Please tell me you’re week needs some delicious comfort right about now because, if so, this is exactly what you need!
How do you feel about chili? To me it always seems like chili is one of those meals that doesn’t get appreciated enough. I don’t get it, it’s so homey and chock full of flavors, oh, and you can load it with so many good things like cheese, sour cream, and big fat chunks of cornbread, YUM!. Plus, it’s versatile and you can do so many things with it (Hello chili-cheese fries!), what’s not to love?
I have to tell you, even within my own family chili isn’t the most popular. I mean, everyone will eat it but it isn’t a favorite by any measure and it’s never a first choice. I find it surprising too, because usually everyone really enjoys it once it’s made and wonders why we don’t have it more often. But then when it’s gone they quickly forget how good it is and it plunges down on the popularity list until the next time I feel like reviving it and convincing them how great it is.
A few days ago I realized how long it had been since my last cozy warm soup or chili recipe, way too long I’d say. That’s why I started brainstorming for what type I should make, and with it being October, I felt like doing something fun and festive would be a good idea. It just so happened that I had finally gotten around to roasting a pumpkin on the same day. I was trying to get myself into an autumn food mood because, like I’ve been telling you guys, it’s way harder for me to get passed the opposite seasons this year.
Something else to confess, I honestly used to be really grossed out by the idea of eating the flesh of a pumpkin. Mostly I think it was because of all the years my mom and dad would carve pumpkins with us as kids. Oh my goodness, those are really fun memories. I’ll never forget the first time my dad asked me to help clean one of them out, you know, because you have to stick your hands into the stringy, seed-filled center in order to do it. I loved helping even though how the smell was so squashy and the feeling of it on my hands made me want to gag a little bit. Yeah, so that’s why I never considered actually eating them. In my mind they were simply organic mediums for seasonal art.
So this variation of chili just might be my new favorite. In the past I’ve made it with Mexican flair, or tried different beans and meat combinations, or tested multiple levels of spiciness. Like I said, it’s so versatile. This one though, it’s just so full of nostalgic tastes of autumn that I can’t see ever beating it. And if you happened to browse the ingredient list yet, then yes, I did put apples in it. You’re going to have to trust me on this one guys, it’s so good!
I did something that I should never do, I made this for the first time just before serving it to a pretty big group. Granted, I did have an alternative of my classic chili just in case, but it still could have bombed and been a disaster so it was dumb. Thankfully, it turned out well and everyone loved it. Actually, it won unanimous votes of being better than my classic chili so I was pretty happy about that.
This would be a great tailgate party meal and, if you’re as into leftovers as we are, you should know it actually gets better next day! One more thing, don’t forget to serve it with all the good toppings you like. I added pumpkin seeds (or pepitas) this time to complete the whole picture and because I’m having a moment with them right now. Yeah, you can’t skip the pepitas!
- 2 pounds beef round steak, cut into small cubes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 large apple, peeled, cored, and diced
- 2 cups fresh pumpkin, cut into small cubes*
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 cup tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 2 cups beef stock (or chicken works)
- 2 cups water, plus a little more as needed
- 3 tablespoons worchestershire
- 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
- 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey (or 3 tablespoons sugar)
- 2 cups cooked lentils
- 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans
- 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
- 2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- roasted pepitas
- chives or green onions
- sour cream
- Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large high-sided skillet or shallow pot and add the beef. Cook on each side for 2 to 3 minutes until just browned on all sides, it's good to leave it lightly cooked as it will continue cooking in the chili. Remove the meat chunks with a slotted spoon to a separate dish and cover with a lid or inverted plate. Set aside.
- Now return pan to heat and add another tablespoon of oil. Add the onion, apple, pumpkin, garlic, jalapeño, and cook for 6 to 7 minutes until the pumpkin is tender. Add the remaining chili ingredients (except the steak but including the spices) and bring the mixture to a boil while stirring gently. Boil for about 8 to 10 minutes then reduce heat to simmer.
- Add the steak chunks to the chili and season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Cover with lid and allow it to simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour until to give the flavors time to meld well.
- Serve hot, topped with desired toppings and any sides you like such and cornbread or garlic toast.
*If you have the time or it is more convenient, you can use roasted pumpkin cubes instead and simply add them to the chili when you add the beef in step 3