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21st February
written by Steph

Chili con Carne

Chili con Carne

At the end of my last recipe post, I tantalizingly teased you with the promise of a chili recipe.  This is that recipe.  So far on this site I have focused for the most part on meals that you can fling together in a jiffy during the week.  After all, isn’t that how most of us are cooking most of the time?  However, one of my secret weapons for quick meals is perhaps the counter-intuitively named slow cooker.  I love this thing because it allows to me toss a bunch of things in a pot, forget about them, and then come back to a meal that is cooked and full of flavor.  It’s kind of like magic, or at the very least, having a little house elf to help you out in the kitchen.  I trot my slow cooker out about once a week, and its now my go-to appliance for making chili.  The thing about chili, in the end, is that the longer it cooks, the more complex and richer the flavors get, and that’s what makes a good chili.  Sure, you can get away with just simmering it on the stove for an hour or two, but how does that beat low & slow cooking for 8 hours?  Look at the numbers! OK, so the recipe I’m posting today was made with the aid of my slow cooker.  BUT I know that not all of you have one, so I will also tell you what to do if you’re going to go the traditional “pot on stove” method.  The slow cooker method is ostensibly easier since you just put everything together, making it a one step dish in the morning, but it’s not as though the other way is hard either.  Seriously though, look into getting a slow cooker, ok?  They aren’t just for making your grandmother’s casseroles or something bland and gluey, and I promise that they won’t burn your house down if you leave them unattended. Credit where credit is due, my chili recipe is inspired by Elise’s chili con carne recipe, though I must admit that I’ve never made it the way she does as my chili always has ground beef in it, and shockingly, never any bacon. Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder (I would say this is optional, though I think it does make the flavor more complex… pick some up the next time you’re shopping, but don’t feel that you can’t make the dish without it)
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp ground coriander seeds
  • dash of cayenne pepper OR crushed red pepper flakes (you can adjust this amount based on how much heat you like.  Us, we’re wusses when it comes to spicy food.)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 white onion, chopped into course segments (don’t finely dice!)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced (again, I put in about 3 heaping tbsp of the jarred stuff, because I normally do not have the time to deal with fresh garlic, even though I acknowledge that it smells and tastes better)
  • 1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes (if you can get the fire roasted kind, do so, but don’t sweat it… any kind will do)
  • 1 14-oz can of kidney beans
  • 2 cups of water (maybe a bit more if you’re not using a slow cooker… in which case you’re probably not leaving the house, so you can always add more as you see fit)
  • 1/8 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (or alternatively, 2 squares of baking chocolate (having some sweetness is good, because it counterbalances the acidity of the tomatoes)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
For garnish: sour cream, grated cheese, minced red onion Method Option 1:  If using a slow cooker, put in your thawed ground beef, the onions, garlic, and sprinkle with the spices(chili powder through cayenne pepper).  Dump in your tomatoes, kidney beans, and sprinkle with your cornstarch.  Sprinkle chocolate chips on top, and add water.  Cover and set crockpot to low if cooking for 8 hours, and high if want about a 4 – 6 hour cooking time.  Give the contents of the pot a good stir before serving. Option 2:  Mix the spices (chili powder through cayenne pepper) with 3 tbsp of water to form a thick paste.  Set aside.  Brown your ground beef, and add in the spice paste near the end of cooking and fry mixture for an additional 2 minutes or so.  Dump contents of pan into crock pot and proceed as above after adding in the onions and garlic. Option 3:  Follow directions for Option 2, but instead of putting things into a crock pot, move your meat over to a large pot, and add onions & garlic to the pan and cook until soft.  To your large pot, add the onions, then the tomatoes, the kidney beans, the water, the chocolate chips, and the cornstarch (dissolved in a few tbsp of water).  Bring chili to simmer over medium-high heat, and then lower heat (probably setting 2 – 3 on your stove) and cook covered for about 1.5 hours.  Uncover and cook for an additional half hour, to let some of the liquid evaporate.  Serve.
mmm... sour cream

