I should clarify that I asked on my Facebook page what kind of recipes my followers would like to see me post. It didn’t take long for a theme to evolve: slow cooker, soups, stews…chili. I totally get that. So I got to work and adapted my personal favorite beef and bean chili recipe for the slow cooker. A few tweaks later and well, here you go!
Now down to the nitty gritty about chili making. First and foremost, chili is a very personal matter. Right up there with ribs, Italian meat sauce, pizza and even mac & cheese. There are thousands of variations and even more opinions about what is best. So rather than tell you exactly how you should make your chili, let me instead offer my advice on the three most important aspects of chili making:
Assuming you want to go the red meat route, then I highly suggest going for thinly sliced round steak. Freeze for about an hour or two, then dice into little 1/3-inch pieces. This tends to be a very cost effective method, as round steak is very economical. It adds texture and flavor and lets you trim the excess fat. You will spend perhaps five minutes of your life dicing up the meat. Trust me, it’s worth it.
If ground beef is truly your preference, then by all means use it. Many stores and butchers carry coarsely ground beef which is sometimes labeled “chili beef.” If it’s freshly ground by a butcher you trust, you should be ok. So what NOT to use? Finely ground beef that looks like this:
Pretty much stating the obvious here but you MUST add spices to your chili. Otherwise you may as well be making spaghetti sauce (or the aforementioned Sloppy Joes). Your choice of seasoning is what makes the chili unique to you, so have fun with it!
The star of my spice road show is definitely Penzey’s “Chili 9000” seasoning. It has so many amazing spices in it (including a little cocoa powder), I can’t even begin to explain how much I love this stuff. Another favorite secret weapon is Savory Spice’s Tomato Powder which not only thickens the chili but adds a concentrated burst of tomato flavor. Finally for that little “kick in the pants” I like to throw in some smoky Chipotle Powder.
Where you take it from here is up to your tastes and sense of adventure. I’ve seen chili recipes incorporating ingredients like strong coffee or dark beer. I came across a recipe posted by a woman who won an international chili contest a few years back who used at least five different kinds of chili powder and added them at various stages of the cooking process.
Whether you’re destined for the chili big leagues or just a loyal fan,the important thing is to think big and BOLD!
Last but not least, remember that chili is all about low and slow. If you have only thirty minutes to throw together dinner on a busy weeknight, then chili is probably not your best bet. It’s made for the slow cooker and now that I’ve adapted my recipe, I’m pretty sure this is how I’ll be cooking mine from now on.
Enjoy and as always thank you for your comments, suggestions and feedback. I love cooking for you!
Weekend Slow Cooker Steak and Bean Chili
2 TBS olive oil
2 pounds round steak, diced into 1/3-inch pieces OR 2 pounds coarse ground beef (see Note 1>)
1 large yellow or white onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
2 medium or 1 large jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz. can tomato sauce
1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, undrained
1 6-oz. can tomato paste or 2 TBS tomato powder (see Note 2>)
1 28-oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 TBS chili powder (preferably Penzey’s Chili 9000)
1 TBS each, ground cumin, oregano & basil
½ – ¾ tsp ground chipotle powder (optional)
2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp. Kosher salt
Freshly chopped cilantro
Sour cream or crème fraiche
Coarsely grated cheddar cheese
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add diced round steak and brown for about 5 minutes. Drain excess fat (see Note 2>). Add diced onions, green pepper, jalapeno & garlic to skillet. Continue to sauté for about 5 minutes longer. Add spice mix to skillet; stir and continue to cook for 1 additional minute.
Transfer meat & vegetable mixture to slow cooker. Add tomato sauce, whole tomatoes, tomato paste (or powder) and kidney beans.
Cover and cook on low heat 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. Taste for seasonings and, if desired, add about 1 TBS balsamic vinegar. Top with cilantro, sour cream or shredded cheese. Serve with saltine crackers.
Note 1> If using round steak, freeze for about an hour or so. Remove from freezer, trim off fat and dice into ⅓-inch pieces.
Note 2> Looking for a super easy way to drain fat from browned meat? Grab that turkey baster, tilt your pan and remove the fat to a heat resistant container and discard.