It’s back to below freezing temperatures here in Chicago (well, except for today). Not the level of cold we went through in early January where we were lucky if the “feels like” temperature rose above zero, but cold nonetheless. This is the cold I prefer. The kind that gets your nose and cheeks all rosy and gives you goosebumps. If you’re outside in it too long it might even chill you to the bone. But once you’re inside, you get to warm up and get all toasty in your favorite blanket. Maybe treat yourself to a fire in the fireplace while listening to the wind blow outside. It’s the kind of cold you see on Christmas cards. The kind of cold that makes you nostalgic and crave comfort food favorites. The kind of cold that deserves this hearty, satisfying, warm you to the bone chili recipe. It seems appropriate for our final comfort food recipe this month. Don’t you think?
Chili has gained a reputation for being game day food. It’s a fall dish that people make in large batches for tailgating. I think it’s so much more though. Chili is one of those dishes that can either be made in a pinch or whipped up to simmer all day long. It can be made on the stove, in the slow cooker, or even in a Dutch Oven in the oven. It can be made vegetarian or meat-heavy. It can have beans or it can be bean-free. It can have lots of veggies, a few veggies or no veggies at all. The definition of chili is a spicy stew so as far as ingredients are concerned, it’s all up to interpretation!
I’ve made a variety of three bean chilis but I wanted to mix things up for this particular recipe. Make it a little more rich and hearty. So instead of three-bean chili, I came up with this three “B” chili: beef, bacon and bean chili. It’s a rather basic chili recipe using typical ingredients. I didn’t want this to be too calorie and fat heavy so six slices of bacon will do the trick. The bacon’s main role is to add another texture and give it a deeper flavor. When browning the ground beef, you can either crumble it fine for a smoother consistency or you can leave it in larger chunks for a chunkier chili. I do a combination of both to play on the textures. Finally, I love kidney beans. I just love their flavor and color but black beans or any darker bean would work well with this as well.
This particular recipe doesn’t use a ton of vegetables but it is tomato-heavy. Three cans of different types of tomato make a nice thick base for the recipe. Flavor support comes in the form of chili powder, paprika and cayenne pepper. This recipe is not spicy by my own personal standards but if you’d like to tone it down, cut the cayenne pepper out completely and start with half the amount of chili powder. You can always add more spices in but once they’re there, you can’t take them out. Happy eating and stay warm!
3 “B” Chili: Beef, Bacon & Bean Chili
6 slices of thick-cut Bacon, diced
1 lb. lean Ground Beef
1 Onion, diced
15 oz. Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
15 oz. Diced Tomatoes
15 oz. Crushed Tomatoes
1 tbsp. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Paprika
½ tsp. Cayenne Pepper
15 oz. Kidney Beans, rinsed and drained
Salt & Pepper
Cheddar Cheese, for topping
1 - Heat a large pot or Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon. Cook until crisp, not burnt. Move to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Pour out any excess oil remaining in the pot.
2 - Add the ground beef and onion to the pot over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper and cook until beef is browned. Pour out any excess grease but a little is ok. Re-add the bacon.
3 - Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomatoes with chiles, crushed tomatoes and spices. Bring to a boil and let simmer 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste. Add the beans and cook 15 minutes longer. Serve with cheese on top.