Chili is another one of those foods that is perfect for a rainy fall afternoon or a snowy winter evening. Put in the crock pot to slowly simmer all day, it fills the house with the smell of comfort and warmth to ward off the chill of the outdoors after a day spent hunting, sledding, ice fishing, or just doing chores. With a little planning ahead, it’s easy to get it started and then leave it unattended until the wet clothes are hanging, the fire is stoked and the dry clothes are on.
This recipe, like many I have, started with something I remember from my childhood. Leaving for college, I took with me a collection of recipes on note cards that I had enjoyed growing up. As I have tinkered in the kitchen, they each received their own revisions and tweaks based on what I had for ingredients, what sounded good that particular day, or whatever other challenge brought me to deviate from the written instructions. And now, as I’ve adopted this primal lifestyle, I’ve continued to let those “old standbys” evolve so that I can pay tribute to the very things that got me interested in cooking to start with. This one has spent time known as “Spud’s Atomic Chili” (with a healthy dose of hot chilies and sauces), and has recently settled back down to a much more mild variety gentler on the digestive system.
- 1-1/2 lbs ground meat – grass fed or wild game (this is incredible with elk, venison, or moose)
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 medium shallot, chopped
- 3 med-large plum or Roma tomatoes (also known as “sauce” tomatoes), chopped
- 2 poblano chilies, chopped
- 2 anaheim chilies, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
- 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
- 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
- 1 can (7 oz) diced green chilies
- 1 tbsp cumin powder
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp chipotle powder
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup water
- 1 shot good tequila – purely optional (see footnote)
Start by browning the meat in a deep sauté pan. Put the meat in there on medium with a lid over it to trap in the steam and aid cooking – checking every so often and breaking it up with a sturdy spatula. While the meat is browning, get the onion, shallot, chilies, and celery chopped up and put into a bowl. Mince or crush the garlic and throw in there as well. Chop up the tomatoes, but set them aside in a separate bowl.
When the meat is browned, transfer to a crock pot or slow cooker using a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the sauté pan. Raise the heat to medium high and throw in all of the veggies (minus the tomatoes). Sauté these until the onions and celery are translucent and the chilies are softened – 4~5 minutes – then transfer to the slow cooker as well.
Add in the canned goods, the spices, and the chopped fresh tomatoes. Mix it all well. You may want to hold off on the bay leaf until you’ve mixed everything so that it doesn’t get crumbled up in to pieces.
Pour in the shot of tequila if you are using it. Add water to get to a thick stew-like consistency – 1 cup should be about right. Keep in mind that as this cooks, moisture in the ingredients will release to make it thinner, so it is better to start a little thick. You can always add a little more liquid after an hour or two of cooking if it is too think for your liking. Cover, set the slow cooker to low, and leave it alone for at least 3 hours.
Serve it up in a bowl with an Almond Muffin on the side. If you’re from the Midwest, you can have it as a two-way, three-way, or a four-way using some shredded raw cheese, chopped onions, and spaghetti squash in place of your traditional noodles! Just skip the five-way with the beans. Enjoy!