There is little I enjoy more than exploring my environment, and that requires a lot of stamina. While I don’t exactly consider myself a ‘foodie,’ finding great things to eat that fuel my next adventure is imperative. Many of those meals are located on the road, but I find myself tinkering in my kitchen every once in a while.
My “Chili con Coffee” recipe has become a bit of a favorite among my family and friends. Because it primarily uses locally sourced New York products, Sarah nearly begged me to share the formerly-secret recipe here with the Mindfully Frugal Mom readers (Editor’s note: “Beg” is a pretty strong word).
Rather than give you instructions on how to make this Crockpot masterpiece, I wanted to take an opportunity to share a bit about each of the local brands that I rely on for a great line of products when I’m cooking.
1 green bell pepper
32 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 oz of cayenne pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 lb. bison
1 15 oz can of black beans
1 15 oz can of dark red kidney beans
1 oz or so of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt (coarse ground)
1 sweet, white onion
32 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 lb. stew beef
1 1/2 oz-ish of Corn Masa for thickener
1 lb. bacon
2-3 oz-ish of Chili Powder
Instructions: The very first thing I start with is the tomatoes for the base. I toss both cans right into the Crockpot and turn it on low (mine has settings for hours, and I always pick 8.) Then I rinse both cans of beans real well and toss those in. I dice up the peppers and the onion, not too large because I want them to get soft after cooking in the Crockpot, but also not too small because I enjoy more of a stew-like consistency. At this point, I typically toss in about 3/4 of each of my spices and save the remaining 1/4 of each of them to throw in a little later.
Typically I cook my bacon with a broiling pan in the oven because it’s straightforward to clean up after, but for chili, I want to save that heaven-sent pork fat for the next round. I fry each of the strips of bacon until they’re about 3/4 of the way where I would typically eat them. I usually like my bacon super crispy, but this stuff is going in chili, so it’s pointless to take it that far, and it’ll continue to cook for hours in the Crockpot, so it’s essential not to overdo it. Though I’m not a health nut by any means, I will admit that the trick I learned from my mother to set the bacon on a paper towel is one I take a step further as an adult. There’s going to be plenty of fat and grease in this dish, so feel free to blot the heck out of that bacon with a paper towel before chopping it up and tossing it in the Crockpot.
The stew beef is usually cut about three times the size I’d prefer for chili, so I cut each piece a bit smaller and begin to brown it in the still bubbling bacon grease. This won’t take long because the stakes are more petite and because it’s going to continue cooking in the Crockpot. I brown the outside edges of each cube, extract from the pan, drain it well and toss it in.
Now you’ve got a beef/pork grease in the pan to cook the bison in, but because bison is so lean, it’s real easy to overcook it. Just a few minutes of the ground bison in the grease should be enough to brown it most-of-the-way up so you can drain it in a strainer and toss it in with the rest of the concoction. This is when I throw in the remaining bit of the spices and one last ingredient.
A few years ago, I made this chili recipe, and it was thicker than I wanted. I had made a full Chemex of my favorite coffee to drink while I was cooking and figured that instead of water, maybe I’d try a bit of the coffee to “open” (yeah, it IS a word, now) it up. Sure enough, the nutty tones of my favorite single-origin roast came through, and it became a permanent staple in the recipe and even helped in the renaming of my concoction.
I’m partial to Joe Bean Coffee Roasters in Rochester because of their dedication to directly supporting the grower and not ever letting up on the unreasonably high standards they hold themselves and their products to. I don’t consider myself expert enough to say it, but other people who genuinely are experts have claimed Joe Bean to have some of the highest quality beans in the entire country. Interestingly, Joe Bean gave up their Fair Trade certification years ago because the farmers they buy from starting informing them that the label wasn’t helping them at all. One farmer would be eligible to be considered a Fair Trade farmer. Still, the next one over may have paid off the certifying organization so that they could exclusively reserve the status in their region. It wasn’t about better coffee anymore; it was about money. (Ask me sometime how I feel about food labeling!!) Certified or not, Joe Bean goes to the most fantastic lengths of any roaster I’m familiar with to ensure that their beans are perfect from branch to brew. I usually put about 4 – 6 oz of brewed coffee in the Crockpot, and it’s always the last thing to go in.