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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.


  1. I like everything about this...except for your selection of meat. Let me say this: if you're going to eat a filet mignon, then really eat a filet mignon! :) It's a shame (for your taste buds, your wallet, and your keeping an eye on calories/fat content) to use such a great piece of meat for chili.
    Because chili is typically a "long simmering" dish, you could use other cuts of meat that have less fat content and provide you with more flavor. For example, a 6oz filet mignon is about 350 calories and has around 17g of fat....whereas there are sirloin and round cuts that same size that are about 250 calories and around HALF the fat. These cuts are typically used in longer cooking methods (roasting or simmering like chili) as they will become more tender and retain flavor. I have nothing against filet mignon (I love it, actually!), but the cut is definitely not for long cooking (it's one of the quickest cooking cuts of meat available), and shouldn't be hidden in a dish like chili (*which may be why you didn't find many recipes that use it).
    Sorry...I don't mean to be negative because I think you do some fantastic dishes and even in this example, you ventured to think like a chef! Please know that this is meant to be constructive...and Keep on cooking!

    1. Absolutely no offense taken. I have learned a lot from you. Please, feel free to criticize.