Great chilies are defined by the intensity of their flavor.
Usually, this is supplied by the seasonings and hot peppers that give chili its savory notes and sharp kick. But there is another, and frequently overlooked, source of upping the intensity — the meat.
Of course, only meats that have an oomph all their own can take a chili to the next level. Sausage, for example, is a fine choice. As is richly smoky, wonderfully chewy beef jerky.
For the weeknight cook, jerky offers another benefit. Unlike virtually any other meat choice, jerky is already cooked. A short simmer is all it needs to tenderize and permeate the other ingredients with its flavor.
For a truly intense chili, this recipe pairs jerky with seasonings that are bloomed (heated) in oil before other ingredients are added. And don’t confuse intensity with pure heat — we’re talking mouth-puckering flavor, of which heat is just one element.
The blooming produces flavors similar to those developed during a long simmer, but in a fraction of the time.
When selecting jerky for this recipe, find one that is tender, meaty and with a flavor you enjoy. Something smoky is nice.
The jerky then is chopped in a food processor before being added to the chili.
If your jerky comes in large strips, you may need to cut it into smaller pieces before using the food processor.
Because beef jerky tends to be loaded with sodium, this recipe calls for low- or no-sodium canned tomatoes. Be sure to taste the finished chili before seasoning with any salt; you may find the jerky provides enough.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced jarred jalapeno pepper slices (more or less to taste)
1 pound beef jerky (if large, cut into 1-inch chunks)
14-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
28-ounce can low-sodium crushed tomatoes
14-ounce can low-sodium tomato puree
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Add the onion, cumin, oregano, paprika, black pepper and jalapenos. Saute for 5 minutes, or until the onion is very tender.
Meanwhile, place the jerky in a food processor and pulse until well chopped. Add the jerky to the pan and saute for 3 minutes. Add the beans, crushed tomatoes and tomato puree, then bring to a simmer.
Cover the pan, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the jerky is tender.
Makes 6 servings.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Per serving: 466 calories; 223 calories from fat; 25 grams fat (9 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 36 milligrams cholesterol; 30 grams carbohydrate; 31 grams protein; 7 grams fiber; 1,773 milligrams sodium.