I was going to tell you about a homemade salad dressing. But then today is all cold and blustery (we had our first snowfall of uh…autumn…just last week), so you’re probably in the mood to crank up the stove and warm up your home. By popular demand, I’m giving you a warm and hearty dish!
Long before I was able to appreciate the fabulousness of making chili from scratch, I was a huge fan of chili seasoning mix. For the sake of convenience, I would even use it to make taco or burrito filling by adding the mix to browned ground beef or turkey. A problem I had with the storebought mix though was that something could be improved upon. Maybe one more tablespoon of chili powder? An extra pinch of cayenne pepper? Not too much salt, perhaps? One of the many benefits of mixing your own spice blend is that you can control what goes in. Granted, you do need to have a few spices on hand, but those are great to keep anyway. Few years ago while shopping for new kitchen supplies, I spotted a set of twelve glass spice jars and wanted them so badly. At the time, I was still new to cooking and had probably less than five things to fill those jars with, but I thought, hey I’m an adult and I really should have a proper spice drawer! So I started with the essentials and eventually built a collection of dried herbs and spices that I now use all the time. There are some spices I still don’t have because they are for very limited purposes and I don’t know what to do with them (like star anise and clove). But not so with these spices! Cumin and chili powder are great in other Mexican-inspired dishes, and oregano and bay leaves are ever-versatile, especially in slow-cooked dishes like stews and tomato sauces.
The key ingredient here is the cocoa powder. The cocoa compliments the chili very nicely, and it actually isn’t so obvious that you’re able to spot it. Is your mouth watering yet? Well, good news because this is incredibly easy to make. And you only need to use one pot from start to finish, meaning less dishes to wash and more chili eating for you. Which is just another reason why this is my favorite dish to cook up.
A quick reminder: the flavor of the chili tastes even better the second day, and the next, and the day after next if it manages to last that long…
Beef Chili with Cocoa
1 tbsp canola or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb lean ground beef
3 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp ground chili powder
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 24-oz canned whole tomatoes, crushed
2 cups beef stock or water
1 15-oz canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
Salt, to taste
Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat, then add the canola oil. When the oil is sizzling hot, add onions, stir with a wooden spoon and cook until they’re translucent, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, cook for about 30 seconds, then add the ground beef into the pot. Continue to cook the meat, stirring often and breaking up into pieces, until it’s no longer pink.
Add tomato paste and spices, and stir until combined, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes (pulp and juice), beef stock, beans, and corn to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and let the chili simmer covered for at least 30 minutes. Serve with your favorite condiments.
*Sometimes I like to add a can of Cuban-style black beans in addition to the canned black beans for more flavors. You can also use kidney or pinto beans if you don’t like black beans.
*Use more and less beef stock if necessary to achieve desired consistency.
*I like to use canned whole tomatoes (crushed with your hands or roughly chopped) because of the texture and the pulp to juice ratio. Diced tomatoes also work if you don’t have whole tomatoes. Crushed or pureed tomatoes are too watery, so you might want to cut back on the beef stock or water to get a thicker consistency.
*How about a generous sprinkle of cheddar cheese, a few sprigs of cilantro, a dollop of sour cream, or some crushed tortilla chips? Or all of the above if you’re greedy like me :-)