After browning and crumbling a pound of lean ground sirloin in one of my saucepans, I tossed in a chopped onion and let it cook out, softening the pieces into translucent bits. Besides salt and fresh ground black pepper, we seasoned this mixture with a combination of medium-hot chili powder, regular chili powder and ground cumin - we also stirred in a few lumps of tomato paste. Before you add any more ingredients, be sure to stir these ingredients around the pot and let the spices toast and give the concentrated paste time to mingle with the heat and bloom, letting the flavor release from their cocoons.
For the beans in this chili, we added a can of black beans since that's what I already had in the pantry, but red kidney would certainly work well. Juicy fire-roasted dice tomatoes followed the beans and we left the mixture to bubble at the barest simmer while the oven was finishing bringing itself up to temperature. Once we scooped out the chili and nestled it in a baking dish, we flooded the top with a combo of shredded hash browns and sharp white cheddar cheese. While the chili is completely cooked, the potatoes still needed a good amount of time in the oven to cook through and melt the cheese.
While the chili was already fairly thick when it went into the pan, I wasn't sure how it was going to end up once we pulled the pan out. I was pleasantly surprised to see that we were able to pull out tidy slices without it running all over! That's not to mean it was dry though - the chili was still moist and thanks to that golden, cheesy topping, the pieces didn't fall apart. Needless to say, Jeff drifted into a delightful comforting state as he plowed through his portion. I did think that using the spicier chili powder and the fire roasted tomatoes lifted the chili portion from what would have ended up being a fairly ordinary chili. We've used those meatless crumbles before with good success, so if you are looking for a more veggie friendly option, I bet they would work well here!
Cheesy Hash Brown Chili