I love the first real rainstorm of the fall, and yesterday was a good one. What better thing to make than chili, I thought to myself. I make chili several times per year, but often I cut corners and cook it in the wok for just a few minutes. It doesn't really have time to meld like I want.
But every once in a while I go all-in and cook it all day in the slow-cooker. Yesterday was one of those days.
Years ago I used to buy this Brown Bag Chili Mix at the local butcher, but then it disappeared. There isn't a whole lot of information about it on the internet, so I figured maybe they went out of business or stopped distributing in this area. I moved on to another brand.
Then two days ago I discovered it at Whole Foods. I quickly grabbed it off the shelf.
There are instructions on the package, but like the best recipes, I view them more as suggestions. For instance, it says to add 8 ounces of tomato sauce; I add about 6 ounces of tomato paste, 16 ounces of water, and then a couple of tablespoons of mustard. (I usually use yellow mustard but did not have any yesterday so I went with Dijon.) And then I squirt in two packets of Taco Lita hot sauce.
Next I browned some ground beef. After I wrote about my burger on Monday and how disappointed I was in the quality of the beef at Bristol Farms, my dad sent me an email detailing why Bristol's quality has declined over the years. So I won't be getting it ever again. I went to Taylor's and bought some of their ground beef, with which I have never once had a problem.
I added the chili mix and poured it all on top of an onion that I had chopped and thrown in the slow-cooker.
Tracie mentioned that she had a poblano pepper that she wasn't going to use. I said I would definitely take it. I diced the pepper and added that as well.
This is what the chili looked like after seven hours. You could smell it from down the street.
I wanted a really good cheddar to top the chili, and they don't come much better than Grafton's 2-year aged cheddar, a flavorful cheese that goes beautifully with full flavors and big wines.
Although the only wine I was drinking this evening was Cheerwine, a cherry-flavored soda from North Carolina that has been made the same way since 1917. (If you like Cherry Coke and have never tried Cheerwine, I encourage you to try it just once.) I developed a strong craving for a bottle yesterday, so I bought two. (When I announced to Elizabeth that I had bought one for her, too, she was quite happy.) I figured, correctly, that the cherry flavor would go well with the chili.
I topped my bowl with the cheddar and diced red onion.
Like I wrote earlier, most of the time when I make chili I cut corners. But there really is no substitute for this slow-cooked version. The best part is that there is still lots of it left and it's not raining today. As I type these words at 7:57 AM, it is a cool, sunny morning. I'm thinking I might get some hot dogs dogs later, throw 'em on the grill, and top them with the leftovers....