As the ice and snow descends here in the midwest, it’s time to take comfort in a nice hot bowl of chili. Even better is a huge vat of chili to be shared with friends while watching football. With your slow-cooker (aka Crock-Pot), you can put out the chili and keep it warm for hours, so feel free to graze. Everyone is going to love this Loaded Slow Cooker Chili!
Of course, if your recipe deviates the tiniest little bit from your friend’s idea of chili, you may find yourself engaged in fisticuffs before the night is over. As contentious recipes go, chili may have the most variables that can start an argument.
“Chili must have meat.”
“Chili has no meat, that’s chili con carne you luddite!”
“Chili has beans.”
“Wrong, only hippies put beans in chili. Go cut your hair!”
“Chili is the perfect spaghetti topper.”
“… Don’t trust a city that once elected Jerry Springer as mayor.”
Instead of taking a hard line stance on chili, I prefer to take my cues from our revolutionary brothers and sisters from the Indian subcontinent (in your face Queen of England). Curry, that quintessential Indian dish, is very similar to chili. You have the primary food, meat or vegetables, then a liquid base, be it tomato or yogurt. Finally you throw in a heap of different herbs and spices. This mixture of spices (what the British came to call curry powder) varies widely region to region and even family to family. Customization of the curry to your own tastes is encouraged which results in significantly less drunken brawls.
With that in mind, I have developed my own unique recipe over the years. Orthodox chili enthusiasts beware, this recipe might make you angry.
1 lb. ground beef
16 oz. can of black beans
16 oz. can of red beans
16 oz. can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
6 oz. can tomato paste
6 roma tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1 anaheim pepper
2 jalapeno peppers
4 oz. can of diced green chiles
3 yukon gold potatoes, diced
½ of a yellow onion, diced
3-4 baby portabella mushrooms, diced
3.8 oz. can of sliced black olives
3 gloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. cumin, ground
1 tsp. oregano, ground
1 tsp. paprika, ground
1 tsp. thyme, ground
1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
- In a medium skillet drop two tablespoons olive or canola oil and set on medium high.
- Mix the spices in with the minced garlic to create a paste.
- Cook the spice paste in the oil until the popping and crackling slow down, about 3-4 minutes.
(This is called “blooming” the spices, or “tempering” in India. Most herbs and spices get their flavor from aromatic hydrocarbons which are fat soluble. This process essentially increases the amount of flavor that is extracted.)
- Place the ground beef in the skillet and cook until browned.
- Take out your slow cooker and set to high temperature. Add the ground beef to the slow cooker.
- Add the beans, water and all.
- Dice the peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, onion, olives and baby portabella. Chop the cilantro. Place all of this into the slow cooker.
- Once it is warm, it is ready to eat.
- The potatoes, mushrooms, and olives can be considered optional. I think they add nicely to the complexity of the flavor and texture, but some people have issues with them.
- This makes a fairly thick chili. You can add water or subtract to suit your preference
- This is intentionally fairly low on the “spicy” scale. If you want “Defcon 5 – Thermonuclear chili” you’ll have to upgrade the peppers to spicier varieties and/or add chili powder.
- This chili stands alone quite well, but there are lots of ways to garnish chili. A little cheddar cheese on top and served with “scoop”-style corn chips is my favorite. Some add a dollop of sour cream to the top. Some serve with bread or crackers.