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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Thinking Like A Chef - Filet Mignon Chili

“And I thought I’d make easy chili.”

“No, please don’t…I’ll make chili.”

That was the conversation Cathy and I had last week.  Cathy found a slow cooker recipe for chili.  Only four ingredients.  It was okay…I mean…it tasted like chili…sorta.  But it had no depth of flavor…no…well…not much of anything.

So I decided to make chili.

Now, most of the chilis I’ve made in the past haven’t exactly been healthy.  Cathy makes a wonderful turkey chili, and I’ve made chicken chili in the past, but when it comes to good ol’ red meat, they tend to be a bit…unhealthy.  So the task at hand was to make a beef chili that tasted great, and was healthier.

So the first choice I had to make was what kind of beef I would use.  Well, I prefer a steak of some sort that I can cut into cubes.  I like the texture that it brings to the dish, so ground meat was out.  I wanted a piece that would be as lean as possible, but maybe a little bit decadent, something like…filet mignon.  Eureka!  I decided to make filet mignon chili!

I did some checking to see if anyone had made that before.  It had been made before, but there weren’t a ton of recipes on it.  Some were more difficult than others; there was one that looked pretty good.  But, I wanted to do my own thing.

In order to make it healthier, I left out the beer.  Generally when I cook chili, I like a dark beer, but of course, there are no gluten free dark beers that I am aware of, plus, I wanted to save the calories.  So I would leave that out.

So, here is what I did.  In my Dutch oven over medium heat, I put in two tablespoons of grape seed oil.  Once that was hot, I added in two large chopped onions, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and let that cook for about 10 minutes or so.  Then I added in roughly a pound of the fillet mignon which I had cut into cubes.  Then I put in the spice mixture that I had learned in the past.  Three tablespoons of chili powder, 1 tablespoon of cumin, ½ teaspoon of cayenne, and a quarter teaspoon of red chili flakes.  This would add a good amount of heat, but wouldn’t blow away the palate.  I let that cook for about another 10 minutes.  Then in went two cans of small red beans, and two large cans of diced tomatoes.  I brought the whole thing to a boil, then let it simmer for an hour.  After an hour, I tasted it, and then re-seasoned it.

I have to say, the taste was really quite good.  It had heat, it had texture, it was meaty, a tad bit soupy so there was something to sop up with my Udi’s gluten free rolls…everything I like in a chili.  If I made one mistake, it was that I should have added a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste, because I like the additional richness and body tomato paste brings to chili. 

That being said, this was a success.

As for making it healthier?  Well, one bowl was 291 calories with 11 grams of fat.  That's roughly 32%.  Not bad!  That includes a small amount of low fat cheese on top.