Friday, January 21, 2011

Instant-Pot, Ground-Beef Chili with Cheddar-Cheese Biscuits

There are two foods, maybe three, for which no two people will ever agree on how to prepare: meatloaf and chili (the third is ribs). I suppose it all has to do with what one grew up with as a child. I have had chili that was totally bland and tasteless and chili that was so hot and spicy that it bordered on the absurd. For some reason, insanely hot has, in this country, been equated with testosterone and masculinity. Maybe it's the "climax" factor of feeling your head is about to catch on fire and explode: OMG! OMG! OMG! 

Truth be told? My favorite chili of all time was served in the cafeteria at the small-town school in which I taught for twenty years. It was a beautiful Midwestern-blend of mild chili and spices, peppers, tomato--with just a hint of sweetness. Often, it was served with a slice of "government" yellow cheese and a chunk of cornbread. Their beef stew was to die for. 

The recipe below is a no-nonsense, non-offensive recipe that is palatable to many, including children. It does not use chocolate or cocoa or peanut butter or beer, ingredients now popular to add to chili. You control the "heat" by the amount of jalapeno you add. The smoked paprika (do not substitute regular paprika), ancho powder along with the bacon give a nice "campfire" feel to the dish. Like soups, it's important to taste and to correct seasonings throughout the cooking process.

If you want "kid friendly," omit jalapeƱos and ancho powder.

If you do not own a pressure cooker, just simmer on the stove for about 90 minutes. 

Yea, I know . . . it's a pretty sad-looking onion but it's all I had . . .
According to my Italian customers, a green pepper with three lobes,
like the one above,  is best for eating raw. A four-lobed pepper is
better for cooking.

  • One pound ground chuck
  • 4-6 slices smoked bacon, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2, 14.5 ounce can dark red kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 large onion, chopped (10 ounces)
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1, 3-inch jalapeno pepper, seeded and ribbed, finely chopped (save seeds)
  • 3-4 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1, 4 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1, 14.5 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed, freshly ground, depending on taste
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons smoked ancho chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 3-4 teaspoons brown sugar

Turn Instant Pot to "saute" mode. Add the bacon, onion, green pepper, jalapeno, and garlic. Stir, add the dried spices. Saute until bacon renders fat and vegetables begin to soften. Remove to a bowl. Add ground beef and tomato paste to IP and brown. Add vegetable/spiced mixture to the ground beef. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Stir. Add soy sauce. Add one can kidney beans. Bring to a simmer. Taste for seasonings and spice.

Place cover on IP and seal. Pressure cook for 10 minutes. Do a quick release. Add cider vinegar, brown sugar, and the remaining can of kidney beans. Cover. Seal. Pressure cook 5-7 minutes. Do a quick release and taste for seasonings. If you want it a bit spicier, add some jalapeno seeds.

It's important to taste your chile pepper. Some are hotter than others;
others are more mild. This particular one was quite mild
and I could have used another one.

Stove top: Allow chili to simmer on stove for about one hour. If you want more heat, add some of the jalapeno seeds. Add additional smoked paprika and/or chili seasoning if needed. Add the cider vinegar (if using) and about 2 teaspoons of the brown sugar. Stir. Re-cover and simmer for an additional 30-40 minutes. If too dry, add some of the reserved liquid from the red beans. Taste again and re-season, if necessary. Now add the undrained red kidney beans and allow to simmer about 20 minutes. To serve, place in a bowl and top with a bit of sour cream and shredded cheese.

Cheese Biscuits

Step-by-step instructions for making biscuits can be found by clicking on the link below:

These tender biscuits use White Lily Self-Rising Flour, a flour easily found in the South but only in gourmet grocery stores in the North. If you don't have access to it, use cake flour and follow the instructions from above for "Cake Flour Biscuits" cutting the recipe in half.

  • 1 cup White Lily Self-Rising Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cold lard or shortening
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup cold milk
  • 1/2 cup freshly-shredded extra-sharp cheddar (I prefer white cheddar)

Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees. Line a small baking sheet with a piece of tin foil. Do not begin making biscuits until oven is pre-heated.

Add all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and stir.

In a small bowl, shred the cheese. Sprinkle with one tablespoon of the flour mixture, carefully tossing with a fork to coat the cheese so it does not stick together. Reserve.

Using a pastry blender, cut in the lard (or shortening) and the butter until crumbly and flour bits are the size of small peas. Now fluff in the cheese mixture. Using a knife or fork, add the milk, using just enough until the dough leaves the side of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to get dough to come together. Do not over knead. Gently pat 1/2-inch thick and cut into 2 - 2 1/2 inch circles. Gently re-pat scraps and cut again. Place biscuits on foil-lined sheet and bake 8-10 minutes, just until golden brown. Brush with melted butter immediately. Makes 5-6 biscuits.

While biscuits are traditionally served piping hot from the oven, I think the cheese flavor of these biscuits is more pronounced if served warm, even cold.

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