Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chili Mac - cassoulet or "hot dish"?

During a light rain this last week we got quite a little chill here in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles.  Low near 40 may look like a heat wave to my fam in Minnesota but here its enough to drag out the sweats and heavy jackets.  Days like this I like my comfort food.

I'm not quite sure where this particular dish came from.  My Ma has made similar over the years with the same name.  I can remember having it when I was really little in MI so I suspect the idea of chili and pasta drifted our way from Ohio where the folks in "cincy" serve their chili over spaghetti.

With the beans and such stewed together with meats is has a vague resemblance to the classic french cassoulet.  Make that very vague.  Of course we call one meal dishes casseroles with its route in that classic here in the US.  Well, most of us do except for the Iron Range of Minnesota where they call it a "hot dish".  Regardless of what you call it, it is hot, hearty and tasty.  Comfort food at its best.

Chili Mac

1 1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 onion - coarsely chopped
1 T chopped garlic
1 14 oz can chopped tomato
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
2 14 oz cans kidney beans - drained
2 14 oz cans low sodium beef broth
1/2 t ground pepper
1 t oregano
2 bay leaf
2 T chili powder
olive oil
1 c elbow macaroni.

In large sauce pot add enough oil to just coat the bottom.  Heat until it begins to shimmer over medium-high heat.  Crumble in ground beef.  Add black pepper.  Cook until meat is no longer pink.  Move meat to side of pan, add onion.  Cook 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally until onions translucent and meat has some really dark caramelization.  Add garlic, oregano, chili powder, bay leaf and cook 1 minute longer.

Add tomato, tomato sauce and broth.  Heat to boil then reduce heat.  Simmer covered about 1 hour.  Stir occasionally.  Test seasoning at this point and add more salt if needed.

Add macaroni and stir in.  Cook 10-15 minutes longer until macaroni is cooked through.  If the mixture starts to dry out add 1/4 - 1/2 c water.  Serve hot with grated cheddar/jack cheese.

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