I love the cold. I hate the heat. Most would call me crazy, but my perfect kind of day is when it’s a crisp 40 degrees and the sky is turquoise blue with nary a cloud in sight. It’s chilly and brisk, but not so much that I’m shivering in my underwear. (don’t picture that…it will scare you.) I can wear a sweatshirt and jeans, and I’m comfortable.
Summer is not my friend. It hits above 75 degrees and I’m like the Wicked Witch of the West… I’m melting! I’m melting! I also become uber-cranky, and dash from one air conditioned place to the next. When it’s summer, I sleep in a refrigerator. Not literally, but it feels like it. I have the air conditioning in the bedroom set as low as it can possibly go. My partner constantly complains about her butt hanging out of the blankets, because I steal them all, and she’s freezing. I think it’s funny as I yank more blankets. She, however, does not.
Sigh. One’s humor is another’s annoyance. But one thing we can both agree on is that we LOVE football, specifically Penn State and Pittsburgh Steelers, and cuddling on the couch in front of a roaring fire. There’s just something special about it – the fire’s crackling, my kitty is burrowed in my lap, the grunts and thuds of football players hitting each other, the air outside is frosty…gives me the warm willies just thinking about it.
Thinking of football and cold weather makes me long to gobble up a hearty, beefy chili. Yesterday, the weather was cooler, the Steelers were playing against the Ravens again, a friend who needed the warmth of friendship hung out, and another dropped by to visit, so I decided to make a pot of comforting beefy beer chili and Tastefully Simple’s beer bread. Yea, I know…the bread isn’t made from scratch, but sometimes, a box is just as good.
While making this chili isn’t complicated, it does take some time. But it’s incredibly worth it! It has a rich, smokey undertone with a spicy bite. The layers are complex with a depth that surprises you. This is the first time I ever used beer in a chili recipe! I’m pleased that I did and you will be, too. The beer adds another dimension to the taste. I used the same beer in the chili and in the bread. I’m more of a wine girl, but in this case, beer is the only option. What flavor beer is up to you, but I prefer a smooth, caramelly lager. Sam Adams Boston Lager is one of my favorites.
Don’t be alarmed by the bacon fat. You’ll want to use it. Bacon exemplifies umami. It’s a staple in a Southern cook’s kitchen, and used in very small amounts. If you want to store the extra fat for later use, Mason jars work well. I keep mine on the counter, but the fridge or cupboard is good, too. Use it to cook your eggs, butter your toast with it, use it in shortbread, lick it from a spoon (okay…not really), pretty much anything when you want a creamy, salty, smokey flavor. Remember, a little bit goes a long way!
You can always use butter or an oil in place of the bacon drippings, but trust me when I say it won’t be the same. Give it a try. It’ll become your new crack addiction. Not to mention it’s a perfect way to save money. Nothing goes to waste.
Slice up some scallions to sprinkle on the chili. Drop a dollop of sour cream on it. Throw a handful of cheddar cheese in the mix. Add that crumbled bacon you have leftover from rendering the bacon drippings. Pretty much anything you like on top of a chili! Stir it all together, let the cheese melt, and the sour cream liquefy and you have such beefy, creamy goodness it’s like eating heaven in a bowl…if your heaven is made up of beans, beef, tomato, and beer. It’s okay if you lick the bowl when you’re done. I won’t tell.
- 2 pounds ground beef chuck
- 2 Tbsp. bacon fat (optional)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped (or any color you want)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Kosher salt
- ¼ cup chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 12-ounce bottle amber beer
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1½ cups low-sodium beef broth, plus more if needed
- 2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce or Siracha sauce
- Shredded cheddar cheese, sliced scallions and/or sour cream, for topping (optional)
- If you don’t have bacon fat on hand (like any good Southern cook does), you can cook 6 slices of bacon in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Drain the bacon fat into a heat-safe bowl, leaving 1 Tablespoon in the skillet, and set aside. Crumble the bacon, set it aside, too, and use it as topping for the chili later! You can also use butter or an oil for less calories.
- Increase the heat to medium-high, add the beef to the reserved bacon fat in the large skillet, cook until browned, about 8 minutes, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon; wipe out the pan.
- Heat 1 Tablespoon of the reserved bacon drippings in the sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon salt and cook 2 minutes. Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon salt and cook another 2 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and tomato paste and cook until the tomato paste is brick red, about 6 minutes (add a splash of water if the mixture begins to stick). Stir frequently so it doesn’t burn! Add the beer and simmer until almost completely reduced, about 3 minutes.
- Add in the beef, cocoa powder, tomatoes, beef broth and beans and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chili thickens slightly, about 1 hour, 30 minutes.
- Stir the hot sauce into the chili and season with salt to taste. Add some beef broth if the chili is too thick. Ladle into bowls and top with the crumbled bacon, cheese, scallions and/or sour cream.