The secret ingredient missing in chili? fish sauce

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(Bloomberg) — Editor’s note: As we leave our kitchens at home to dine out more, the weekly lunch break column has evolved to highlight dishes from a variety of sources: a new or reopened restaurant; a person, place or recipe that makes the news; or, of course, a great cookbook.

Food is supposed to be something that brings people together. But a pot of chilli provokes lively conversations.

In Texas, where it’s the official state dish, locals think beans aren’t on the table, just like tomatoes. In Oklahoma and much of the Midwest, they are happy to add both.

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Michelle Tam is aware of the debate. The beloved creator of the Nom Nom paleo-eater empire, dubbed the Martha Stewart of the caveman diet crowd, features a chili recipe in her upcoming book Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! Simple Parties and Healthy Meals, with Henry Fong (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $35; Jan. 18). His dish contains tomatoes but no beans as well as an ingredient few people will associate with the dish: fish sauce.

“I’m sure I’ll hear hardcore chili aficionados tell me what belongs in a bowl of chili…and what doesn’t,” she writes in the book. If you’re a chili snob who turns up your nose at a dish containing a controversial ingredient, “feel free to call it something else,” she writes.

Tam started Nom Nom Paleo, which became a popular website, app and condiment line, about a decade ago while working as a night pharmacist. “I started because I found paleo made me feel better and gave me energy to continue with two young children,” she said in a phone interview.

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Its engaging cookbook plays out recipes in the style of a comic book. Each has several hands-on photographs taken by her husband, Fong, with bubble-style captions. The pages are dotted with avatars of the couple and their two children. The 140 recipes run the gamut, from vegan green soup with tangy cashew cream to chicken karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and hash browns. Several of the recipes, like the chili pepper below, have Instant Pot instructions; more than 100 are Whole30 compatible.

The book’s chili recipe is a combination of several that Tam has cooked in the past, but without the paleo-unfriendly beans, and the addition of her secret ingredient. “People see fish sauce, and they go, ‘Oh, disgusting.’ But it adds umami and not fish,” she says.

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Tam’s recipe reminds you of the powerful appeal of chili peppers, both for the ease of preparation and the bang for your buck when it’s done. It’s a blend of simple ingredients (everyone should have fish sauce in their pantry): ground beef, onion, cumin, chili powder, check, check, check. The fish sauce combines with the tomato paste to make the flavor of the chili pepper rounder and richer and a bit more pungent.

Chilli doesn’t need beans. But, if like me, you’re not rolling or dying on the paleo diet, you can go ahead and add them. The author doesn’t care. “I’m paleo,” Tam says. “I don’t care what you do with this book. You can serve beans with chili, serve other dishes with pasta. The purpose of the cookbook, she says, “is to recognize how food affects you,”

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In fact, Tam made this chili for her family’s New Year’s Eve dinner. Its adaptability also makes it a good option for upcoming Super Bowl parties. “What’s great is that if you’re having people over, you can include an assortment of toppings, paleo or not: sour cream, cheese, beans. Everyone can dress their chili as they wish.

The following recipe is adapted from Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go!, by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong.

Ground Beef Chili

For 6 persons

1 tbsp. avocado oil1 large yellow onion, diced1 small red pepper, dicedKosher salt2 tbsp. tomato paste4 garlic cloves, minced2 lbs lean ground beef3 tbsp. chilli powder 1 tbsp. dried oregano 1 tbsp. ground cumin¼ tsp. cayenne pepperOne 14.5 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained 1 cup bone broth or chicken broth 2 tbsp. paleo-friendly fish sauce1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar, optionalSliced ​​avocado, sliced ​​green onions, diced white onions, cilantro leaves and/or lime wedges, for serving (optional)

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In a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat until simmering. Add the onion, pepper and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the ground beef and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook, breaking up with a spatula, until golden brown, 5-7 minutes. Stir in chili powder, oregano, cumin and cayenne pepper.

Add the drained tomatoes, bone broth and fish sauce and mix well so that the liquid is at the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors blend, about 1 hour.

Taste the chilli and season to taste. Add apple cider, if using, and taste again. Serve with desired toppings.

If using an Instant Pot, cut bone broth to ½ cup. Follow the instructions above, start by sautéing and wait for the insert to heat up. Then follow the instructions above. When all the ingredients are added, lock the lid of the pot and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Let the pressure come down or release manually if you are ready to eat right away.

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