I’ve certainly made no secret of my love for Autumn here on this blog and in life in general. However, that love doesn’t carry over to the sports that come with it. Well, one sport in particular: American football. It’s not that I’m against sports entirely; I’m not. Rugby is awesome, soccer is pretty damn cool, and jai alai just rocks. But American professional football… BLECH!! I despise it. The players are GROSSLY over paid and mostly they’re a bunch of thugs in tight pants made into (undeserving) idols. Thankfully I can pretty much ignore football season. I have several die hard football fan friends on Facebook, but I can either just ignore the posts or hide them if they get too numerous. In fact, I did such a good job of ignoring football the last couple of years that I didn’t even know who was playing in the Superbowl until a day or so before the game! HOWEVER, all that being said, I do have to admit that I like cooking for people who watch football. Cooking fun, comforting food for a group of people is always right up my alley and football watchers definitely require that! So while I know (and care) very little about the rules of the game, I certainly know what the game obsessed like to eat and I enjoy supplying the food they’ll eat and providing a fun atmosphere :-)
One of the best football watching/fall foods is chili… well, anything really. Chili dogs, chili cheese fries, chili nachos, chili mac, the list goes on. You can put chili on just about anything. But this isn’t chili such as you would eat out of a bowl with some cornbread on the side. Actually, I don’t care for that chili much. I think it’s the cumin- I’ve never really liked cumin as a defining flavor. That’s the version of chili you find in the Western US. What I like is the Eastern US’s version of chili: no beans, no cumin, and it’s usually served over spaghetti (look up “chili 5 way” and you’ll find an interesting meal!). This chili is more of a condiment than a meal in itself. And it’s incredibly easy to make. (You can also make this in the crock pot, but I’m doing the stove top version. I’ll put the crock pot directions below.) We’ll start with what you probably already have on hand…
See? I bet you don’t even have to run to the store for any of that, do you? I love it when that happens! Oh- and I can hear you now “The Humble Food Snob is BUYING garlic in a jar?!?! Isn’t that contrary to what you’ve been saying all along about knife skills and economy?!” Sigh… Yes; it is. Under normal circumstances, I disdain jarred garlic. But under normal circumstances I have access to great garlic at one store or another. Large heads of garlic with nice big cloves and no green shoots in the center… what a fond memory. And that’s all it is; a memory. Because in my current locale, all that’s available at the 2 grocery stores are tiny heads of garlic about 3/4 the size of an egg with pathetic little cloves that are more work than they’re worth to peel. AND every head I’ve purchased so far has been growing already, which means I have to dissect the tiny cloves to remove the bitter shoots. So until I can grow my own garlic, I will be buying jarred garlic. Thankfully they offer it at a decent price here.
Anyway… You may notice that the amounts in this picture and the amounts in the recipe below don’t jive. I know that. I went from a normal sized freezer plus a stand alone freezer to store things in at my last residence, to just a tiny freezer in a small, 30 year old fridge. That means it’s also got an inch of frost taking up room. Is being in our own home and away from the awful situation we were in worth it? A thousand times YES!! Does it mean I have to change the way I do some things? Yes again. And that’s ok. So instead of the full batch I’m making a half batch. (And incidentally, a recipe I found that helped inspire this makes double what’s below! :-o )
So brown your ground beef. You can also use ground turkey or chicken, but you’ll need to make sure there is about half a cup of fat of one kind or another to soak up the flour to make the roux. It can be olive or vegetable oil, or you could use bacon fat- that would be a great addition! While the meat is browning, dice your onion. Don’t drain your meat. Like I said; you’ll need the fat. Add the onions and cook until they’re soft- about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir. Cook, stirring for about 3 minutes. You want the flour to cook but not burn. It should look almost like there is no flour:
Now you can add the water and the tomato sauce. I usually add the sauce first and then put the water in the can and swish it around to get the last traces of the sauce out of the can. Why waste it? Along with the water and tomato sauce, add the spices. Give it a good stir, and you’ve got this:
Put a tight fitting lid on this and bring it to a boil. Give it a stir, lower the heat until it’s at a slow simmer, replace the lid, and go do something else for awhile. You’ll need to come back and stir the pot about twice an hour, but other than that you’ve got 2 hours to kill. I’d suggest watching something with Robin Williams in it. Never forget what it feels like to laugh with your whole body and soul- the world needs more of that. The Birdcage is my particular favorite of his :-)
Once 2 hours have ticked by, take the lid off, give the pot another stir, and let the chili simmer for about an hour without the lid, stirring every 15 minutes or so. It may take a little more or less than an hour. Just keep an eye on it. You want to end up with a chili that is very thick.
