Every year, when the sunny, crisp, GLORIOUSNESS of fall starts to give way to the gross coldness of winter… all I want is SOUP. Nothing sounds better to me on a rainy, dreary Saturday than making up a big batch of soup, and then devouring it one bowl at a time all week. Sweatpants and fuzzy slippers are optional, but recommended.
Honestly, during Michigan’s cold season (so, you know, October through April), I will burn through chicken stock at a rate that is almost embarrassing. Thank goodness Costco sells it by the case, or I’d be bankrupting myself one quart of chicken stock at a time. It’s just SO EASY to make a huge pot of soup that will serve my husband and I for 4 or 5 meals – not to mention, soup is just so versatile! It’s so easy to substitute what I have on hand when I’m missing an ingredient… or to totally make something up, when I don’t feel like following a recipe.
The first soup(-type meal) that I crave at this time every year is CHILI. I know that everyone has their own way of making chili – some people love a chili full of beans, some find beans in their chili to be offensive. Some want a really thick, meaty, chili, and some want theirs a little more soup-like. Some prefer a white chicken chili, and some say it ain’t chili if it ain’t red. In general, I am a pretty equal opportunity chili consumer – but when I make my own, I like to make sure it’s meaty AND full of beans, heavy on the tomatoes, nice and spicy, and extra thick. Given all those requirements, I went ahead and made up my own recipe.
Tina’s Oktoberfest Chili
1 T olive oil
1 large, sweet onion, diced
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1.25 pounds ground sirloin
2-3 T chili powder
1-2 T smoked paprika
1.5 T chipotle chili powder
2 cans of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 cans of diced tomatoes, with liquid
12 oz beer (I used a Bell’s Oktoberfest, and thought added a great flavor to the chili), or about 2 c chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
Whatever toppings you like – sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, diced jalapenos, chopped raw onion, etc
Now, I will give you my standard disclaimer: If you only have 3 cans of diced tomatoes, just use 3. If you hate kidney beans, but love black beans, use black beans. If you really love sweet paprika, but hate smoked paprika? Use sweet. Etc, etc, so on and so forth.
1.) Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat (I used a 5-qt dutch oven when I made this – it was thiiiiiiis close to being too small, before I simmered everything down. I would use a larger pot next time!). Add the onion, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and saute just until fragrant, about one minute.
2.) Push your onion and garlic to the edges of your pot, and add the ground sirloin. Cook, breaking the sirloin up with a wooden spoon, until the beef is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp of each). Drain off any excess fat.
3.) Add spices to the meat mixture, and stir well until everything is coated. Let this mixture cook for a few minutes. (This chili is not super spicy, but if you are squeamish about the heat, start with 1-2 tsp of the chipotle chili powder – taste as you go, and add more as you wish)
4.) Add tomatoes, beans, and beer, and a bit more salt and pepper (another 1/2 tsp of each). Stir so that everything is well combined. Bring the mixture up to a quick simmer, then reduce to a low simmer. Allow to simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, then cover the pot partially (I usually just set my lid slightly askew, so there’s about a 1-inch gap on one side of the pot), and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. (Say simmer as many times as possible in the span of 4 sentences).
This recipe will make 6-8 pretty hearty servings, and the flavors only get better as times goes on. Tweak the recipe as much as you like, and make it into YOUR favorite chili!