* They are all pretty much the same: meat, chili spice, cumin, etc. Boring!
* They seem to be accompanied by all things country (music, large belts, etc.) Annoying!
* They usually contain beans. BLECH! (And as you may or may not know, real chili does not contain beans: http://www.chilicookoff.com/history/history_of_chili.asp
Also, I don't like beans. The mealy, mushy texture. The strange blandness. The flashbacks I have of my mom's salad bar creations in the 80's including kidney beans, beets and white mushrooms topped with Thousand Island dressing. I. Just. Can't.
The above reasons are why I don't make, eat or serve chili. Of course there are exceptions, but they are few and far between. And, because I'm always up for a challenge, decided to come up with a bean-less, unique, yet slutty chili. Because in some parts of the country, it's still winter (written by yours truly whilst scantily clad on a sunny, mid-70's February day in California).
The sauce is built on a rendered sausage fat roux, and has a bit of sweetness from the honey tempered by the Dijon. Once you top it with the pretzel croutons and aged Gouda, you've got the perfect combination of savory, sweet, spicy, salty, cheesy and crunchy. And it's not the same old shit. It's new shit.
“How Do Ya Like THEM Apples?” Chili with Apple, Onion, Dijon and Rosemary
1 pound mild Italian sausage, crumbled
1 pound spicy Italian sausage, crumbled
4 cups red onion, diced
2/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons butter, divided
4 cups apple (any tart/sweet variety), diced
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
4 tablespoons flour
5 cups chicken broth
3 cups pretzel bread or buns, cubed into 3/4 inch squares
1 1/2 cups aged gouda cheese, grated
Add mild Italian sausage, spicy Italian sausage (I get mine from Whole Foods because sausage in general creeps me out and you know why, so I figure the sausage that comes from that hippie shrine will at least have been happy) and red onion to a large stock pot. Cook on medium high heat, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes or until sausage is browned and onions are translucent. Cover and reduce heat to low.
Stir Dijon mustard and honey together in a small bowl (like a ramekin or something - don't dirty too many dishes). Set aside.
In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter, then add the apples. Cook on medium high heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, or until apples are soft and browned on the edges. Remove from heat and stir in the Dijon mustard and honey mixture, coating all apples thoroughly. Sprinkle with the rosemary. Add this mixture to the stock pot with the sausage and onion, stirring to combine.
Turn burner to medium heat and add the flour because it's time to make a sausage fat roux with all that goodness. Stir to thoroughly incorporate the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium.
In a large skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and add the cubed pretzel bread, stirring to coat with the butter. Turn heat to medium high and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until all cubes are toasted light golden brown. Pour onto a paper towel lined plate. Try not to eat them all before serving the chili. This is why I always make more croutons than I need for dishes that require them.
The chili can be served immediately or simmered, covered, for up to 4 hours to allow the flavors to continue to develop.
To serve, ladle into bowls and top with the aged gouda and pretzel croutons. If you want to get super slutty, double the amount of cheese and put half of it IN the chili before serving/topping/gorging.
Serves about six, if you're a wussy eater, but it would probably only serve four in my house. Because we're normal. And this goes better with cheap wine than beer. Not that you need an excuse, but there it is. xoxo