Chilly fall evenings are a fine time for a spicy bowl of chili. And if it can be thrown together with minimal fuss and time, all the better.
Because while I love a slowly simmered soup or chili, my life rarely has room for such luxuries. Usually it's more a matter of what I can get on and off the stove as quickly as possible.
In the case of chili, speed usually comes at the expense of flavor. But I've learned to compensate for that with a few simple techniques that boost flavor without slowing down the dinnertime rush hour.
I start by briefly heating my spices in oil. This helps bring out their most intense flavors, mimicking the depth of flavor you'd expect from a more slowly cooked dish. Then I brown my meat. Sounds basic, right? But as we all know, browning meat adds gobs of flavor to anything, so it's an important step.
Next, I up the acid. Tomato paste and cider vinegar add gobs of it, which is key to balancing the fat of the meat. Finally, I use a seasonal approach to moderate the heat of the dish — finely diced apple. It's a bit unorthodox, but the flavor is wonderful (and doesn't smack of apple at all).
Feel free to substitute the ground meat of your choice. Turkey and bison are fine alternatives.
SPICY BEEF CHILI WITH APPLES
Start to finish: 30 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 pounds ground beef
2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
6-ounce can tomato paste
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the paprika, chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder and cinnamon. Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the beef and cook until browned, about 6 minutes.
Add the apples and onion, then saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, broth and vinegar, then bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 390 calories; 190 calories from fat (47 percent of total calories); 21 g fat ( 7 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 100 mg cholesterol; 19 g carbohydrate; 33 g protein; 5 g fiber; 940 mg sodium.