I love chili! Ok, maybe I should qualify that and say that I love most chili. The firehouse chili with too much spice in it, I can’t handle. And chili with too many beans and not enough meat, well, no thanks. But, for the most part, I love chili. Chili cheese fries are one of those things that I think are just spectacular. And a nice hot bowl of chili topped with cheese on a cold night, yum!
I always thought chili would be hard to make so I never even gave it a try. A blue moon ago, my husband made chili for me once since he knew how much I liked it. But it was since a time-consuming intensive process. Delicious, but long and I never seemed to have the time to do that. It’s certainly not a dish you can throw together after work one night and expect to be sitting at the dinner table eating it in an hour, although I certainly wish it could be that way. That’s probably why it’s just easier to go out and buy some good chili rather than make it at home. But there’s just something about eating food you made at home and put a lot of love into that makes it taste that much better than having it made by someone else. It’s the reason why you put the time and effort into making stuff from scratch when you know you could easy go to the corner store and get a bowl of chili to go.
Shortly before Super Bowl Sunday this year, I received an email newsletter that contained a recipe for easy and quick game-day chili. When I read through the recipe, it certainly seemed easy enough. I decided to take a look at several other recipes online for chili made in a slow cooker and I combined a bunch of recipes together for the chili I was ultimately to make.
On Martin Luther King’s observed birthday I happened to have the day off of work and my husband didn’t so I figured this would be as good of a day as any to try my hand at some home-made chili since I knew he had no interest in spending hours trying to make it. I gathered all the necessary ingredients, followed the rough directions and crossed my fingers! At that point, I was just hoping for food that was edible. Forget making it taste good, I just wanted something we could actually eat.
In real time, my chili adventure took about 6-7 hours total from start to finish to complete with prep time and cooking time, etc. I started with a bag of pinto beans that I needed to pour into a bowl of warm water and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes to rehydrate the beans. Once rehydrated, the beans needed to be cooked over low flame in water for 50-60 minutes until they reached the desired tenderness for the chili. Once you have the pinto beans where you want them, add them to your slow cooker. Next up was browning ground beef and cooking some bacon. Both the ground beef and bacon were drained, bacon crumbled up and then mixed into the ground beef. The beef and bacon mixture is then put into the slow cooker.
The chili sauce is made by dicing up a bunch of onions and celery to add texture, flavor and some crunch. A dutch oven is put on the stove top with a little bit of olive oil heated up. The onions and celery are added to the dutch oven along with some salt and pepper to season. The salt also acts as an agent to sweat the onions and celery and bring out some of their natural sweetness. The celery and onion cook for 10 minutes or so until they are tender and start to turn translucent, don’t let them brown. To the dutch oven, add some minced garlic for great taste and aroma. Add a can of diced green chile for a little bit of sweet heat. Now add your seasonings to form the base of the chili sauce: chili powder for heat and that chili aroma, a bit of paprika to make your chili the classic orange-red color, onion powder and garlic powder to add more intense flavor to the fresh onions and garlic already in the sauce, cumin which adds to the classic chili flavor, brown sugar to help offset some of the intense chili powder flavor and add an undertone of sweetness to go with the heat, oregano, basil leaves and italian seasonings to add a nice aroma vibrant herb flavor to your chili sauce, of course salt and pepper as a classic seasoning to almost every dish, and finally some cayenne pepper to add that bang and pop of heat before you start to taste the chili powder. Mix all your veggies and seasonings together and taste the dish to make sure that the sauce is starting to come together in terms of flavor. If you’re lacking in any of the seasonings, now is the time to add it in. Once you’ve hit the flavor marker, you’re going to want to add in a can of crushed tomatoes, a can of diced tomatoes, and a bit of tomato paste. Bring your sauce to a boil and taste to make sure that the sweetness and acidity in the tomatoes hasn’t overpowered your chili base. Make sure that your sauce still tastes like chili because this is the last opportunity you have to season and flavor your dish.
Once you’re satisfied with the taste, add the chili sauce mixture in your dutch oven to the pinto beans and ground beef and bacon already sitting in your slow cooker. Put the lid on your slow cooker, turn the bad boy on high for 3.5 to 4 hours and you’re good to go. Or, if you really want to slow cook it, you could turn the slow cooker on low and cook for 5 to 6 hours. Check on the chili occasionally and stir it around. I swear, after a few hours, that wonderful chili aroma will waft through your entire house. You’ll know it’s done when you smell it.
Make sure to shred some cheddar cheese, dice up some green onions, and get some sour cream ready (yuck! except that my husband likes it) so that each person can dress up their bowl of chili their way. Regardless of what toppings get added to the chili, be prepared for everyone to compliment you on how yummy the chili is. This chili sure packed a punch and was full and rich and had a great depth of flavor. And since you made a whole slow cooker worth of it, you’ll have many bowls of chili left over. I had enough left over that I packed a quart of it for my parents who told me that days later they were still enjoying my chili. Not to mention that they couldn’t believe that I actually made it myself rather than having bought it somewhere. It was just that good!