Between this cold(er) weather we've been having and this post by Kristi Willis of Austin Farm to Table, I found myself with a bit of a hankering for chili. The last Sunday of vacation seemed like the perfect time to put a pot on to simmer, so I gathered some ingredients and away I went. Kristi's chili is advertised to "melt your mouth" (not IN your mouth, but to actually melt your mouth because it's so hot) - and although I like hot foods, I didn't really want to melt my mouth (or my gastrointestinal tract). So I dialed back the spice substantially, 86'd the bell pepper (I don't really like cooked bell pepper), swapped some lean ground beef for the bison, threw in some mushrooms I had kicking around, and before I knew it, it was kind of a different recipe.
I'm reproducing it here just for my records more than anything, but the beauty of a dish like chili is that there is a LOT of leeway to add ingredients you like, remove ones you don't, fiddle with quantities depending on your tastes and what you have on hand, and end up with something perfectly delicious.
These leftover crimini mushrooms made a nice addition.
Beautifully Beefy Beanless Chili
• 2 lbs lean ground beef
• 1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced (I used crimini mushrooms because that's what I happened to have lying around, but I think regular old white mushrooms would be fine, too)
• 2 - 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
• 1 T olive oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 5 cloves garlic, minced
• leaves from a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
• 2 T chili powder – I used Central Market's house blend, but any variety will be fine so long as it's fresh (best reason to buy spices in bulk rather than in those huge jars that hang around forever and lose their freshness)
• thickener (cornstarch, flour, corn masa)
• Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Over medium heat, heat the olive oil in a large pot and sauté the onion and garlic until the onions are tender. Add the ground beef and brown the meat. Add the tomatoes and spices, stirring well.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the chili and allow it to simmer for 1 hour. Taste the chili, adjust the seasoning as necessary, and cook for another 30 minutes. If the chili is too thick, add a little more water. If it's too thin, you can add any number of thickeners - I ended up using about 1-3/4 tablespoons of flour, because that's what I had handy; Kristi recommends mixing 1 tablespoon of corn starch with a little water, then adding it to the mixture. I also let mine simmer uncovered for the last 30 minutes so a little of the water would evaporate.
Serve either over rice or alone with crackers - I'm partial to stoneground wheat crackers (like Red Oval Farms' Stoned Wheat Thins, only I usually buy the Central Market Organics version).
It'll take the chill out of those bones, guaranteed.