mmm... sour cream

I’ve made this chili using all three methods.  I prefer the first one because it’s so simple and only sullies up one dish.  But it’s not as though option 3 is a huge hardship either.  One thing I like to do when using the crockpot is to throw a can of corn into the mix about half an hour before I intend to serve the chili.  If making it on the stove, I’d just add the corn when adding everything else to the pot.  We’re big corn lovers in this apartment, but maybe corn in chili isn’t your thing. The chocolate was a new addition this time round (normally I’d just add a few tsp of sugar), but I really think it added to the flavor.  You couldn’t tell there was chocolate in the chili per se, but the gravy was a little bit richer.  One other thing I did was toss in some left over onions & peppers from the previous night’s balsamic chicken dish, and I think that also added a new depth of flavor to the chili as well.  Maybe in the future I’ll have to experiment with adding a tbsp or 2 of balsamic vinegar to my chili… 😉 This isn’t exactly a quick weeknight meal unless you go the slowcooker option (as then the prep time is all of 10 minutes and the food is ready when you get home), but it is really good and hearty and should provide you with leftovers (feel free to double the amounts if you have a really big pot… you could even freeze unused portions).


  1. 02/21/2009

    Steph!! Heavenly!! I looove chili con carne.. but I always use the prepackaged mixes (lol, I know). I’m definitely doing this soon.. thanks! By the way, how stupid am I.. I only now remembered that my husband and I started a blog a couple of months ago to post homemade recipes. I completely forgot about it! It’s under his profile but I’ll be putting it under mine as well after this so I don’t forget again. We only have one post on it. Lol. He has another (intended) project.. a separate blog for more culinary concoctions, but he hasn’t posted anything on it. 😀

  2. 02/21/2009

    P.S. Love your photos.. mouthwatering!!

  3. 02/21/2009

    I have to give Tony credit for the photos as he’s the one who takes them (he even takes out his fancy schmancy professional camera to take them, which I think helps with the mouthwatering factor! 😉 ).
    No need to use prepackaged mixes any longer! The spices I call for in this recipe are ones that are pretty much staples for any kitchen (except maybe the chipotle chili powder, although I’m sure I’ll come up with other ways to use that!), so if you have those on hand, you’ll be able to use them in many other dishes as well.
    I’ll definitely check out your food blog; I’m always looking for new recipes. Apart from surfing book blogs, looking at food sites is the other way I fritter away my time! 😀

  4. 02/21/2009

    You know, if I had ground beef on hand right now, I’d make this tonight. As such, I’ll have to wait till next week.. Need to get fire roasted tomatoes, sour cream, kidney beans, and chipotle chili powder as well. We love chipotle! I’m sure we’ll find plenty of use for it. (Forgot to mention I didn’t use fire roasted with the braised chicken, as not available in the cupboard.) Okay.. jotting down shopping list..

    Are cumin seeds okay instead of ground cumin?

  5. 02/21/2009

    I think cumin seeds would probably be ok, though I’m not sure how well they would incorporate into the rest of the gravy… I think it would be fine, having not used it my own. You might want to try putting them in a plastic baggie and just bashing them up a little, but I wouldn’t sweat it.
    Also, the fire-roasted tomatoes (I think the brand we get is Hunts) is really just one of my latest obsessions. They are by no means vital to any of the recipes I’ve posted (as you saw with the braised chicken!).

  6. 02/25/2009

    Ooh! This looks so good. I have to admit, I make my chili in the slow cooker too, but I always use the little packet of seasoning and the canned ingredients. I think I will have to try this recipe instead. The big strips of onion and corn are very enticing, and the picture with the sour cream and cheese makes me wish I had some here right now!

  7. 02/25/2009

    Chili is so easy! No need to use the packet stuff. And what’s the point of chili if you’re not gonna put sour cream and cheese on it? 😉

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