Powered by Natural Gas: Chunk Beef Chili

I know “Chunk Beef” isn’t perfectly grammatical but I like the way it sounds! You know, as opposed to “ground beef”, “chunk beef”! I’d love for people to walk into a butcher and ask for “chunk beef”…

What I love about chili is that it’s freeform, freestyle and improvisational. There are no set rules and no strict set of ingredients. Chili is like alchemy, and has a history of secret ingredients….muaaaahahahha!!!  ←~(o`▽´ )oΨ

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What I felt like buying that day: jalapenos, garlic, mushrooms, onion, orange and yellow bell peppers, mixed beans, black beans, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, fresh hot house tomatoes, ground beef, chuck steak and double-smoked bacon.

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A little extra fat and smokiness sounds good.

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Discount meat! Perfect for hiding in a chili 😉 Don’t worry, the sell-by date was still a couple days away. This was chuck steak, which is a good cut for chilies and stews.

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More discount meat. Ground beef, so I have TWO kinds of meaty textures going on.

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These companies do everything they can do promote the local angle but notice how they don’t say “vine ripened”, only “on the vine”. I’m 99% sure they pick these green and rock-hard.

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I like chunks of fresh tomato in my chili but the base is usually canned tomato. You need it to form the backbone of a chili.

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Mixed beans that include red kidney, white kidney, chickpeas, black eyed peas and romano beans. The black beans were already in my cupboard, which inspired me to make chili in the first place.

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I don’t really like the taste of green bell peppers so I used jalapenos instead. I took out the seeds and trimmed the white ribs to tone down the spiciness. I wanted spiciness to come from a few different sources, jalapenos, black pepper and a few different kinds of chili powder.

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Really old brown sugar. Dried out but probably still good…right?

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My seasonings: ancho and pasilla ground chilies (reaaaaaally old…like maybe a decade old…time to use it up :P), paprika, cumin, Jamaican curry powder, Vietnamese bun bo hue (spicy pig’s foot soup) spice mix, some smokey dried chili flakes left over from Amay’s House takeout and some super-old bottom-tier saffron that was an Audiology conference giveaway.

I think cumin is THE defining spice that makes chili. It’s a bit of a juggling act to get the cumin to stand out but not overwhelm. Aside from cumin, the rest of the seasonings are up to you.

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How much saffron is too much saffron?

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Secret ingredient: Ovaltine. I didn’t have any chocolate that I felt like throwing to the chili gods, so I went with Ovaltine. The ingredients have a lot in common with beer and chocolate, so I think it’ll work fine with the chili 😀

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Ugh, don’t like the look of that hard white core on the tomatoes. But actually they did the job fine once they were cooked down in the chili. Making a whole batch of chili using all vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes would taste heavenly and be totally awesome, but definitely expensive and overkill…like the chili equivalent of that $175 burger gilded with gold flakes.

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Keeping it chunky and rustic. I even included the tomato stem cuz if you’ve ever smelled a tomato stem before, it’s so intensely aromatic that it just screams out, “THIS IS THE ESSENCE OF TOMATO”. I want to infuse as much flavour and aroma into this chili as I can.

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Onions with garlic hidden underneath.

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Chunk beef! Cubed chuck and diced double-smoked bacon.

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First steps in a nutshell: I browned the meat, removed it from the pot, softened the onions and garlic in the remaining fat and a little extra oil, added the meat back in along with all my spices, except for the saffron.

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Ovaltine is in! No going back….

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I then added fresh tomatoes and mushrooms so they can cook down. Plus the tomato stem 🙂

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Poured in the canned tomatoes and added 2/3 of my saffron. I saved the rest of the saffron to add towards the end.

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Partway through (here’s the freestyle part of the cooking process) I had the wacky idea to pump up the mushroomy umami flavour by adding dried shitake mushrooms. I don’t own a spice grinder but I have an old pepper mill…

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I cut up the dried shitake into small bits. Will this work?

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It took WAY too long to grind up even two small dried mushrooms in a pepper mill. No good. I ended up just dumping all the cut-up and ground mushrooms into the pot, which worked out fine.

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I added the rest of the bell peppers and jalapenos and let it do a final 20-30 minute simmer, adding salt, ground black pepper and other seasonings to get the flavour to my liking. I usually leave most of the salt to the end, cuz you can add but you can’t take away! Trust your instincts and let your nose, eyes and tongue be your guide. And of course tailor it to the way YOU like it.

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I love my non-standard four-finger head.

The final product, paired with Parallel 49 Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale and a slice of Purebread Whistler Disfunction Ale Bread. The hearty, malty, crusty ale bread is a perfect match for beer and chili. The chili turned out boldly seasoned with a creeping heat that made me sweat. Wicca noticed my less-than-enthusiastic reaction to the final product and complained about how I’m never satisfied. She’s not a chili person, but once she tasted it and I saw that she loved it, I was satisfied! ♪ ƪ(˘⌣˘)┐ ƪ(˘⌣˘)ʃ ┌(˘⌣˘)ʃ ♪

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As with all soups and stews, the flavours in this chili will meld together and evolve as it sits in the fridge. I can’t wait to share it!

One thought on “Powered by Natural Gas: Chunk Beef Chili”

  1. Who are you sharing it with?! 😉 hahaha. You still have spices with the old No Name package branding haha! Also I’m pretty sure your chili from the other day was what inspired this, not your black beans 😀

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