It's March. Spring will officially be here in 15 days. In theory, we should be preparing for warmth and greenery and lighter meals; the season for hearty comfort food should be ending. Nonetheless, it's still cold enough in DC to make meaty braises very welcome.
(That being said, I totally agree that this post would have been much more useful if I'd published it on January 27 as I'd promised I would. Sorry.)
Back in November, when I blogged about my solo date nights, I admitted that I've had to change the way I approach cooking since moving into my own apartment. I still love making big stews and casseroles, but I've had to feign interest in eating leftovers for days to make my favorite dishes worth the effort and cost. Actually, that's not quite fair - the truth is, I had to trick myself into thinking I was eating a whole new meal not to be grumpy about it. The best way to illustrate my forced culinary creativity is with a recipe I made yesterday: chili bolognese.
Yes, spice purists, this is the post where you flee in horror.
See, I'm really bad at hot food. When Jon and I would order a curry for a night in, I'd almost always go for a Korma or Pasanda. I'm the boring one at Chinese and Thai restaurants who gets the same mild options every time. Most Tex-Mex and South American food makes my eyes well up at the thought of all the chili peppers. (Interestingly, these cultures also rely heavily on coriander/cilantro* to flavor their dishes. I hate coriander/cilantro. Maybe I'm just meant to stick with a European palate?) So when I make chili it often looks and tastes a lot like a bolognese.
It's gotten to the point where my bologneses kind of look and taste like chili, too, actually. I no longer use a real recipe for either dish because that gives me the freedom to throw in whatever I want. White beans in the bolognese? Sure! Chopped-up carrots in the chili? Why not! It's delicious no matter how it turns out and - to get to the purpose of this post - it can be eaten in a million ways, making leftovers much more fun.
Below, I'll tell you how I made my chili bolognese yesterday. I'll also give you some ideas for how to use the leftovers so that they don't feel like leftovers. If it's still cold enough where you are for this sort of meal... well, I'm sorry. But enjoy!
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 medium onions, diced
5 tbs minced garlic
4-6 oz tomato paste (using more will make your dish a bit sweeter)
2 lbs ground beef (sometimes I use ground turkey)
2 15oz cans petite diced tomatoes with juice
2 15oz cans beans (yesterday I used one can of white beans and one of black; I also love using chickpeas)
6 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 bottle lager (minus a few swigs)
1 c chopped carrots (you could throw in peas and/or corn as well or instead)
In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high. Add onions, garlic, and carrots. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add tomato paste, chili powder, and cinnamon. Cook, stirring, until mixture has begun to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes with their juice, beer, and beans. Mix well and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and cook until chili has thickened slightly and beans are tender, about 30 minutes. Add additional other vegetables if using and simmer, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes.
Serve as desired - now this is where you can get even more creative. Here are some of the ways I'll eat my chili bolognese:
over brown rice
straight from the bowl with a roll or cornbread alongside
baked into nachos made with Stacy's Pita Chips
layered into tacos or added to a cheese quesadilla
spooned over a hot dog in a potato bun
stuffed inside red or green peppers and roasted
on a roasted sweet potato
baked into mac and cheese
Let me know if you have other ideas! I really am hoping that chili bolognese will soon be unseasonable, but just in case...
*It's called coriander in England; Americans call it cilantro. My mother never cooked with cilantro and I always avoided it when eating out in the States so I didn't really have the opportunity to bring "cilantro" into my vocabulary. Jon's mother absolutely loves cooking with coriander and the "no coriander, please" request seems to be less respected when you order at non-European restaurants in England, so I usually think of the herb in the context and language in which I most often politely refused it.