Sunday, March 20, 2011

Slow Cooked Chili for a Rainy Day

Dinner: March 20

All weather reports indicated that today and the week to follow would be rainy and chilly (the latter by L.A. standards, of course). So, a trip to the grocery store for the week included ingredients for chili - and another soup-related dish to be disclosed after its attempt in a few days. When I woke up on Sunday morning, the bad weather was moving in, and I was putting together my ingredients before I even finished breakfast.

I’ve had some great chili, most often lately from my friend Ev who makes a mean turkey chili. I wanted to do something different and interesting for my first chili ever, but every recipe I found online seemed to either have too many ingredients or too few. I ultimately decided to include the best of all of them, mixing in everything that sounded like the kind of chili I craved. One might think that I might have been scarred from my Mexican food incident a few weeks ago and afraid to strike out on my own, but as my Twitter friends assured me, it would be awfully tough to make a really bad chili.

With that, I came up with the following, which seemed like a portion that might make about 5 or 6 servings:

Basics:  Cooked 1 pound of ground beef in a pan, drained, and put in the slow cooker. Added 1 15 oz. can of rinsed and drained kidney beans, 1 can of diced tomatoes with juice, 1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped green pepper, 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Set slow cooker to low to cook for 10 hours.

This is what it looked like toward the beginning:

And I was not happy. I wanted thick chili with a red soupy look to it. As my nerves got the best of me over the first few hours and I couldn't stop lifting the Crock Pot lid, I decided to add a 15 oz. can of tomato sauce, risking a sauce-heavy dish but feeling that I could always drain some later if it became too soupy. As it turned out, it was a bit soupy, so I added 1 teaspoon of flour a few hours before it was to be done, in the hopes that it thickened up a bit. Meanwhile, I added another tablespoon of chili powder - possibly 2, I dumped instead of measured - because I really wanted a kick. And to serve, I added shredded cheddar cheese over the top of my bowl of chili.

It worked! I was honestly quite surprised at how good it was. The flavor was a perfect mix of the tomato and chili powder, and all of the ingredients came together for a very nice consistency, meaning the extra can of tomato sauce was a good idea and the flour probably helped with the thickening process. It was spicier than some may prefer, so tasting as one is seasoning is certainly important, but it came out the way I hoped.

It was suggested that I try various other items, like cocoa powder or beer or various spicy peppers, but all of those are on the back burner for another attempt.

I believe this will be my basic recipe for future chili dishes, though I will try others’ suggestions to see if I can improve upon my concoction. All in all, I’m quite happy … and full!

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