When cold snowy weather begins, there’s nothing like knowing you’ve got the makings for a big pot of something warm and hearty stored in the pantry and/or freezer. You feel downright rich. There’s a big sigh of relief. Everyone will be fed.
In the case of chili at my house, there’s rarely a week you can’t find a stash of cans of beans and tomatoes on the shelf and some sort of ground meat — usually lean turkey — in the freezer. When snow begins, like it did yesterday, I’m ready.
It’s nearly embarrassing to put the word chili into the search box on this blog and see what comes up–mostly in the winter, but not always. While I make the same general sort of chili ad nauseam–often in a slow cooker– I also try my hand at numerous and sundry variations. I say this because though I live in the southwest, I rarely make real chile con carne. Who knows, I just like the U S of A’s ’40’s style b-flat version taken up a notch or two or twisted a new way like this:
I know; it makes even me shake my head and swivel my little mouth to one side all the while rolling my eyes. What next? Tuna? Shrimp? Snails? Well, why not then?
But here, look; people really do say this, especially in Texas and I live within hollering distance of Texas:
If you know beans about chili, you’ll know that chili has no beans.”So where’d that come from?
My chilis, along with yours, yours, and the cooks of all those pots made for Halloween (that’s two days from now!) and Super Bowl and all the Saturdays in between, darned well probably has beans and maybe more than one kind. In fact, I love it for its beans. It’s a whole meal then and the fiber percentage line required by the health police is checked off one more time. Toss in a bunch of other compatible vegetables –see my recipe below–and I’m even happier. No one will know they’re there.
In fact, on the rare occasion I make the real deal chile con carne, I make a pot of beans on the side to go with it. Maybe rice and corn bread instead of tortillas, too. So there.
When I went to cook my chili to make it through the season’s second snow storm yesterday, I had little in mind but to get something hot going and bubbling all day in the kitchen. (Who doesn’t like the house smelling as if something good is coming? What a comfort.) But as I sautéed the meat and collected the vegetables and spices, a new and better pot came together. I poured in a gorgeous dark beer in lieu of the red wine I typically use; a jalapeño found its way onto the cutting board. Next, a little extra cumin, along with my usual cinnamon seemed called for. A shake or two of Worcestershire was added to my Dijon-style mustard, a note from the ever-famous SILVER PALATE COOKBOOK’S “Chili for a Crowd,” recipe on page 130-131. Bit by bit, tiny change by tinier change, a new basic chili was born. It also needed a name. I kept remembering the now famous guy who, during the World Series game, couldn’t catch a ball in the stands as he was holding two beers! (He now has Bud for life, I hear.) It seemed the quintessential, “Hold my beer” moment to me! So try Hold my Beer Slow Cooker Chili and see what you think. Of course no chili is your chili until you change a few things, too. Shy on the spices and/or veg? Stick with chili powder, oregano, onions, garlic, and tomatoes and call it a day, but don’t forget the beans…
hold my beer slow cooker chili
- 6 quart Slow Cooker
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds lean ground turkey, ground beef, or a combination (can use half Italian Sausage)
- 1 EACH, diced: large yellow onion, large red bell pepper, and stalk celery
- 1 jalapeño- trimmed with membranes and seeds removed, minced
- 4 cloves plump garlic, minced
- 2 medium zucchini, diced
- 3 15- ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 12- ounce can tomato paste
- 12- ounce bottle of dark beer
- 2 cups water or more, if chili becomes too thick
- 3 15- ounce cans beans, drained and rinsed (I like a mix of pinto and black beans.)
- 2 teaspoons EACH: kosher salt, ground cumin, and sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons EACH: chili powder, or more to taste, dried basil, and sugar
- 1 tablespoon EACH: dill weed and dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons EACH: Dijon-style mustard, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce
- GARNISHES: sour cream, sliced green or chopped red onions, grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, tortilla chips or Fritos—your choice
- Heat olive oil in a large skill over medium-high heat for one minute. Add ground meat and sauté, stirring until no longer pink. Add meat to a 6-quart slow cooker. Stir remaining ingredients except garnishes; taste and adjust seasonings, especially chili powder. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours, stirring once mid-way through, adding water if necessary. Taste again and adjust seasonings. Serve hot with garnishes as desired.
A note about the heat in chili: While heat could come from a variety of ingredients in chili, it is basically derived from your chili powder in this case. The single jalapeño I include isn’t going to make the chili terribly spicy, but only adds warmth and flavor. If your chili powder is mild — a typical, inexpensive supermarket brand, for instance — you may need to add more or to include a sprinkling of crushed red pepper or a few dashes of hot sauce to obtain the heat you need if spice is your thing. If your chili powder is hot, or you use plain chile powder, you may need to cut back to keep your mouth happy. Add, taste, and see if you need more. Too hot? Sugar or honey and salt will counteract heat to a degree, as will adding more meat and/or tomatoes if you’ve gotten your pot hotter than you like.
STORAGE: 3-4 days in the fridge. 4-6 months in the freezer.
LEFTOVERS: While leftover chili is great for lunches and tastes even better the next night, it’s also perfect for the nacho-like Baked Chili on Tortilla Chips (above). Why not make taco salad, chili dogs or burgers, Chili-Cheddar Biscuit Pizza (below), old school chili-mac (macaroni topped with chili) new school chili-mac (mac and cheese with chili), or a quick version of Cincinnati Chili–which is spaghetti with a chili-like sauce. You might like a second or third-day version better than the original!
WINE: While most people drink beer with chili, a Syrah–not a blend– goes well with the dish and doesn’t fight the heat. Another idea is a jammy (red) Zinfandel.
REASONS TO CHOOSE GROUND TURKEY OR CHICKEN OVER BEEF: Read recent article about cutting back on red and processed meats from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Stay warm, cook lots, and watch for my upcoming Thanksgiving goodies–sides, in particular. Pray for the people in California facing horrific fire danger.