Tonight I made my first pot of chili since April. That, combined with the fact that the plow trucks are out on the roads, must mean it’s really winter. And while I dread the idea of trudging through icy slush and fear my ever-rising heating oil bill, I’m actually a bit excited. I love snowballs, throw blankets, flannel PJs, hot cocoa and cozy, winter foods.
This warming chili’s great texture makes it especially hearty. Don’t be afraid of all the chiles, they add amazing layers of flavor. Award-winning flavor, in fact! When I was in graduate school, the Texas students club hosted a chili cook-off. My friend Helen and I spent a full week testing chili recipes (and foregoing exam review sessions). My roommates ate chili seven nights in a row – but it was worth it! And I have the three-foot plastic chili trophy to prove it. Well, ok, the chili trophy has been buried in the attic for years, but you get the point.
Anyway, in all of that testing, we learned a few surprising secrets. First of all, we expected that a mixture of ground pork and ground beef would have produced the tastiest base for our chili. But it turns out that the texture of ground pork just doesn’t hold up, and lean beef is actually the way to go. We also decided that we loved the addition of beer to the chili, and we assumed that the darker the beer, the more flavorful the broth. But, as it turns out, just about any beer will do fine, and this is really no time to break out the pricey stuff. And most importantly – chocolate. The addition of just a bit of dark chocolate cuts acidity, adds richness, and rounds out the flavor of the chili. In this case, however, quality counts, so splurge on a bit of good chocolate with as high a cocoa content as you can find.
Katie and Helen’s Award Winning Chili
1 fresh poblano chile pepper
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
2 tbsp chopped garlic (about 5 cloves)
1 cup chopped green bell pepper (about 1 medium pepper)
1 tbsp chopped fresh jalapeno chile (about 1/2 chile pepper)
1 lb 90% lean ground beef
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1 chipotle chile in adobo, chopped, plus 2 tsp adobo sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 12 oz can beer
1 8 oz can corn kernels, drained
2 tbsp chopped dark chocolate
Preheat the broiler. Cut a small slit in the poblano and place the pepper on a piece of greased foil on a baking sheet. Broil the poblano pepper about 5 minutes, turn over, broil about 5 minutes more, and then remove from oven (the pepper should be slightly blistered). Wrap the foil around the pepper and set aside to steam.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeno and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Unwrap the poblano and peel off and discard the skin. Discard the seeds and stem, chop the poblano, and add it to the onion and pepper mixture. Add the beef to the pot and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until the beef is browned, about another 10 minutes.
Add the spices , the salt, and the chipotle in adobo and cook about 5 minutes, stirring. Add the tomatoes (undrained), the beer, and the beans. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for about an hour. About 10 minutes before serving, add the corn, and then stir in the chocolate. As soon as the chocolate melts, dish the chili into bowls and top with cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped onions – or whatever you like.