Monday, January 27, 2014

Whole30 Recipe: A Chili mighty enough for the Polar Vortex

So it's late January, in Minnesota. Which is to say, cold. And lately, not just garden variety, January-in-Minnesota cold, but polar-vortex, closing-the-schools-so-kids-don't-freeze-to-death-at-the-bus-stop cold.
COLD. (From the earlier polar vortex 3 weeks ago).
It's not stopping us from getting outside on days when the mercury makes it past zero, and the abundant snow and consistent cold mean we can have old-fashioned Minnesota winter fun on warmer days. We've been skating...
(also, photobombing)
We've built snow forts and tunnels...
Three seconds later: "AAAGH! There's snow down my neck!!!"
 And the trail running has been truly magnificent.
Getting to Lebanon Hills last weekend at 6 am in 4" of fresh snow was a little sporty, but SO WORTH IT.
Great day for a run!
All the same, on days like today, when the wake-up temp was -15 (-35 windchill) and the HIGH is -8, it's stinkin' cold.

Puts me in the mood for chili. A massive pot of spicy, meaty, rich goodness that gets better every day you reheat it? Epic winter win. It's Whole30 compliant, too, if you use W30-friendly sausage and water or stock instead of wine.

This recipe was originally given to me 25 years ago (damn, I'm old) by a family friend, who swore it was a secret family recipe he'd never before shared. I later found an extremely similar recipe -- just a few minor changes -- in one of the Silver Palate cookbooks, where it's called "Jalapeno Chili." We call it "JM Chili", after my friend who gave me the recipe. It's very meaty, quite spicy if you use all the jalapenos (omit some or all if you don't want that, don't remove the seeds if you want more spicy), and makes a huge batch to last you for many days, or a big party. Divide everything in half if you don't need a lifetime supply, or freeze half of it.

Polar Vortex Chili (serves about 12-16)

1 lb hot Italian sausage, casing removed
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs ground beef
2 green bell peppers, coarsely chopped
2 red bell peppers, coarsely chopped
1/3-1/2 lb jalapeno peppers, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch dice
3 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup dry red wine (or water, or chicken stock)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup minced fresh parsley
6 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried oregano, crumbled
1 tablespoon dried basil, crumbled
2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
4 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 can ripe black olives, halved
2 lbs fresh Italian plum tomatoes, quartered (or use another 28 ounce can -- not quite as good but still very decent)

Serve with:
Chopped avocado
Chopped green onion
Baked sweet potatoes or roasted winter squash
A big green salad

In a large pot, put in the sausages and cook over medium high heat, mashing them up into bite sized pieces, till they're starting to brown. Add the onion and the ground beef and cook till all the water has cooked off and things are starting to brown and sizzle, about 15 min.
... plus ground beef and onions.
Starting to smell good.
 Add the garlic and peppers and cook another 10 min or so.
That's a lot of jalapenos.
I almost forgot the garlic, but remembered in time to throw it in.
Add the canned tomatoes, wine/water, tomato paste, and herbs and spices. Bring it to a boil, then simmer uncovered for at least 10 minutes.
This will seem like a LOT of spices. Go with it.
Starting to look like chili!
At this point, you can put the whole thing in the fridge (or out on the unheated porch, if it's cold enough) overnight, and it's even better upon reheating. But if you want to eat it today, simmer it slowly for at least 30 more min. When it's getting close to dinner time, reheat it (if needed) add the olives and fresh tomatoes, and cook another 10 minutes.
Olives and fresh tomatoes as a finishing touch.
Serve with avocado and green onion as toppings.
I ate mine on top of roasted butternut squash, with avocado. SO GOOD.


  1. This looks so good! And my non-bean-eating husband might actually try it. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Let me know if you try it! It's definitely not vegetarian-friendly, but a little, with a whole lot of veggies underneath and on top, can go a long way. I think tonight we're going to put it on fresh spinach and lettuce, as a kind of taco salad.