I know; it doesn’t LOOK a whole lot different. But it has reduced by about two thirds to half. Go ahead and give it a taste and adjust the salt and/or pepper. Don’t add too much pepper though- now is when you add the red pepper flakes if you want a milder chili. If you’re looking for spicy chili, add the red pepper flakes with the rest of the spices before you simmer the pot.
I was supposed to have a wonderful money shot for this post: A plate with hot dogs smothered in chili with melty cheese on top. But then I went and landed myself in the urgent care. I’ll be ok. But it cost me my blog picture. So sadly, I do not have a great shot of this tasty chili in action. But I do have a tip for freezing the leftovers. Here you go:
I prefer to have thinner, wrapped packages of food that I can stack several packages high instead of plastic containers that limit my storage and break when I inevitably drop one. So I line plastic food storage containers with plastic wrap and divide the (completely cooled) food into them. Each of these containers will make one meal’s worth of chili dogs.
Put these in the freezer, come back in a couple of hours, lift the sides of the plastic to remove, wrap the food, and you’re good to go! I usually do 2 layers of plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil, like so:
Make sure you mark the package with the contents and the date it was made. That way you don’t have to unwrap your packages and try to guess what’s in them.
So there you go: a jumping off point for lots of hearty recipes to get you through the fall and winter; from watching sports on TV to tail gating to coming in off the slopes or the sled hills.
As promised, Here is what you need to do to make this chili in a crock pot (slow cooker):
- Brown the meat, saute the onions and garlic, and add/cook the flour as described above.
- Transfer the mixture to the crock of the slow cooker and add the rest of the ingredients.
- Remember to not add the red pepper flakes until after cooking unless you want SPICY chili.
- Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
-Here’s the caveat to making this chili in the slow cooker: you need to let it cook with the lid off for about the last hour, just like the stove top version. And you need to stir it a few times. When it’s the consistency you want you can take it out. This is a deal breaker for some, because they want whatever is in the slow cooker to be ready when they get home from work or wherever. If that’s the case, I’d advise making it on a day off and reheating what you have set aside. You can’t tell it’s been reheated, so it’s not a problem.
2 Lbs. Ground Beef
2 Onions, diced fine
4-6 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 C + 1 T All Purpose Flour
29 Oz. Can Tomato Sauce
8 Oz. Water
2 t Salt
2 t Seasoned Salt
2 t Pepper (Black or White, doesn’t matter)
1/4 C Chili Powder (don’t let the amount scare you- it’s not really spicy at all)
1/3 C Sugar
1 t (or to taste) Red Pepper Flakes (this is what will make it spicy)
*In a large soup or stock pot, brown the ground beef. Do not drain!
*Add the onions and saute 3-4 minutes, until the onions are fragrant and soft.
*Add the garlic and saute 2-3 minutes.
*Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine, cooking 3-4 minutes. Don’t let the roux burn!
*Add the tomato sauce and the water, swishing the water in the sauce can to get the remnants out.
*Stir in the spices (adding the red pepper flakes now only if you want spicy chili).
*Cover the pot and bring the chili to a boil.
*Stir, lower the heat to a slow simmer, replace the cover and cook 2 – 2 1/2 hours, stirring a couple of times per hour.
*Uncover the pot and continue to slowly simmer for about an hour, until the chili is very thick.
*Taste for seasoning. Add more salt and/or pepper if needed.
*If you haven’t added them before now, stir the red pepper flakes in.