Okay, all our readers in northern climes are probably going to laugh, but we’re going through a cold spell right now, with temperatures dropping near freezing. Yes, we know, many of you are excited when the highs for the day get to freezing, but, for us, freezing is a cold spell. And what makes a great dinner when it’s cold? Chili, of course. This time we made a butternut chili for dinner. It’s easy, and, if you have a butternut sitting around in the cupboard, as we had, you’ll put it to good use.
This is basically just something akin to our chili recipe — we make it differently every time — with squash added, so, if you have a chili recipe that you swear by, stop cursing and use that with a butternut added. You’ll be happy.
This time we cheated and used canned beans. We do use them occasionally, but when we have the time and foresight, we make our beans from scratch. Homemade beans just taste better.
Butternut squash can be a bit troublesome to prepare, but we’ll give you a quick rundown describing how we do it. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler, slice off the neck, and cube it by slicing into disks, then strips, then cubes. For the bulb, cut into quarters, cut each quarter into thirds, cut off the seeds and pulp, then cut the squash strips into cubes. Done.
Procedure in detail:
Cook onions. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and sprinkle with salt to start the release of liquid, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add squash. Add the garlic and squash and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the squash just starts to become tender, about 15 minutes. We find that this first bit of cooking “seals” the sides of the squash and helps prevent it from turning into mush.
Add beans and tomatoes. Add the beans and tomatoes, plus an additional can of water. The water will prevent the chili from sticking to the bottom of the pan while it’s simmering. At the same time, add the celery seed, chili powder, and smoked paprika. Allow the chili to come to a simmer.
Simmer. Reduce the heat to low and let the chili simmer until the squash is tender, about 45 to 60 minutes, making sure to stir from time to time. If you simmer much longer, the squash will start to break down into mush, so check towards the end.
Taste and adjust. Taste your chili, and, if needed, add salt, pepper, and — really, try this — a bit of white wine vinegar. The acid in the vinegar will help bring out the flavor, making for a brighter-tasting dish.
Serve. We like to serve our chili with a starch, such as rice or pasta. We know that some people might think chili shouldn’t have pasta added, but we disagree. And, since we’re the ones eating it, we served ours with pasta.
We liked this chili, although we were trying out a new type of chili powder that was spicier than we expected, so our chili was a bit on the spicy side. Not so hot that you’d have to reach for some liquid after each bite, but enough to be assertive. We really like adding smoked paprika to savory dishes; it gives a nice, slightly smoky taste, without adding any additional spiciness. Another option would be to add a bit of liquid smoke. Our chili warmed us nicely on our cold winter night, plus, we had enough for a small side for lunch the next day. Four stars.