Friday, January 10, 2014

Apéritif Friday - Award Winning Chili, Whole30 Style

Welcome to the New Year, I keep repeating to myself. Like so many others, I gave up resolution planning at the age of 25 when I realized I'd never keep them. That doesn't mean that I don't face the turn of every new year without some optimism; quite the contrary. I just don't set myself up to fail with a list of to-dos that I should already be focused upon anyway.

Like going to the gym more often. Check.
Like eating healthier. Check.
Like spending more time with my family. Check, and thank goodness school started back up Wednesday after an extra loooooong winter break.
Like writing more. I'm working on that one. So hopefully a big fat RED check coming soon. Well, a check in the black would actually be better.

This week I'm finally posting something that under normal circumstances would have been up the first week of November. We were eyeball deep in our first Whole30 - yes, I said first, as we just started another one since we are masochists were unable to really finish the first one to our satisfaction - and we participated in a blind Chili cook-off. We all agreed to taste the chili entries, but refrain from adding carbs, dairy and/or processed sides to the chili (cheese, sour cream, crackers, etc.). And of course, I entered a Whole30 version, which I must humbly admit, was killer.

Up for grabs? The coveted spoon, previously held by our good friend Mr. Boy Scout.
People.   I WON THE SPOON!

Yes - the below recipe won the Chili Cook-Off this year, and I am the proud owner of one very infamous traveling spoon, not to mention the happy host for the next Cook-Off in November with several of our college friends. Which will be a breeze after hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve this year.

At the risk of giving all my secrets away and relinquishing the spoon to some undeserved copycat later this year, here's what you need:
1 pound of ground bison
1 pound of grass fed beef
3 precooked andouille sausages, nitrate and nitrite free if possible, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped, not pictured because I found them in my fridge later and threw them in as an afterthought
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, microplaned or minced
14 oz can organic fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 large jar marinara sauce (check ingredients to ensure no sugar or funky processed malarky)
1 cup salsa (again, check label for pure ingredients only)
NOT PICTURED - Chicken or Beef Stock, Optional
3-4 sport peppers, chopped*
3-4T chili powder, not pictured, because I'm a total airhead. It's kinda a key ingredient for CHILI, duh! ***
1 tsp cayenne pepper ***
2T ground cumin ***
1T oregano ***
1T basil ***
1tsp ancho chili pepper ***
2T instant coffee (weird, I know) ***
salt and pepper, or Montreal Steak Seasoning ***

*Any combo of ground meat will do. Be aware though that if the meat you use is extra lean, you may need to add some fat to the pan when it browns. Bacon grease, ghee, palm oil or coconut oil all work.
** Sport peppers can easily be replaced with jarred or fresh jalapeños, a couple of teaspoons of hot sauce, or omitted completely if you don't like things spicy.
*** All spices and herb measurements are approximate. Add to your liking and taste.

Brown the ground beef and bison over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan until completely cooked. Add the andouille sausage and mushrooms and season the meat with salt and pepper or Montreal Steak Seasoning, cook for a few minutes more, then pour it into a crock pot set on high for four hours. Toss the onion, green pepper, carrots, celery and garlic to the sauté pan, adding ghee or animal fat into the pan if necessary to prevent the vegetables from sticking. Wilt them, cooking for about 10 minutes on medium to medium-low heat, then pour them into the crock pot with the meat. Pour in the tomatoes, marinara sauce, salsa, and chicken or beef stock if necessary (that is, if you think the chili needs to be "soupier"). Add the remaining ingredients to taste. TO TASTE! Chili is definitely a unique creature. It's universal in that most everyone knows what "chili" is, but good chili means something unique to every individual. Some like it loaded with vegetables and tons of stringy tomatoes, some prefer just meat and spicy sauce. Some love beans and unique meats included (I've made it with leftover lamb shank before!) and some prefer traditional ingredients only - whatever those are these days. My daughter can't tolerate spicy foods, so I oftentimes dish her out a serving before amping up the spices to the liking of the rest of the family. Do what you like with the spice, and make it your own.

This chili was hands down one of my favorites. Because of one simple ingredient, not yet mentioned.
Miller just jumped up from his nap. He does that anytime the word BACON is proclaimed.

I fried up a pound of bacon until crispy, chopped it rather finely, then dumped it in the pot just before the competition was underway. A single ingredient that put my effort over the top into championship category, in my opinion. And in lieu of a dollop of sour cream, I love me some sliced avocado as a garnish. It cuts the heat a bit, and gives the same creamy richness as sour cream. Yum.

Tasting the other entries was rather interesting for us, given that we hadn't eaten a single processed or sugary food item in the prior nineteen days. One included brown sugar, and our tastebuds picked it up immediately. Another was very close to ours; in fact, it was the other entry that made it to the finals. But when I heard our number called and found out we'd won,
I have to admit. I was a proud chili cooker.

Next time, I hope some of our friends bring some babies for me to love on, because as we all know, there are no babies in my life, and I'm ready to be an Auntie again. So instead I will spoil friends' children in the meantime. I also hope that a certain banjo playing friend enters when we host, and brings said stringed instrument along for some entertainment. Because anymore, football only does it for me for about five seconds.

I have to shout out to my friend's quirky kid, Miss Megan the sumo wrestler.
Er, I mean, gymnast, who is on a paleo kick of her own.
I'm sorry it took me so long, my dear. But now you have not only your favorite chili recipe to request from your father, the family cook, but it's Award Winning Chili. So yay.


P.S. - no Apéritif  with this one since we were abstaining, and besides, I whipped this up at 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday. Not that the early hours have stopped me in the past, but this time it was a rockin' Pelligrino with a dash of Lemon and Lime. Living on the edge during the Whole30, man.

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