Little Chicago Chili!

Welcome back!  It’s the beginning of Fall here in the Appalachian mountains and that means it’s time for some warm comfort food!  Fall is my favorite season of the year, the mountain air has a crisp freshness to it that you just don’t get the rest of the year.  Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the leaves change into such a beautiful vibrant array of different colors.  I’ve been all over the world, but I can honestly say there’s nowhere else I’d rather be this time of year than right here, tucked away in these majestic mountains.

Anyway, I bet you’re wondering about the name of this recipe, aren’t ya? Well, Is Butter A Carb’s international headquarters is based in Johnson City, Tennessee, which is also lovingly referred to as “Little Chicago”.

Johnson City was a railroad hub and crossroads in the heart of the Appalachian mountains, it had quite the reputation for gambling and bootlegging.  Johnson City was the halfway point (approximately) between Chicago and Miami, it was the ideal location for underground alcohol smuggling and production, notorious gangster Al Capone took full advantage of that.

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Al Capone

Al Capone used Johnson City as a hideout during the prohibition, the Montrose Court Apartment complex (located in the historic Tree Streets District) was the headquarters for his operations. There is said to be secret passages that lead to former speakeasies, underground tunnels, and escape routes used by Capone and other organized crime figures.  I guess you can see why Johnson City was dubbed “Little Chicago”.

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Montrose Court Apartments

Now that you know about the name, let’s get to cooking this delicious chili!

Ingredients: 

1 lb ground beef

1 lb sirloin, cubed (if you want to just use 2 lbs of ground beef…DO IT!)

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup green pepper, diced (I used poblano and green bell pepper)

2 (12 oz) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed well

1 can crushed tomatoes

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons ancho chile powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cocoa powder, unsweetened

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups water

12.1oz of beer (12.1oz for the chili…11.9oz for you to drink while you make the chili)

 

Instructions: 

Place a heavy pot or dutch oven over high heat. Take your cubed sirloin and coat it in the flour, it helps the beef brown up nicely!  Add the tablespoon of oil to the pot and brown your beef.

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Once the cubed beef is nicely browned remove it from the pot and set it aside.

Now add the diced onion, ground beef, and salt to the pot. Take a wooden spoon and break the ground beef up into little pieces as it browns.

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It’s going to release quite a bit of liquid and usually we would drain it but we don’t want to do that this time.   Just keep stirring until the liquid has evaporated, it should take about 5 minutes.  Grab your spices!

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Reduce the heat to medium-high and add in your garlic, black pepper, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, chili powder, and oregano. Add your cubed beef and any accumulated juices into the pot.

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Stir all those spices in and make sure they are well combined.  You wanna cook the spice and beef mixture for about 4 minutes or until it starts to darken. We want to wake those spices up!

Now let’s stir in the beer!

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It’s going to get really dark, but don’t worry you’re doing great!  Once the beer is stirred in, add your cayenne pepper, cocoa powder, crushed tomatoes, and water.

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Bring it to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 35 minutes.

Now, stir in your green peppers!

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You can use any kinda green pepper you want…. Poblano, green bell, anaheim, jalapeno…. It’s up to you,  that’s YOU cookin’!

Lets add in the pinto beans!

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If the consistency gets to thick just add in a little more water.  Make sure everything is mixed together and bring back to a simmer. Let that baby simmer for 30 more minutes to let the peppers soften and the flavors to come together.

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You’re going to see some fat start to accumulate on the surface. You want to skim the fat off, trust me, you and your cardiologist can thank me later.  Once the 30 minute simmer is up, the fat is skimmed from the top, you’ve given it one last stir and tasted for seasoning…..

You’re done and you have one fabulous pot of chili ready to serve! Just grab some sour cream, a block of cheddar cheese, and some crackers and you’re ready to indulge!

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Please don’t use pre-shredded cheese… grate your own, it’s worth it.  I hope to Make America Grate Again! No…. but seriously….. stop buying that crap. 

Beef, beans, and beer what mire could you want? It’s what Al Capone would have eaten…. probably… maybe….i don’t really know.  The point is, you are going to absolutely love this chili, it has such a deep richness to it that you just can’t find in other, lesser, chili recipes.

I really hope you guys give this recipe a try, because it really is super delicious!  Let me know in the comments how it turned out!  Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook (@isbutteracarbblog) for other content I don’t post here. Thanks for stopping by and keep an eye out for more Fall recipes soon!  Until next time, Ciao!

Pasta e fagioli!

Whew, Oregon, what can I say?  It was a blast!  First, I wanna say thanks to our gracious hosts, Brandy, Worm, Sophie, Shad, Jasmine, and Taylor.  They were so much fun and it was such a pleasure to see them again, cook for them, and spend some quality time together.  Friends and family really are what makes life worth living and I’m beyond blessed to have an abundance of both.

Anyway, let’s move on from the sappy mushy stuff. Brandy and Worm took us for a snow day, or three, to the beautiful and picturesque Mount Bachelor in the Deschutes National Forest.

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Mount Bachelor is one of the largest resorts in the Pacific Northwest, with a skiable area of 3,683 acres! It’s also a stratovolcano, which in my opinion is kinda cool.

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There was SO much snow!  The roads up to the mountain were completely white, at times it was snowing so much you could barely see.

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The tables (pictured above) get cleaned off every day.  So, that’s less than a days worth of snow.

