Thursday, March 4, 2010

Baby It's Cold Outside

One of the best things I did while I was home was to take advantage of my slow-cooker. Do you have one? Or even a Crock-Pot? If so, you're one lucky devil. Believe it or not they've come a long way in the last few years and are now often used to make real food instead of just mushroom casserole. That's right, real food goes in and real food comes out, unlike what some folks may remember from the 70's. The odd can of tomatoes aside, these days the slow-cooker can be filled with wonderful thick cuts of meat for braising, beans and lentils for stewing, and notoriously long cooking vegetables like collards and beets for growing boys and girls that need their veggies.

Although I've used it for everything from split-pea soup to osso buco and short ribs, my all time favorite slow-cooker dish is chili. While it's not a difficult dish to make on the stove top, it does require some attention to ensure it's not burning or sticking. The slow-cooker on the other hand requires no such babysitting. Once you've browned your meat and onions it's everyone in the tub: Meat, onions, beans, tomatoes, chipotles and spices. An even better argument for making chili in the slow-cooker is that (like with every stew) the longer it lingers the better it tastes. While a four hour stove-top chili is tasty, an eight hour slow-cooker chili is to die for. And during those eight hours, you're absolutely free to do whatever you want. Those with newfangled slow-cookers are even luckier because most shut themselves off once the designated cook time has passed, unchaining the home cook and releasing them from their kitchen.

This version of chili is made up of the standard fare, with the addition of a few chipotles in adobo throw in. The great thing about the recipe (and chili in general) is that you can adjust it to fit whatever type of chili you'd like--just use it as your base recipe and take it from there. Hate chipotles? Leave them out and add finely diced jalapeƱos or extra cayenne pepper for heat instead. Want more veggies? Add two cups of frozen corn and two diced bell peppers. The possibilities are truly endless and probably delicious no matter how you choose to change it up. I personally rarely make chili outside of fall and winter, so if you're anything like me, grab that slow-cooker, a bag of tortillas and make yourself a big batch before the weather turns from frigid to merely cool. And if you're in a hurry, this recipe carries over just fine to the stove top. Just make sure to keep the heat on low and you'll have chili in no time :) 

Chipotle Chili 

2 lbs ground beef
1 onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes (or diced if you like them chunky)
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
3 chipotles in adobo, minced, plus 2 tsp adobo sauce
olive oil

1. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil in a non-stick skillet until soft and add to your slow-cooker crock. 

2. Add ground beef to the hot skillet, season with salt and cook until still just slightly pink in the center, making sure to break it up to your desired thickness. 

3. Add meat (with any accumulated pan juices) chili powder, cayenne, cumin, paprika, pepper (to taste) chipotles, adobo and tomatoes to the slow-cooker crock. Stir to combine, cover and set on low to cook for 6-8 hours. 

4. Once cooked, skim any extra fat that's risen to the top with a serving spoon or ladle. Check for salt and season to taste. Serve with sour cream, grated cheese and tortillas for dipping, or top with chives. Enjoy!


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