Hungarian Style Chili with Smoked Gouda Polenta

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It’s getting a little chilly here in San Diego (well, chilly for San Diego at least), just the weather that makes me crave some warm, comforting soups and chilis. This Hungarian chili, a Rachael Ray recipe, is such a cool take on the traditional Mexican/Texan/Southwestern varieties. It uses basic chili ingredients (onion, pepper, chile, tomato) but switches up the spice with paprika and marjoram/oregano.

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But the real kicker is the smoked gouda polenta that the chili makes its home atop. That’s right, I said smoked gouda. This creamy, cheesy polenta truly makes the dish. You get some smoky flavors from the chile and the chili powder and paprika, but also from the cheese, and the bright herbs on top add just the right note of freshness. You’ll want to curl up on the couch or in front of a fireplace with this dish.

TW’s Tips

  • Using a red pepper instead of green really makes a big difference in the flavors here — don’t switch it out!
  • Find quick cooking polenta in the pasta aisle. Not the pre-made “roll” of polenta — it’s a grain-like consistency that reminds me of finer couscous. It comes in a box.
  • Dill worked really well on top.
  • This makes great leftovers — and would freeze well if you make a double batch. Just make the polenta fresh.

Hungarian Style Chili with Smoked Gouda Polenta  

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 2 pounds coarse ground sirloin
  • 1 red chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, a palmful and a half
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano, 1/3 palmful
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1 1/2 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup shredded Gouda or smoked Gouda
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Finely chopped fresh dill, parsley and chives for garnish

Directions

Heat a large pot over medium-high to high heat. Add beef and brown 7-8 minutes. Add hot pepper, bell peppers, onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook to soften vegetables, 7-8 minutes more. Stir in chili powder, sweet paprika and oregano. Add tomato paste to pot and stir to combine, 1 minute. Add stock to pot and bring chili to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes more.
In a separate pot, bring water or chicken stock and milk to a boil, whisk in polenta and cook 2-3 minutes until thickened. Stir in butter and cheese, season with salt and pepper.

Fill shallow bowls with polenta, make a well in the center. Fill well with ladles of chili and top with sour cream and herbs.

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Crock Pot 3 Bean Turkey Chili

I’m trying to use my slow cooker more. There’s nothing better than coming home from work to dinner — already prepared! — and the house smelling delicious. I love chili — the spicier the better — but a couple of things clinched this one for me. 1) There wasn’t a lot of prep needed. I’m always surprised by the amount of “pre-cooking” that slow cooker recipes call for. Isn’t the point of the slow cooker that you don’t have to do much? Just throw it in and voila…meal prepared? Sigh. 2) I’d never had a chili with chickpeas and I was curious. Yes, I realize this isn’t “real Texas chili.” But I give equal attention to both bean-inclusive and bean-free chili. I don’t discriminate.

This is a VERY basic chili, and the version that resulted from this recipe was not the best one I’ve ever had. BUT. (But!) It was solid, super easy and the turkey was surprisingly tender. With a few little tweaks this could be a winner.

My main problem was that it wasn’t spicy enough. I had to doctor up the end product with a good amount of Cholula (my fave) to give it enough zip. But this is an easy fix. First, add more chili powder. Two tablespoons wasn’t nearly enough. I’d also call for some other spices too, to add some more flavor depth. Go with cumin, cayenne pepper, even a little bit of chipotle chili powder. In fact, season up the meat a little bit with salt and pepper and chili powder before you cook it. All of this will make the chili more flavorful and give it more heat. And chili should be spicy. Period.

For the rest of my ideas…

TW’s Tips:

  • I added in a pint of yellow grape tomatoes I had on hand to add some fresh tomato flavor. The more fresh veggies you add, the better.
  • Add a chopped fresh jalapeno (or even a jarred one, with some of the juices) for some extra heat.
  • Try adding some cheese on top to garnish, with chopped onion and cilantro. Even some crushed up tortilla chips to give it some crunch and texture.
  • If you don’t want to cook turkey in the morning (and who does?), cook it the night before and refrigerate. Then throw everything in the slow cooker in the morning.
  • I served this with cornbread, a guaranteed winner. Best brand (if we’re talking not from scratch): Marie Callendar’s. It’s super moist and the perfect chili accompaniment.

Crock Pot 3 Bean Turkey Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey (package)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (4 ounces) diced mild green chiles
  • 1 to 2 (TW revised: 2-4) tablespoons chili powder
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Cook and stir turkey and onion in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until turkey is no longer pink. Drain and discard fat. Transfer to 4 1/2-quart slow cooker.

Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Cover; cook on HIGH 6 to 8 hours.

(Don’t you love how short those directions are?)

Enjoy!