Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Top Secret Paleo Chili

Chili isn't glamorous, but it is delicious.
You might think that just about any chili would be paleo. Sure, beans aren't paleo, but lots of chili recipes don't include beans, so that's no big deal, right? Well, even if you remove the beans from a standard chili recipe, you've got at least one more problem ingredient to worry about. You may not know it, but traditionally chili is thickened with something called masa. What's masa? Corn.

To be a little more specific, masa is a corn meal, much like polenta or grits. In a super-traditional chili recipe, you'd add it to the chili while it was cooking, and the starches in the corn would thicken everything nicely. If you, like me, normally think about those little packets of pre-mixed chili spices when you think of making chili, you should be aware that they contain corn too. It's not in the form of masa; it's included as corn starch. Corn starch does the same thing as masa, but doesn't let you feel superior about how "authentic" your chili recipe is.

Pretension aside, how should you thicken your chili without resorting to some kind of corn product? Basically, don't let it get thin to begin with. This recipe uses tomato paste, which is nice and thick to begin with, so the only thing you have to do is avoid thinning it out by getting over zealous with the beef stock.

Also, since pre-made chili powders are pretty much out, I've mixed together some seasoning of my own. There's a good bit of chipotle pepper in this recipe, so it's going to be a little spicy. I have a hard time judging how other people are going to react to a little spice, but Miriam gave this one the thumbs-up, so you should be fine.

Super secret ingredient not pictured (for secrecy).


3.5 - 4 lbs. beef chuck roast
1 cup beef stock
1 tbsp garlic powder
3 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp chipotle chile powder
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp salt
6oz can of tomato paste
2 cups salsa
1 tsp hot sauce
1oz. super secret ingredient (to be revealed later)


Crock Pot

Since this is chili (and not pot roast), the first thing you need to do is cut the chuck roast into small pieces. Try to make the pieces as close to half-inch cubes as possible.

Bite-sized is the goal. Picking up steak-sized chunks with a spoon ruins the chili experience

In a pan over very high heat, brown the meat a little at a time. You will probably need to do it in  four to six portions to avoid crowding the pan. As each portion is browned, you can add it to the crock pot.

It's important to have lots of room in the pan so that the meat doesn't stew.

Once all of the meat is browned, pour the beef stock into the pan and "deglaze" it. Pour the stock from the pan into the crock pot with the beef.

In other words, scrape the bits of meat off the bottom of the pan so that they're floating in the stock.
"Deglazing" just sounds more appetizing.

Combine the garlic powder, smoked paprika, chipotle chile powder, cumin, black pepper, and salt. mix them together so that the seasoning will be even throughout the chili.

If you double all the spices, you can save half in an airtight container for next time.

Add the combined spices to the crock pot along with the tomato paste, salsa, and hot sauce.

Now, it's time to reveal the super secret ingredient:

Unsweetened Baking Chocolate - You know you've got it kicking around your cabinets; it's time to use it.

Adding one ounce of unsweetened baking chocolate to a pot of chili makes a small but delicious difference. So, if you've got it, use it and start dropping hints that your chili recipe is "Top Secret."

See? The chocolate's so secret it's trying to hide in an out-of-focus part of the picture.

Once you've added all of the ingredients (secret or otherwise) to the crock pot, mix everything together and set the crock pot on high for four to six hours. After that, you can turn the crock pot to low and hold it indefinitely before serving. Just stir everything together one last time before putting it into bowls.

Where's my horse? I feel the need to rustle some cattle.

  • It doesn't really matter what kind of salsa you use. I chose a chipotle flavored one that had all natural ingredients since I was trying to keep it totally paleo. Use your favorite. Also, two cups is the amount of salsa in most standard jars of salsa, so you'll probably be able to just throw the whole jar in without measuring.
  • This chili is a little spicy. If you want to tone it down, here are some suggestions: Use mild salsa. Leave out the hot sauce. Substitute more smoked paprika for the chipotle pepper powder. That's about as mild as it's possible to be.
  • Miriam suggested that some people might not like just having a big bowl of meat. I thought she was crazy. If you're crazy too, you can try adding 16 oz. of mushrooms to the recipe. Just cook them in the pan until they're soft before adding them to the crock pot.