Chili was one of my favorite dinners growing up. It’s one of the few meals I remember both of my parents cooking from time to time (dad usually did the weeknight cooking, while mom did weekends and special occasions). I don’t even remember then doing anything particularly fancy with their chili — I think it was mainly beef, beans, canned tomatoes and spices — but somehow it was amazing. Maybe it was the handfuls of sharp cheddar cheese we crumbled in there, or the entire sleeve of saltine crackers I crushed into mine. Or maybe the ketchup. It could’ve been a lot of things, actually.
Despite the fact that I loved their no-frills chili so much, whenever I make chili as a grown-up, I always gravitate toward elaborate recipes with lots of surprise ingredients. Like tequila or quinoa or cream cheese. Or, in this case, balsamic vinegar! And sundried tomatoes. And brown sugar? Yep. All of the things.
This chili is billed as “Louisiana sweet heat,” but I’d actually say that it’s more…tangy…than sweet or hot. As a big balsamic vinegar lover, I was completely down with this unique twist on chili. But if you prefer your chili spicy to tha max, you may be unimpressed. Or maybe you should just add a bunch more chili powder!
SWEET HEAT LOUISIANA CHILI (adapted from Sweet Heat Louisiana Chili)
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 cloves of garlic, smashed or diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 pound of ground beef
1 quart chicken stock (beef or vegetable would be fine too)
3 bay leaves
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
2 15-oz cans black beans
2 cups sun-dried tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp creole or cajun seasoning blend
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (I’d recommend upping to 3 or even 4, if you like things balsamic-y)
salt to taste
1. Heat large skillet over medium heat; add olive oil. Sautee onion, bell pepper, carrots and garlic until onions began to sweat, about 3 minutes. Add ground beef; brown. When meat is cooked, add stock, bay leaves, dry mustard and cayenne. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half. Add crushed tomatoes, beans, sundried tomatoes, creole seasoning, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and salt.
2. Mix well and simmer over low heat for up to two hours, stirring occasionally. Take off heat and allow to stand covered for five minutes before stirring.
Great twist on a classic fall dinner!