| In my near 40 years of life, I have cooked a million different things in a billion different ways. However, I have managed to somehow avoid mastering the art of the crock pot. In fact, I have never used one ... ever. This recipe is my first stab at using this near ubiquitous pieces of equipment.|
Crock pots are essentially a cooking technique known as "braising". Braising is essentially "cooking stuff in liquid". In restaurants, usually a meat product will be seasoned, then seared in a hot pan so that it is nicely caramelized. From there, it will be submerged in a variety of different ingredients, where it is slowly and gently held at a hot and stable temperature. In many cases, this is done in a pot, with a lid, placed in a very low temperature oven for hours at a time, often being left to sit overnight.
Slow cookers or "crock pots" do essentially the same thing. It's a very low and slow, but consistent level of heat. As foods sit at this temperature, liquids are drawn out, connective tissues and fats in meats break down and melt, vitamins are leached into the liquids that develop, the flavors are all distributes and intermingle, etc. In short, a variety of ingredients are tossed into a slow cooker, where the stuff slowly cooks, breaks down and becomes a soft, tasty dinner!
For my first foray in the land of the crock pot, I wanted to go with a full and heavy meaty chili. It seemed like a good way to break in my new crock pot!
Most recipes I found for chili seemed to suggest the meat be cut into cubes, seasoned, seared, then thrown into a crock pot with the rest of the ingredients. Being me, I needed to "mix it up". One common theme seemed to be "Texas Chili". I decided to add some elements that take it "South of Texas", while also leaving elements like the chili powder and tomatoes, so it will stay "familiar". Also, having braised lots of meats in my life, I've found that braising whole pieces of meat tends to result in a more "moist" end product. It's just more "juicy" and supple than the cubed meats. It may not have the same attractive little cubes of beefy goodness you may be accustomed to, but the meat is tender, juicy and soft, in the best possible way.
I've also got a bit of a question for you Crock Pot enthusiasts. In reading crock pot recipes, most all of them seem to request the addition of water, or broth. I did not add any extra liquid to this recipe, even though it seemed commonplace. Rather, I trusted the method to pull all the liquids from the meats and vegetables. I was correct! In fact, even without adding additional liquid, it still felt a bit soupy to me. Next time, I'd likely add a bit of xanthan and guar gums to it, just to tighten it up, a bit.
Is this loose liquid a desirable trait? Should I see slow cooker recipes as having a more soupy/sloshy consistency? Please place your thoughts in the comment box, below. Thanks! ☺
Closing Thoughts: While it was a bit soupy and not much to look at, this was as tasty a chili as I've ever had.