Thursday, March 8, 2007

Slow Cooker Leftover Chili

A few days ago, I looked in my refrigerator and saw a lot of leftovers: part of a roast beef, some pork chops, a couple grilled chicken breasts, etc. Some foods reheat well and others don’t. For example, roast pork tastes ‘funny’ when it’s re-heated, but it’s good cold. Well, it was cold outside and I wanted something easy and satisfying. So I looked around my pantry and found some whole cumin seeds (leftover from an Indian spice mix I tried) and dried ancho chilis. I bought the ancho chilis for a chorizo recipe I was going to try, but I never got around to buying the ingredients for the sausage. But there they were.

I remember reading somewhere that you have to toast the ancho chilis before grinding them and found it was true. These chilis were dried but they were too leathery. Toasting them over medium heat in a skillet, crisped them up and gave them a nice ‘toasted’ aroma. Since I went to the trouble of toasting the anchos, I toss the cumin seeds into the pan too and toasted them until they were just fragrant. Both went into my spice grinder and voila—my own chili powder!

I was really surprised how fragrant my powder was and it gave my leftovers a good flavor. I cooked the stew until the meat fell into shreds. It resembled that barbecue pulled pork. Here’s the recipe:

Leftover Stew
4-5 cups cooked leftover meat (beef, pork, chicken, etc.) chopped coarsely
1 tomato chopped or ¼ cup tomato sauce
½ cup chopped onion
2 dried ancho chilis, seeds, stems and membranes removed and cut into quarters
1 tablespoon cumin seed

Put the first three ingredients into a slow cooker.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the chilis. Cook until the color changes from a dark red to a lighter red. Press down the peppers with a spoon occasionally during the toasting. Flip and toast other side. Remove from skillet and set aside. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the cumin seeds. Toast for 3 minutes.

Tear the chilis into smaller pieces and grind in spice grinder. You’ll have to do this in batches. Grind the toasted cumin seeds.

Add to the ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with sour cream, cheese, additional chopped onion, etc.