Whew! What a whirlwind!
I can’t believe Christmas has come and gone already. It happens every year, and every time, I’m always shocked at how fast it seems to fly by.
Is it just me or does the week between Christmas and New Year’s feel like No Man’s Land? Like, what day is it? Who am I? Did I remember to put on pants? It’s just the WEIRDEST week!
We are definitely in holiday hangover mode over here (I quite literally spent the entire day on the sofa yesterday. #exhausted). Not because we drank too much (I had no booze because of the bun in the oven, of course!), but because all the pomp and circumstance is mostly over now and we have to readjust to real life again. This is one reason I find the month of January to be so depressing.
On top of feeling a bit deflated after the holidays are over, I always struggle with the everyday “real” food situation that seems to suffer for the holiday baking cause/holiday parties/copious amounts of food in general this time of year. Meaning, feeding my family normal meals becomes a backburner priority and before I know it, we’ve ordered take out three times in a week and sustained ourselves the rest of the time with…leftover cookies.
So, this year, I’ve made much more of concerted effort to have actual food on hand so that we can be fully functioning humans. It’s not always an easy feat, not only because of all the extra sweet treats around this time of year, but also the holiday events that take place. So many things are happening!
It can be tricky to plan meals during this super busy season, so I often rely on my slow cooker to make it happen. I can pop whatever meal it is in the slow cooker in the morning (with a little prep, of course), and then go about my day and still have a delicious, homemade meal for dinner that night. It is a huge win for me this time of year.
Meals like this chili make me feel super accomplished, even if the effort was mostly downtime!
It starts by poaching some dried ancho chiles in water until they are soft and blending them up to create the most amazing chile broth to simmer all the other ingredients in. So much flavor! Whenever I’m doing a meal like this, I will carve out a half hour or so of time to get everything prepped and into the slow cooker. You can even do the first few steps the night before, if that works better for your life schedule. I totally get that.
Once the chile liquid is made, I quickly sear the beef to form a delicious crust on the outside and then everything goes into the slow cooker to simmer all day long. The majority of my work is done, and in a few hours, I can take comfort in the fact that we’ll have an insanely delicious and comforting meal coming our way.
Along with the beef, we put in some classic savory chili ingredients: tomatoes, onions, garlic, spices, beans, and smoky chipotle peppers. And then things take a bit of a weird turn. But weird in a good way! I promise.
To make this beef something special and a little bit different, I added in brown sugar, espresso powder (you could also used some leftover brewed coffee!), and DARK CHOCOLATE. Yes. I am putting chocolate in your chili. You’re going to have to trust me that it really makes a delicious difference. The end result DOES NOT taste sweet or like chocolate in the least! The chocolate just adds an incredible richness to the chili and a depth of flavor that you can’t really get from much else.
I swear, I’m not making you dessert chili here.
The sweeter ingredients really play an important role of balancing out the punch of all the savory and spicy things going on here. The end result is a little bit spicy, a little bit smoky, a touch sweet, a lot savory, and oh so hearty and rich. Just like chili should be!
And don’t even get me started on the beef itself. Good Lord, is it rich and wonderful. It just falls apart and melts in your mouth, while still adding a ton of heft and beefy flavor. I adore chuck roast for this reason. It’s so hard to mess up!
The other good news here is that this makes a large pot of chile. It should feed your family for a few days, which is a complete win for me this time of year. Remember, this is coming from the person who started out this blog post by asking if she remembered to put pants on this week?
I need all the help I can get, and the slow cooker is where it’s at!
For the Chili:
- 3 dried ancho or New Mexico chiles, stems removed
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 lbs beef chuck roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (or regular chili powder)
- 1½ cups beef broth
- 1 (15-oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo, chopped
- 2 tablespoons of the adobo sauce from canned chipotles (add more to taste)
- 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped or grated
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (15-oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed well
- 1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed well
- Sour cream or Greek yogurt
- Lime wedges
- Scallions, chopped
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
- Avocado, sliced
For the Chili:
- Place the dried chiles in a pot and add the 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the chiles are very tender.
- Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, being careful to occasionally vent the top of your blender to avoid an explosion from the heat.
- Meanwhile, set your slow-cooker to the SEAR setting (if you don’t have this option, heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat).
- Add the oil to the slow-cooker/skillet. Place the cubed chuck roast on a cutting board or plate and season on all sides with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the flour over the meat cubes and toss to lightly and evenly coat the beef with the flour.
- Add the flour-coated meat, in batches, to the hot pot/pan. Sear on all sides to form a crust. If using a skillet, transfer the seared meat to your slow cooker.
- Once all the meat has been seared, pour in the blended chile liquid, along with the onion, garlic, spices, beef broth, canned tomatoes, sugar, espresso powder, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, and the bittersweet chocolate.
- Stir to combine and then add in the salt and pepper.
- Cover the slow-cooker and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or on HIGH for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally if possible.
- Add the beans to the pot and cook for another 30 minutes on HIGH. The chili is ready when it is thickened and the meat is falling apart. Season, to taste, with salt, pepper, or more adobo sauce (for more heat).
- Ladle the chili into bowls and garnish as desired with sour cream/yogurt, lime wedges, chopped scallions, chopped cilantro, and slices of avocado.
- This can easily be made on a stovetop instead of in a slow cooker or crock pot.
- Sear the beef in batches in a large pot, remove, and then saute the onion and spices in the same pot until tender.
- Add the other ingredients along with the beef and simmer on the stove, partially covered, for a couple hours. Add the beans, as directed in the recipe above.