Before you starting jumping to conclusions about that first word in the title I need to tell you something. The pumpkin in this chili is subtle. It isn’t hit you in the face, fall is here, pumpkin-spice-latte-esqe pumpkin. Don’t get me wrong I love that sort of pumpkin but it had its time a couple months ago. This pumpkin is a supporting actor. It’s there to bring out fruity notes in the peppers and contrast with the smoky meatiness of the chili but you can’t taste PUMPKIN.
I rarely make the same recipe twice. Even things I love, I tweak a thing or two just to see if it can be improved. This recipe is a perfect example. I made a pumpkin, Texas style, all beef, no bean chili for my family’s chili competition 2 1/2 years ago (and it won!). Ever since I have been tweaking it ever so slightly. I subbed in sweet potatoes and butternut squash for the pumpkin, switched up the spices and the chilies. Until now I’ve stuck with the seared and then slow cooked chunks of beef chuck or brisket. Mostly because it’s such a crowd pleaser. But after seeing this recipe from The Corner Kitchen Blog last week I decided it was time to mix up my meat routine and add back in the beans. The result is a chili that feels like traditional chili BUT is different enough to get noticed.
- 6 dried chili peppers (see note in instructions below), stemmed and seeded. I use kitchen scissors.
- Just over 1 lb beef chuck, cubed into 1″ pieces
- salt and pepper
- Canola oil
- 1 onion
- 1 lb ground chuck
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 lb ground veal
- 6 garlic cloves
- small handful of cilantro, leaves separated from stems
- 2 canned chipotles in adobo sauce + ~1 tsp sauce
- 1 TBSP smoked paprika
- 1 TBSP cumin
- 2 TBSP brown sugar
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1/4 tsp all spice
- 1 beer
- 1 14 oz can tomatoes
- 2 14 oz cans pumpkin (use 100% pumpkin, with no spices or sugar added)
- 1 14 oz can black beans
- 1 14 oz can kidney beans
First a note on dried chilies. I am a strong believer in using whole dried chilies instead of chili powder. You may think that using chilies this way would be far too spicy but on the contrary using certain varieties of chilies can yield a much milder chili. For this recipe, I used three Ancho chilies and three Quajillo chilies. Ancho chilies are very mild and lend a sweet, smoky note while the Quajillo chilies are only mildly hot and also help lend sweet, earthy flavors. Most of the heat in the final recipe comes from the chipotles another one of my favorite flavor boosters.
Preheat oven to 300 deg F. Soak dried peppers in 2-3 cups beef stock or water. Set aside
Toss cubed beef chuck with salt and pepper. Heat ~2 TBSP canola oil in a dutch oven or large pot (I used my 5 quart dutch oven) over medium high heat. Sear beef on all sides quickly only 1-2 minutes. Move beef to a plate. Lower heat to medium and add an additional ~2 TBSP oil to the pot. Add the onion for 3-4 minutes and then add the ground meat. Stir the meat and cook until browned.
While the meat is browning, in a food processor, chop the chilies, 6 garlic cloves, cilantro stems, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and chipotles. Add food processor mixture to the pot and incorporate into the meat. Cook 2-3 minutes until spices and garlic become fragrant.
Add beer, tomatoes, pumpkin and beans to the chili. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Move pot to the oven and cook 3-4 hours until the beef cubes are tender and the sauce is creamy and tomato taste has cooked off. Serve with cheese, green onion, cilantro (oops I forgot, not pictured!) and other favorite chili toppings.