Sweet Pork Chili Mac

2016-04-13 17.22.29.jpgRECIPE #226, DAY #292

FOUR STARS

ORIGINAL RECIPE: I just needed some chili mac*

TIMING: 30 minutes

DIFFICULTY: Easy

TOOLS: Just a coupla pans, a strainer, the usual

COOK TYPE: Stovetop

HEALTH: Again, pasta. (Oh pasta, you are my weakness.) Which isn’t bad if you haven’t already eaten it a couple times this week and also if you portion control and add protein. This recipe uses an underutilized protein–ground pork–and can also accommodate the addition of beans (preferably pinto, red, or black). It’s also got some veggies, which you could easily add to with bell peppers of various colors and/or tomatoes.

2016-04-13 17.21.15EXPERIENCE: I often have ground pork on hand and don’t know what to do with it. I always think of Asian lettuce wraps, but I don’t often have the other ingredients that it would take to pull that off. Of course, I could plan ahead…

After a cursory peek online at some ground pork recipes, it seemed like chili was an obvious way to go. But I thought, I don’t want chili. Then I thought of pasta. (It happens a lot.) And I thought of chili mac, preferably baked with gooey cheese on the top. Due to the spring-like weather, I didn’t bake it with gooey cheese on the top, but you could, and either way any fans of chili mac will probably be happy.

I made it up, ’cause I’m rock star like that.

NOTES: As mentioned above, you could add 1 (or 2) cans of black, pinto, or kidney beans. You could also add 1 green and 1 red bell pepper, chopped, with the carrots and onions.

This is pretty sweet and a little spicy. The play between the umami, sweet, and spicy appeals to me, but you could omit the brown sugar and/or increase/decrease the Sambal. Carrots are not mandatory here, but I find that kids like carrots and that they also contribute to the overall sweetness of the dish. Same, basically, with the corn.

If you don’t have Sambal Oelek around (but you should!), you can use a chili pepper (like jalapeno), hot sauce, or cayenne pepper instead. I would go with a fresh jalapeno or our Bone Suckin’ Habenero Sauce, to taste.

If it’s your style–or if it’s mid-winter–you could throw the chili mac in a baking pan, top with the cheddar, and bake at 375F for 30 minutes or so, until it’s bubbly and gooey.

***

  1. Cook 8 ounces macaroni according to package directions in salted water. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium-large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon peanut (or safflower) oil over medium heat. Add 1 diced onion and 2 diced carrots and cook until onion is translucent. Add 3-4 cloves chopped garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Move the veggies to the rim of the pan and add 1 pound ground pork. Break up until thoroughly browned.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons chili powder, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper to the pot and stir for 10 seconds. Add 6 ounces tomato paste and work in until mixture is sort of homogeneous.
  4. Stir in 2 cups apple cider (juice, or hard cider,) 1/2 cup corn, and a 1 teaspoon sambal oelek, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan. Cook just until mixture has thickened. (If you are waiting for your pasta, remove chili from heat until pasta’s done.)
  5. Stir macaroni into the chili and heat just until combined. Serve hot, topped with 2 cups grated cheddar.

***

Serve the chili topped with the cheese and an option of a dollop of sour cream. Cilantro is always welcome.

*Recipe has been changed from the original.

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