February is cold. It’s just plain cold, and it requires help to take the edge off the chill.

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Being the dead of winter, the best way to do this is a calm weekend with a big bowl of chili. Whether you like it spicy or subtle, nothing warms the heart and soul like steaming hot chili, and this recipe has a little twist that makes it a bit more fun than usual. It isn’t hard to make either. Here are the ingredients:

  • 2 lbs chuck roast
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 2 large sweet onions
  • 1 garlic bulb
  • 8-10 Roma tomatoes
  • jalapeño (or other hot pepper)
  • 1 (10-ish oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • salt and black pepper to taste

The ingredients are subjective based on personal preferences, particularly when it comes to the hot stuff. One might prefer a different hot pepper in more or less quantity, and chili pepper to the same effect. Making this in the summer is fun because you can hit the Farmers’ Market and find all kinds of unique varieties that aren’t always available in the grocery store. Personally, I don’t like it too spicy because it overtakes the subtle flavors that this recipe emphasizes. Speaking of which…

This recipe is going to take on a different flavor before it even hits the crock pot, and here’s the reason why: the very first thing you need to do is fire up your grill. Get all the veggies ready, and start the grill, because almost everything will land there first. While it is heating up, cut the peppers, onions, and tomatoes in half, and those go straight to the grill as soon as it’s ready, along with the garlic, hot peppers, and… oh yes, the beef.

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It won’t take long for the vegetables to be taken off the fire. You just want a slight char, and the smoky flavor that grilling provides. The roast will take a little longer, so while it finishes, bring your vegetables in to the cutting board and chop into not-too-finely-diced chunks. Once they’re chopped, they land in the crock pot along with the can of tomato sauce and wine. The roast only needs to stay on the grill until it’s rare, then it can be chopped into stew-sized chunks as well, and set in with the veggies. Seasoning is up to the cook’s taste, but now is the time for that.

At this point, all you have to do is turn the crock pot to low and wait. A few hours is all it takes for everything to settle nicely. At this point, you can dish it up and serve it, but it’s actually going to taste better if it is allowed to cool, then reheated. (It’s a frustrating wait, but the chemical reaction really does make the chili better!) This chili works great over a baked potato with sour cream, with chips or fries, or my favorite – in a bowl with shredded sharp cheddar and some finely chopped purple onions. It’s hard to do wrong as long as you do it your way.

A quick note on the beef: be sure to use a lean cut of beef for grilling, as they are the best for stew-type recipes. Chuck roasts and round roasts work best. They don’t need to be marinated for this type of cooking either, as the long soak in the crock pot does a great job of both tenderizing and infusing flavor. Keep it simple and it will work. Enjoy!