Gridiron Chef - Week 8

  Updated 10/29 by Mark Wimer, Exclusive for Footballguys.com

Roughly 20 years ago, I embarked on an adventure with one of my closest friends, Atl, who was at the time my room mate in college and who would eventually be the best man at my wedding. We still compete against each other in the same fantasy football league that we started all those years ago. He was from Xalapa, Mexico (in the state of Veracruz), and we decided to drive from Hastings, Nebraska to Xalapa by way of Brownsville, Texas/Matamoros to visit his family for the Christmas holidays of 1989. It was quite an epic journey for both of us, an Odyssey in the classical sense of the term (meaning a long journey to home - both to his home, and then back to my home). Anyway, one of the many things I learned on this journey was that I love mole (pronounced MO-lay). What's mole, you ask? Well, it is a spicy (not sweet) chocolate sauce that has a variety of uses - the first time I ever ate mole, it was a sauce on a whole chicken.

Since I first tasted this ambrosial concoction, I have searched (mostly in vain) to find good mole here in the United States. There was one Mexican restaurant in Charlotte, NC, that had a good chicken mole dish, but otherwise, I've just been out of luck. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when the Betty Crocker mailing list sent me a basic recipe for Slow Cooker Chili Mole last week! At last, I had a quick-and-easy way to approximate the taste I remembered from my adventure. The only problem was, the recipe was far too tame and lacked the spicy zing I recalled.

However, the Grid Iron chef is not to be deterred by such inconsequential problems. After digging through my larder and making judicious substitutions/amendments to the basic recipe, I came up with a dish that I and my family find quite enjoyable. I offer it below as a basis for your own experimentation with the tasty flavors of mole. One of the great things about chili is that you can cook it up on Friday or Saturday night and then have leftovers while you watch the NFL games on Sunday - I think the flavors get even better with a longer time to combine in the fridge!

Black Bean Salsa-Mole Chili for the Slow Cooker

  • 1 LB lean ground beef (I used 90% lean - too much grease makes slow-cooked food taste funny, in my opinion)
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 package Kroger original chili seasoning mix
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 24 oz. jar of medium spicy black bean and corn salsa
  • 1 15 oz. can of spicy chili beans, undrained
  • 1 15 oz. can of organic tri-bean blend, undrained
  • 1 oz. of unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

Brown beef in a (preferably cast-iron) skillet with the coarsely chopped onion and drain. In a large (mine is a 6-quart) slow cooker, dump in the browned beef and cooked onions with the remaining ingredients, and stir well. Cover, and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Before serving stir vigorously.

I topped my black bean salsa-mole chili with shredded sharp cheddar cheese. It was a huge hit with the entire family.

I can easily see this same recipe working with pork loin chops (trim off the fat), or skinned-and-boned chicken thighs, or skinless/boneless chicken breasts in place of the ground beef (I'm going to do a batch with chicken thighs next week to try it out). An economical substitute for the 90% lean ground beef would be ground turkey - you get the idea. Experiment with several proteins until you find the combination that suits your taste buds the best.

For a smaller slow cooker, you could go with the pound of protein, one large onion, 1/2 package chili seasoning mix, 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper, a 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes with a small jar of black bean and corn salsa, use just one can of beans and 1/2 a square of unsweetened baking chocolate. Tweak according to your personal preferences, as always.

Here's to good friends, happy memories, good times and good food! Enjoy!