|Could be vegan chili on the left, chili for carnivores on the right.|
You see, it all started when I had a bite of my spouse's chili at Tom+Chee in Newport, KY. It was smooth, meaty, and topped with a bit of blue cheese. Yum! I love that restaurant.
I like my Green Tomato Garlic Chili, and I like all the chunky and bean-y chili I have had. In fact, I don't think I've met a chili I didn't like. But I wanted to try my hand at making a smooth, meaty chili.
No chunks (the kids tolerate smooth better than chunky anyway) and no beans (thanks to New Year's day and a vat of Ham and Bean soup I'd had beans 8 out of 9 days of 2013 and frankly I needed a break). What does that leave? The Strategic Winter Squash Reserve, of course.
I started by roasting a small 1 pound acorn squash and a small sweet potato. I was making a small batch, because after the giant vat of soup I really didn't want gallons of chili leftovers. Then I set those aside and browned a pound of ground beef in my 3 quart saucepan. I knew I wanted a smooth chili, but I didn't want to attack my beef with the immersion blender, so at this point I drained and set the beef aside.
If I were cooking for vegans as well as carnivores, I would wash the saucepan at this point.
I was just cooking for the family, so I added onions and some of my freezer stash carrots/celery/parsley to the pan (using the remnants of grease instead of oil) and sautéed. I was thinking about how, when making Indian food, you sauté the spices until they are fragrant before adding the simmering liquids, so I decided to add the spices next. Annemarie of RealFoodRealDeals made a squash chili and her recipe appeared in my inbox just as I was debating for which spices to use, so I went with her spicing suggestions. I remembered my cousin Cindy (the cousin Cindy I've friended on FB but never met) telling me she adds beets to her tomato sauce so when I was grabbing a pack of slow-roasted tomatoes from the freezer I picked up a bag of shredded beets, too. I tossed those in to simmer with the veggies, then I added some stock. If I were cooking for vegans, I'd use vegetable stock or Penzey's vegetable soup base. I used chicken stock instead, added a bay leaf, and it simmered away happily for an hour. Since (did I mention) I wanted a smooth chili, I removed the bay leaf, grabbed my immersion blender and smoothed it all up.
Then I tasted the chili. Dang, it's pretty good right now!
If you are serving vegans, move some of the chili to a slow cooker or saucepan over low heat to simmer quietly until serving time. Because it was just us, I added back in most of the beef and simmered the whole lot on low another hour. Then another hour because my spouse worked late.
The result was a smooth, thick, tomato-ey meaty chili.
Acorn Squash, Beet, and Sweet Potato Chili (with optional Beef for Carnivores)
3/4 pound ground beef (optional--browned and drained)
1 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrot/celery/parsley, finely chopped
1 large clove roasted garlic, smushed (here's how I put up my garlic harvest)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup shredded beets
1 cup roasted acorn squash
1/2 cup roasted sweet potato
1 bay leaf
3 cups (24 oz, 720 ml) slow-roasted tomatoes (or crushed canned tomatoes if you don't have any)
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
Preheat a large saucepan over medium heat (add oil if you have not browned meat in the pan first). Sauté the onion, carrot, celery and parsley until softened--about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and spices, stir to combine, and sauté until the spices become fragrant (another 3 minutes). Add in the rest of the vegetables, bay leaf, tomatoes and stock. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for one hour. At this point, if you want a smooth chili, carefully blend with an immersion blender. The vegan chili is done, though you can simmer longer on low, or transfer to a slow cooker on low, until you're ready to serve. If you're also serving carnivores, add in the cooked ground beef and simmer until heated through.
Serve alongside some cornbread with whatever garnishes float your boat--cilantro, cheddar cheese, sour cream are our favorites.
This post is linked up with the Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up at Gastronomical Sovereignty and What's Cookin' Wednesday at Buns In My Oven as well as What's In The Box at In Her Chucks, Taste and Tell Thursdays, and the FarmGirl Friday Blog Fest at Let This Mind Be In You.
|Simon would like to be included in the photo. Or the meal. Not sure which.|