Fuuuuuuuuuuck is it ever cold outside. Too cold. End of Days cold. If you have to suffer the indignity of commuting to and from work every day, it’s the kind of weather that makes you want to turn on your oven, climb into it, and find some semblance of warmth before the sweet release of death (do not do this). We’re rational people, however, and thus we’re bound to explore less-deadly alternatives. That’s why we’re going to make chilli before hibernating until St. Patrick’s Day.
Chili, if you think about it, is a surprisingly betchy food. It’s complex, it’s healthy and surprisingly versatile. Unlike betches, chili is much more attractive on the (your) inside than on the outside. I’ve won a chili cookoff with this recipe because my life is exciting beyond your wildest dreams, but I’m not gonna lie: It has a lot going on. The good news is that there isn’t a lot of cooking involved, per se. The bad news is that you’re going to have to go to the grocery store.
- 1.25 lbs ground meat (any animal)
- 1/2 tiny can tomato paste
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 2 onions
- Beer (chocolate porter is best)
- 1/2 can black beans
- All of the garlic
- 1/2 package of mushrooms
- 1 tiny can baked beans
- Low-sodium soy sauce
- Chili powder
- Garlic powder
- Onion Powder
- Red wine
- Dr. Pepper
Told you it’s a lot. In terms of equipment, you’ll need a pan you can get really hot (cast iron or steel), a nonstick pan (well-seasoned cast iron works great for both if you have it) and a slow cooker aka Crock Pot. Now, you don’t NEED a slow cooker – you can do this in a pot on the stove, but you’ll have to baby it a little more and that sounds like work. Let’s get cooking.
Brown your dead animal. I go for whatever’s cheapest, save for turkey because it’s gross. Ground pork is lovely, as is any cut of ground beef you can find. Don’t worry too much about fat content, because we’re going to drain the fat. Get your pan just shy of thermonuclear hot with a little bit of sturdy oil, and work in batches so the pan can come back up to temperature between each one. Let it sit a while before you fuss with it so it can really get a nice crust on it. Once each batch is done, drain the fat and dump it into the slow cooker. Repeat until the meat’s gone.
While each batch cooks, take the time to dice up your onions (keep them separate) and mince all of that fucking garlic – 6-7 cloves worth. This should only take you until your 40th birthday or so.
Cook other shit. Get your nonstick pan (or cast iron, if you’re using it) over medium heat, sweat one of your onions down. Once they’re getting softer, mix in the garlic until it’s very fragrant, but not brown. At that point, mix in a good tablespoon or so of your chili powder (homemade or store bought, your choice) so that it coats everything and makes your kitchen smell amazing. Finally, plop in half or so of that absurdly small can of tomato paste and mix it until the color deepens. Scoop everything into the slow cooker.
From here, you’re almost done! You can put in just about all of the other ingredients and crank the cooker to high. You’ll notice there isn’t much in the way of measurements. That’s because I never measure, and there’s so much in here it’s hard for any one thing to overpower it. Most almost the whole bottle of beer? A few glugs of the wine? Half the can of soda? Maybe ⅓ of a small bottle of soy sauce? Several swirls of sriracha? Sure. You can adjust things to your tastes once it’s all had a chance to cook together.
Time to (ugh) caramelize the other onion. I don’t mean the shits you get at a burger joint that are “caramelized” in the sense that they’re brown. I mean caramelized down into practically nothing, like you’d get in French onion soup. If you do this the French (ie., wrong) way, you will not finish before the Sun collapses into a white dwarf. Instead, I recommend setting your nonstick pan over medium-medium high heat and throwing the onions in there with some sugar and butter. Move them constantly, and once they look like they’re starting to brown, deglaze the pan with a couple tablespoons of water. Repeat this process, and in about 20 minutes you’ll have cooked an entire onion down into about a cup of caramelized goodness. There. You’re done.
Add the onion to the cooker, and cover it on high heat until it reaches a low boil. Then knock it down to low, and let it simmer for as long 3-4 hours, or at least until the smell is such that you can no longer resist climbing into the pot and slathering the chili over your naked torso.
The great thing about chili is that it has so many applications. For one thing, this is an ass-ton of chili, so once it’s cooled feel free to portion some out into bags and freeze it for later. It’s great over hotdogs, or over plain rice or pasta for a quick meal. With the Super Bowl on the horizon, it’s absolutely bangin with nachos. But for now, when the temperature is such that you come in from the elements feeling that your nose might fall off from something other than your coke problem for once, it’s divine on its own in a bowl, with some chopped scallions and maybe a dab of sour cream on top.