Last week, I got a big butternut squash in my CSA box and wasn’t sure what to make with it. Someone on the October Unprocessed Facebook page recommended tossing it into a chili.
I am a huge fan of chili, particularly in the cooler months … it seems to go so well with football and cold, windy weather; but also with cold beers and slices of watermelon in the summertime.
I have found in my years that people who are into chili take their chili very seriously and like it a certain, specific, personal way. Some people don’t like beans in their chili, some don’t like the meat. Luckily, chili is also one of the most easily adaptable dishes in the world. I don’t think I have ever made it exactly the same way twice.
Personally, my signature chili is with ground meat (beef, turkey, lamb, pork, or a mixture) and beans (usually more than one kind). It always has tomatoes (canned and/ or fresh) and usually has corn, and depending on the style, has some sort of chili pepper in it. Since this one is already packed with levels of flavor, I didn’t want to overdo the spiciness, so I used dried chili powder to taste and chopped sweet peppers. Also I would usually load a bowl of chili up with sour cream and grated cheddar, maybe even served over the contents of a bag of Fritos. This month I am doing the October Unprocessed challenge, so I am just eating it “plain” … if you can call this plain. It’s not.
But chili is a personal thing; if you don’t want meat in your chili, or you don’t want the beans, or you would rather have a wicked hot jalapeno pepper, then by all means, adapt this recipe to your tastes. This is just my way. I basically adapted my standard chili recipe to include the squash and some other Autumn-y flavors.
Seriously I think this is the best chili I’ve ever made.
A note about how to get into that butternut squash: Some of you may recall that last year, when I first ventured into cooking fresh pumpkins, how happy I was to have discovered an easy way to get the most out of the gourds. I pretty much have used the same technique with Red Kuri squash, pumpkins, and now butternut squash. Basically, if you have a type of squash with a very hard peel, and you are using it for the meat inside (as opposed to say, a baked acorn squash where you just stuff the squash and leave the gourd intact), it’s super-simple: cut it as much as you can, into workable chunks, and then broil, grill or roast it.
Personally, I use my outdoor grill to roast the squash, mostly because it’s fast, simple to use, and doesn’t require turning my oven on (which always makes my apartment really hot — even in the fall, it’s too much). So I hacked the butternut squash into 4-5 hunks, and put them, dry, on my grill over high heat for about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them if you roast them over an open flame like that, or do them in your oven for about 30-45 minutes, or until they get a little bit soft (but not too soft).
Once the pieces of squash have cooled a little, the peel will come off very easily.
Butternut Squash and Beef Chili
(*Feel free to omit the beef and use vegetable stock only to make this totally vegetarian)
- 1 butternut squash, roasted and peeled (see above for tips)
- 1 lb ground beef*
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4-5 cloves garlic, diced
- 3-4 sweet peppers, diced
- 1 large can of stewed tomatoes
- 1 can sweet yellow corn
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 can white beans
- 1 can black beans
- 1 small can of tomato paste (about 8 oz)
- 1 bottle of good beer
- 1 quart vegetable* or beef stock (or both)
- 2-3 fresh sage leaves, chopped
- 2 tbsp. each of cumin and coriander
- 2 tbsp. chili powder (omit or reduce if you don’t like it spicy)
- 2 tbsp. dried parsley
- salt and pepper
- fresh cilantro, as a garnish
By the time my squash was roasted and cooled, I had already started to brown about a pound of ground beef, a few diced cloves of garlic, and a diced onion in a big pot. Once the meat and onions cook down a little, add the diced carrot, a diced, peeled sweet potato, and the cans of corn, tomato and beans. Mix together well and add chopped sage and other spices, then add the beer and stock. Make sure there is a lot of liquid (it might even look like too much, but don’t panic), then add the tomato paste and squash, and bring to a boil.
Once the whole mixture has reached a boil, cover the pot, reduce to a simmer, and let it simmer for at least 2 hours. The liquid – which might have seemed excessive earlier — has now been absorbed and it should be nice and thick.
You can also just brown the beef and roast the squash, dump everything into your slow cooker, set it on low and let it cook for 6-8 hours.
As with most chilis, the longer you let it cook, the more flavorful the final product will be.