Servings: 8 Prep: 30 min Cook: 8 hrs Total: 8 hrs 30 min
In my near 40 years of life, I have cooked a million different things in a billion different ways. However, I have managed to somehow avoid mastering the art of the crock pot. In fact, I have never used one … ever. This recipe is my first stab at using this near ubiquitous pieces of equipment.
Crock pots are essentially a cooking technique known as “braising”. Braising is essentially “cooking stuff in liquid”. In restaurants, usually a meat product will be seasoned, then seared in a hot pan so that it is nicely caramelized. From there, it will be submerged in a variety of different ingredients, where it is slowly and gently held at a hot and stable temperature. In many cases, this is done in a pot, with a lid, placed in a very low temperature oven for hours at a time, often being left to sit overnight.
Slow cookers or “crock pots” do essentially the same thing. It’s a very low and slow, but consistent level of heat. As foods sit at this temperature, liquids are drawn out, connective tissues and fats in meats break down and melt, vitamins are leached into the liquids that develop, the flavors are all distributes and intermingle, etc. In short, a variety of ingredients are tossed into a slow cooker, where the stuff slowly cooks, breaks down and becomes a soft, tasty dinner!
For my first foray in the land of the crock pot, I wanted to go with a full and heavy meaty chili. It seemed like a good way to break in my new crock pot!
Most recipes I found for chili seemed to suggest the meat be cut into cubes, seasoned, seared, then thrown into a crock pot with the rest of the ingredients. Being me, I needed to “mix it up”. One common theme seemed to be “Texas Chili”. I decided to add some elements that take it “South of Texas”, while also leaving elements like the chili powder and tomatoes, so it will stay “familiar”. Also, having braised lots of meats in my life, I’ve found that braising whole pieces of meat tends to result in a more “moist” end product. It’s just more “juicy” and supple than the cubed meats. It may not have the same attractive little cubes of beefy goodness you may be accustomed to, but the meat is tender, juicy and soft, in the best possible way.
I’ve also got a bit of a question for you Crock Pot enthusiasts. In reading crock pot recipes, most all of them seem to request the addition of water, or broth. I did not add any extra liquid to this recipe, even though it seemed commonplace. Rather, I trusted the method to pull all the liquids from the meats and vegetables. I was correct! In fact, even without adding additional liquid, it still felt a bit soupy to me. Next time, I’d likely add a bit of xanthan and guar gums to it, just to tighten it up, a bit.
Is this loose liquid a desirable trait? Should I see slow cooker recipes as having a more soupy/sloshy consistency? Please place your thoughts in the comment box, below. Thanks! ☺
Closing Thoughts: While it was a bit soupy and not much to look at, this was as tasty a chili as I’ve ever had.
Slow Cooker All-Beef "South of Texas" ChiliPrint Rate
- 3 each dried ancho chilies
- 2 each dried guajillo chilies
- 1 small onion diced
- 4 each garlic cloves minced
- 2 each poblano chillies seeds removed and diced
- 2 medium tomatoes diced and divided
- 2 tbsp light oil (like coconut or olive)
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp cumin seed ground
- 1 tsp coriander seed ground
- 1 tsp cinnamon ground
- 3 lb beef chuck cut into 8 large chunks
- 1 each orange
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Split the ancho and guajillo chilies by either tearing the tops off, or using kitchen scissors to cut them open. Remove the seeds from the peppers and discard (feel free to leave a few, if you like a spicy chili).
- You can do this in a hot pan, but I usually toast the chilies directly on a hot burner element, or over a hot burner flame. Over a medium-low temperature, toast the surface of the chilies by placing them in the flame, or directly on the burner surface. This will cause a quick blistering. Do not burn the chilies. Simply toast the surface for about 15 seconds, in a few spots around the chilies. This makes for a richer and more developed flavor.
- Fill a bowl or measuring cup with about 4 cups of hot tap water. Place your toasted chilies in the hot tap water, so they may soften.
- Turn your slow cooker to a low-temperature. Add your onions, garlic, poblano peppers and oil. Toss them around and add a bit of salt and pepper. Add one diced tomato, as well. Put your lid on the slow cooker.
- Blend together your chili powder, cumin, coriander and cinnamon. Mix in a healthy amount of salt and pepper, as well.
- If your beef chuck has an excess of surface fat, remove some of it. However, you want to keep a nice amount of fat for flavor and moisture. Liberally coat your beef chunks with the spice blend, salt and pepper.
- Heat up a large sauté pan, over medium-high heat. Add a lightly flavored oil with a high smoke point. Coconut oil would work nicely. When the oil begins to ripple, add your pieces of meat (do not crowd the pan. You may need to do this in batches). The meat should sear nicely and develop some great flavors. Sear all sides of the meat. When the meat has been seared on all sides, add them to the crock pot with the other vegetables.
- Peel about 4 nice sized strips from the very outer layer of the orange, with a vegetable peeler. You do not want the white part underneath (known as the pith). You just want the nice orange "zest". Add the 4 strips to a blender. Juice the orange and add the juice to the blender, as well. Discard whatever remains of the orange.
- Remove the soften chilies from the hot tap water. They should be soft enough to add to the blender, at this point. Also, add your chocolate and diced tomatoes to the blender.
- Puree the chili-tomato blend, until nice and smooth. Add to the slow cooker.
- Place the lid on the slow cooker and allow cooking for 8 hours.
- Serve alone, or with your favorite toppings and sides!
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