With fall turning into winter and white stuff falling from the sky, it's officially cold. This is the time of the year when my salad spinner works its way to the back of the cupboard and my dutch oven comes to the front. While cool weather and hearty fare go hand-in-hand, the unfortunate reality of living in an industrialized society is that shorter winter days does not mean there's less work to be done.
This fundamental imbalance leads to an inevitable conundrum during the frigid months of the year: skip work in favor of preparing the slow cooked meals my soul craves, or forsake the yearnings of my stomach in order to pay the bills.
That's why I've developed a few techniques to significantly reduce the time it takes to make some of my favorite comfort foods, without compromising on taste. Take this Quick Chili for example. It's thick, beefy and spicy with a depth of umami that can normally only be achieved through hours of slow cooking.
My trick? Cut everything smaller. It may sound super obvious, but it's not just about making the ingredients cook faster. Cutting the ingredients smaller increases the surface area of each one, allowing you to caramelize them more thoroughly. This is how I'm able to pack so much flavor into a chili that takes just over an hour to make. Sure, it's never going to compete with canned chili on speed, but it's a heck of a lot faster than braising a hunk of chuck for half a day, and and it's just as flavorful.
My second trick is to add some stout and coco powder to the chili. Dark beers like stout are loaded with umami producing amino acids, and together with a little coco powder it adds a smoky caramel flavor that makes the chili taste like it's been simmering for hours, not minutes.
Lastly, I know this will come up, so regarding beans vs. no-beans, I'm not from Texas, so I grew up with beans in my chili. If this offends you, feel free leave the beans out.
Serve this with my Triple Corn Skillet Cornbread
- Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat until hot. Add the oil and then the ground beef. Press the ground beef out so it forms a giant flat patty and let this cook until it forms a brown crust on one side.
- Flip the patty over in sections using a spatula and let it brown on the other side. When the meat is cooked through and thoroughly browned, transfer it to a bowl and use the spatula to roughly break up the meat into bite-size chunks.
- Remove all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the pot.
- Add the onions, poblano chili, and garlic to the pot. Stir, to coat with oil and then turn down the heat to medium low. Cover and let the onions steam until translucent (about 10 minutes).
- Uncover and saute until the onions until they have reduced to about 1/3 their original volume and are well caramelized (about 20 minutes)
- Add the chili powder, cumin and coriander seed and continue frying the onions until the spices are very fragrant.
- Add the stout and scrape up the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Boil the mixture until it no longer smells like alcohol.
- Add the stewed tomatoes, breaking them up as you add them. Then return the meat to the pot along with the beans, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt, cocoa powder, oregano and black pepper.
- Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the meat is very tender.
- Serve with shredded cheddar, sour cream, cilantro and minced red onions.