for about an hour before I couldn’t wait anymore and started dishing out bowls. It was fantastic, packed with flavor, and very filling. It had a nice thick consistency, with a little bit of fat from the butter and the beef and the bacon to give it just a little creaminess, and every bite was packed with fresh cooked veg.

I love making chili. We usually make it through the fall and winter and not so much during the spring and summer, so it’s been a few months since we’ve made one here at the house. But now that the seasons are changing we’ll be making several more in the near future. I’m sure we’ll make little tweaks and changes, but this is the general format we follow. Sauce. Veg. Meat. I mentioned that before when we made the Southern Style Chicken Soup. It may have seemed like a lot of work went into this dish, but it probably didn’t take more than twenty minutes to make the whole thing. If you’ve never worked in a kitchen before, there’s probably going to be a little bit of a trial and error period as you learn to break down vegetables. But it’s really not hard. And the results are definitely worth it. And like I said, if you’re in a pinch, just use a bag of frozen veg. It’ll cook up quick enough in the crockpot.

Figure we can get at least three or four meals out of this pot of chili. For 15-20 bucks give or take. Way less than we’d spend eating out, and way better food than we’d get at any restaurant. If you like your chili with BBQ flavor, add a little sauce. If you like it with hot sauce, go crazy. I think this is great with tabasco or sriracha or red hot. You really can’t go wrong.

Give it a try!

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