Thursday, February 9, 2012

Smoky Beef & Bacon Chili

Chili was probably on last weekend's menu... and ours was no exception! My friends Josh and Suzanne hosted a fun Superbowl Party featuring a chili cook-off. It's amazing how many variations there are of chili and at this party we had 6 very different kinds to enjoy. My offering for the cook-off was this Smoky Beef & Bacon Chili. Bacon makes everything better, right?! Seasoned beef, kidney beans, tomatoes and a unique blend of spices are only highlighted by the smokiness of bacon in every bite of this chili. For those that want a flavorful bowl, you'll find it right in here...

There are so many kinds of flavors and textures one can incorporate in chili. At the chili cook-off, each pot was very different with their own distinct flavor. Spicy, sweet, chunky, smooth, with vegetables, without vegetables, even one with beer... they all were happily sampled. This chili offered a smoky flavor due to bacon that gave the dish a whole new depth. The best part is that this chili takes no time in putting together since it's slow cooked in a crockpot. Oh, and did I mention this is even better the next day after all the flavors have melded together?!

Smoky Beef & Bacon Chili
recipe adapted from My Recipes

2 slices thick-cut bacon, finely chopped 
1 large onion, finely chopped 
1 large garlic clove, minced 
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef 
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 can (14.5 oz.) crushed regular crushed tomatoes 
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce 
1 cup pilsner beer OR 1 cup chicken broth if gluten free
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1 can (14.5 oz.) dark red kidney beans, drained

Sour cream, sliced scallions, and/or grated cheddar for topping

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon, stirring until it just begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add onion, lower heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 4 to 7 minutes. Uncover pan, stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a 6 quart crockpot.

In the same pan (without rinsing) over medium-high heat, add ground beef; break it up with a wooden spoon and stir gently until it loses its raw color, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in spices and salt. Transfer beef to crockpot.

Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, beer or chicken stock, Worcestershire and beans to crockpot, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours.

Season to taste with additional salt. Serve warm, with toppings on the side.