Low, slow, and tasty - my slow cooker chili

I hate when food posts start with some meandering story about, I dunno, reconnecting with your spirit in Tuscany or whatever and you have to scroll for days before you so much as get a hint of the recipe. So here's my slow cooker chili recipe - not even a real recipe, per se, more like a baseline - and you want to read a little bit about it (guaranteed 100% Tuscany free), we'll meet up below.

Before and After

Ingredients!

2lbs ground beef
Olive oil for pan (eyeball it)
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 onion (I like a vidalia)
Minced garlic (at least 2 tablespoons for the meat, more to add to the crockpot if you like)
Chili powder (2-3 tablespoons in the meat to your tastes, more in the crockpot to taste)
Sriracha to taste (3 tablespoons is the sweet spot for me)
1-2 cans of kidney and/or pinto beans (depending on how beany you like you chili)
1 large can (or 2 regular sized cans) crushed tomatoes w/ chilies
1 small can tomato sauce
Salt & pepper to taste
Full can or 3/4 bottle of beer (a nice brown ale or English pale ale like Old Speckled Hen work well)

Instructions!

  1. Sweat onion and peppers in olive oil.
  2. Add beef to the pan and brown it up (you can take out the onion and peppers but I usually leave it all in).  Add the garlic and a few shakes of chili powder to season the meat as it browns.
  3. While this is happening, add tomatoes, sauce, and beans (onion and peppers, too, if you didn’t keep them in with the beef) to the crock pot.  Stir.
  4. When meat is browned up, add to the crock pot.  Stir.
  5. Add sriracha, chili powder, salt and pepper, beer, and flour (if you’re using it) to the crock pot, all based on your tastes (all measurements above are approximations, I’ve tweaked it each time).
  6. Cook low and slow...  4 hours is good, but 6, 7, or 8 will be even better if you have the time and patience.
  7. Eat. Serve with whatever you want (some cheese; maybe some corn bread; oooh, yeah, tortilla chips are always nice).  It will be good right out of the pot but even better the next day.

The Non-Recipe Stuff! 

So here's the thing New England winters - they're terrible. They're cold, they're dark, they're long, and there's sickness everywhere. Most of us claim to enjoy living where we get all 4 seasons but if we're really being honest we enjoy 3 of them and fourth is just us punishing ourselves for original sin like our Puritan forebears. You sometimes meet someone who claims to enjoy winter, but I guarantee you they don't have to shovel their own yard so discount them entirely.

The people here worth mentioning all go into a pretty deep decline for the winter months; we pretty much invented seasonal affective disorder. We all search for nice big, warm things to bring us a modicum of joy and get through the rough times. We pretty much invented the fuzzy blanket, the big sweater, and the snuggling of dogs, too.  This also extends to food, of course, and every so often you just want a nice big mound of something that tastes good and also warms you inside and out.

Trying to fight the winter blahs a few years back, I decided to try my hand at chili. I liked it a lot growing up but never actually made it myself.  I watched far too much Food Network and saw all these chili cook off people with their secret ingredients and weird processes, which put it in my head that it was a very fussy process when truthfully it's anything but. At the heart of it, you're putting a bunch of stuff (most of which requires little or no preparation) into a pot and then walking away all day.

I researched some recipes and talked to some friends about their own chili concoctions and cobbled together sort of a greatest hits version of all of those, which has morphed over time. But I made this the other night and even that didn't strictly follow what you see above, which is why I call it a baseline. Things change based on tastes, availability of ingredients, how much effort I'm willing to put in, etc.  The only things that don't change are the beer (type of beer changes, but the presence of beer is a must to me) the sriracha (because I like a little sweetness with the heat), and the use of a crockpot or other slow cooker (this time I used the Ninja Foodi we got for Christmas). Everything else is negotiable.

If you try it, feel free to drop me a line and tell me what you think, or if you have suggestions of your own, share away. Even though it's mid-March and the weather hints at getting nice again, New England winters keep their own calendar so we really can't count on being done for good until at least about June.

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