Last winter, D and I became friends with a group of young, progressive farmers in Central Wisconsin. The group meets on a monthly(ish) rotating basis for a potluck and a pasture walk to share what has and hasn't worked on their farms. It's super-educational for D and I, who are just dipping our toes into farming, and don't really have plans to make this anything more than a hobby. (Though it can be quite tempting to go bigger.)
After a break in meeting together during the busy summer months, D offered to host the most recent potluck at our little farm -- which is a fair distance north (at least an hour and a half) of anyone else's farm. (There's a reason they all farm farther south!) However, several folks and their families made the trek north on Sunday, so I made a big vat of chili (alongside some cornbread) as our main meal, to be complemented with whatever anyone else brought along to share.
The chili was a big hit -- it's more warming than spicy, which is how I like it. And as a Cincinnati native, I couldn't help but add in a little unsweetened cocoa powder to give it that Cincy-style flavor. My favorite way to serve chili for a big group is to set up a toppings bar right next to the slow cooker. For this round, my toppings bar included shredded cheese, plain Greek yogurt, chopped scallions, oyster crackers, and Frito's (which D contributed).
After filling up on chili, we tromped through our pasture, and our friends provided some great ideas on where to set up fencing and a high tunnel (imagine a greenhouse-like structure) on our property in the future. All in all, it was a great get-together with friends, and a wonderful way to spend a beautiful sunny fall afternoon in Northern Wisconsin.
Slow Cooker Beef Chili (printer-friendly version)makes 10-12 servings
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pounds 90 percent lean grass-fed ground beef
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper (seeds and ribs removed), chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper (seeds and ribs removed), minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 (15.5-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Add the chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, and red pepper flakes to a small skillet and, while stirring frequently, toast over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully transfer to a bowl.
2. In a large nonstick skillet, cook the ground beef (breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon) over medium-high heat until browned. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess fat, then place the ground beef in the bowl of a 6-quart slow cooker.
3. Wipe the skillet of any excess grease, then add the onion, red pepper, and jalapeño pepper and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Carefully transfer the pepper mixture into the slow cooker. Add in the tomato puree, fire-roasted diced tomatoes, and kidney beans. Top with the toasted seasonings along with the cocoa powder, salt and ground pepper. Stir to combine. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-5 hours. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.
4. Serve with your favorite toppings. My top-your-own chili bar options included plain Greek yogurt (or use sour cream), chopped scallions, shredded cheese, and oyster crackers.
(adapted from a Cook's Country magazine recipe found via One Perfect Bite)