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It was such a fun experience! I can’t wait to go back.  If you ever get the chance, take a trip to Bend, Oregon, you won’t regret it.  They have so many awesome places to eat, breweries with tours and tastings, an awesome distillery with a tasting room, and just so many outdoor activities!  The people there are so nice and welcoming.

Speaking of places to eat, my buddy Worm is the executive chef at this sweet little place in Bend. It’s called “Rockin’ Dave’s Bistro & Backstage Lounge” (661 NE Greenwood Ave, Bend, OR) check em’ out at http://www.rockindaves.com. Man, this place is really something special, such a fun and relaxed environment. They use high quality local ingredients as much as they can and it really shows in Chefs food.

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I got the pastrami sandwich with brussels and a house made pickle, it was unbelievably delicious! They make almost everything on the plate ‘in house’, from the pastrami to the pickles. If you notice the little ramekin with parsley hiding on the back of the plate, that’s a little chef joke between Worm and I, if there is one thing that is the bane of my existence in the food world it’s when there is random parsley scattered around the fucking plate!  It infuriates me haha and he knows it. Anyway, Rockin’ Dave was such a cool guy and was extremely hospitable. He treated us to appetizers and a few (many) drinks, admittedly I was a little drunk and my belly was full upon my departure that night.

We need to move on to the good stuff right?  I know you’re getting hungry by now.  So, one of the days we came off the mountain a huge snow storm was kicking our ass and I decided to cook dinner for everyone.  I thought what would be good on a cold snowy evening?  I decided on Pasta e fagioli! Pasta e fagioli, meaning “pasta and beans” is an Italian-American comfort food (to me at least), it’s like a warm hug from an Italian grandmother, without all the perfume.  It’s such a simple, quick, and delicious dinner….you just can’t go wrong! Let’s get the ball rolling!

Ingredients: 

1 Tablespoon of Olive oil

1 package of sweet Italian sausage (12-16 ounces)

1/2 a yellow onion, diced

1 large rib of celery, diced

3/4 cup of dry macaroni pasta

1/4 cup of tomato paste

4 cups chicken stock, or as needed

3 cups Swiss chard, chopped

1 can of cannellini beans (15 ounce)

1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, or to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Instructions: 

First let’s brown the sausage in the olive oil. You’re going to want to use medium high heat for this. While it’s browning use your wooden cooking wand to break it up, we don’t want to break it up a ton, so let’s leave it a little chunky.

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While that’s cookin’ away.  Get your onions and celery ready!

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So, once the sausage is browned and happy go ahead and reduce the heat to medium and throw in the celery and onions.  You’re gonna want to cook those onions for about 5 minutes or until the onions become translucent. It will really bring out the sweetness in the veggies.  Next, we’re going to add in our pasta. Put the pasta in dry, I know I know, you thinking ‘what in the hell is he telling me to do?’, but just stay with me here.  Put the dry uncooked pasta in the pan and cook with the sausage for about 2 minutes. By doing this it’s going to infuse the pasta with more flavor, at least in my mind it will and that’s going to be a challenge to disprove haha.

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After that has cooked for the previously stated 2 minutes, it’s time to add the tomato paste.  Stir that in and cook it for 2-3 minutes.  Next add 3 cups of chicken stock, reserve that other cup for the end to see if you need to adjust later. Anyway, add that to the pan, when you do be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to get all those tasty brown bits that are stuck on the bottom.  Bring heat up to high and bring to a simmer.

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While that’s happening let’s add some seasoning. Add a little salt, but be careful the amount you need depends on the amount that is in the stock you used. So, just do it to taste. Taste EVERYTHING! Add the freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano. When it comes to a simmer back the heat down to medium (I used medium but it will be up to you and your stove on what level of heat constitutes a good simmer) and cook stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. While that’s simmering away let’s get started on these greens!

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They are super easy to prep.  You just rip the green leafy parts off the ribs running down the center.  Then just sorta wad the leaves up, cut across, then chop away until you’re happy with the size.  Place your newly chopped leaves (you did a great job by the way) in a bowl full of cold water.

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You have to wash these thoroughly before you use it to get rid of all the dirt and sand.  So just swish and swirl them around in the water and that’s going to allow all the dirty sandy mess to fall down into the bottom of the bowl. Now back to the stove. You’re going to want to check your liquid level in the sausage and pasta mixture, I added a little bit more to mine (you’re probably going to want to do the same). Then fish out your greens from the bowl and shake off the excess water, add them to your pot and stir them in.

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It’s going to look like you have put way to much in, but trust me they wilt fast. Now it’s time to add our drained and rinsed cannellini beans. I usually always rinse that weird bean juice off my beans.

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Stir those in and check your liquid levels one more time. Just let everything cook and meld together until your pasta is done.  For this dish you aren’t going to want al dente pasta, so keep that in mind. We’re almost done….we’re just two steps away!  We need to taste for seasoning and mine usually always needs a pinch more salt and maybe some pepper.  We also need to turn off the heat and add in some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Please, always use freshly grated Parmesan cheese, I better not catch you using that fake shit in a can!  It just won’t work! Use the real Parmigiano-Reggiano. Time to serve it up in a hot bowl with a nice crusty piece of bread and little more grated Parmesan cheese on top!

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Well, there you have it, Pasta e fagioli! This is such a wonderful dish to enjoy on a cold snowy winter evening with friends.  It’s such a stick to your ribs dish that is going to leave you satisfied and warm inside.  I encourage you to give it a try, if you do let me know how it turned out in the comments!  Thanks and until next time, Ciao!