I love chili. And, thanks to my cast-iron stomach, I don’t have to drop the other shoe and follow that with “but chili doesn’t love me,” as so many unfortunates must. I like my chili hot, spicy, beany and with a hunk of warm cornbread on the side. Unfortunately, though, Mr. Right doesn’t share my taste, on this matter at least. He dislikes beans. He doesn’t have a cast-iron stomach. And he has fond memories of the “chili” he ate growing up, a watery concoction of my mother-in-law’s, that had ground beef, chopped up onions, chopped up celery, and tomatoes. With elbow macaroni. When he thinks of chili, that’s what he thinks of. Nothing else will do.
Made in Grandma’s way, it’s not something I enjoy all that much. So I’m always on the lookout for a good beanless chili recipe with infinitely adjustable heat levels, and not too long ago, I found the perfect one. The original recipe is here. I’ve adjusted it a bit, and I make it like this:
RightWingKnitJob’s Slow Cooker “Chili”
3 pounds lean ground beef (I use 93% lean, and don’t bother to drain after browning)
2 cups chopped onion
4 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3/4 cup sweet red pepper, chopped
1 ancho pepper, chopped
24 ounces marinara sauce
14 ounces petite diced tomatoes
4 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups beef broth (I use Better than Bouillon, 1 level tablespoon in 3 cups of water)
8 oz elbow macaroni, or small pasta of your choice
Brown ground beef, onion, and garlic in a large skillet until no longer pink.
Stir in the dry seasonings then place it into the slow cooker.
Add all remaining ingredients into the slow cooker and stir to combine.
Cook on 4 hours on high or 8 on low. NOTE: My crockpot isn’t big enough to accommodate all this (you need a five or six-quart one), but I have a “slow cooker” setting on my oven. I brown the beef in a 6-quart dutch oven, add everything into that, and make it in the oven. It makes a lot, so there is always some to freeze.
While it’s cooking: prepare the pasta. Don’t overcook it. Drain and cool. Then put it in some cold water for half an hour or so and drain again. (I find that doing this stops the pasta from soaking up all the liquid in the chili. I do the same thing with noodle soups.) Add as much of the pasta as you like to the chili when it’s finished cooking, and put the rest in the fridge for your little mac-n-Velveeta midnight guilty pleasure. At least, that’s what I do.
You can substitute peppers of your choice, as hot or as mild, or of whatever color you like, and adjust and add to the seasonings and spices as you see fit, or even add your favorite hot sauce variety once it’s in the bowl. It makes a nice, rich meal, especially with that hunk of homemade cornbread I mentioned, on the side. (I suppose, if you wanted to honor my mother-in-law, you could add a cup of so of diced celery, but personally, I find that revolting. YMMV.)
It’s good served with cheese melted on top, with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, crumbled bacon (bacon!), or anything else that tickles your fancy.
Please share a favorite chili, stew, soup, or other recipe for a chilly day. All are welcome, even those con carne! We don’t discriminate here. (Well, except about that celery business.)