Our friends are driving up to spend a few days before their daughter, Isabel, heads back to school. We're always quick to offer food and drinks when friends arrive so I wanted to make sure we had something easy at the ready. Diving through our meat CSA packages I came up with 2 labeled simply "beef stew." Hmmm. Beef stew seems like a meal. I wanted something easy that can be dinner or a little pick me up. Something like chili. I cut those stew pieces into 1/2" cubes and browned them in plenty of olive oil along with 1lb of ground beef I found in the freezer. Then I added in 2 chopped onions, 5 minced cloves of garlic, two diced yellow peppers, along several hot peppers I had in the fridge. I let all of that sauté together and started pouring in the spice. Red chili powder, New Mexico chili powder (a single pepper variety ground), paprika, bay leaf, cumin, a dash of cinnamon and 1 TB of cocoa powder. I don't always use cocoa but the cinnamon sort of pointed me in that direction and since I didn't have any beer to use in the broth, for extra flavor I went for the extra depth that cocoa can bring. I poured in about 3 cups of chicken broth and two cans of crushed fire roasted tomatoes and let everything simmer every so slowly for almost 2 1/2 hours. With about 40 minutes to go I added in 4 drained cans of pinto beans. Cooking so slowly turned that tough cut of beef into buttery rich beef flavor with an irresistible sauce that gets better each time we reheat it.
I'm just a self-taught home cook who likes to try new things. One day when things were a little slow and dinner looked better than usual I decided to post the results on Facebook. Then I did it again and again -- and well, here I am, another addition to the blogosphere.
James, aside from being the "luckiest man alive" ;-), is my very tolerant boyfriend of nearly 10 years. I hope you enjoy sharing his dinner.