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Still Cold Enough For Chili

Last year by this time we had a few days in the 80s. While I am waiting impatiently for 70s and 80s this year, I will still be cooking cold weather foods like chili.

In my chili I use black beans instead of the red kidney beans. Personally, I like the flavor better, and I think the contrasting colors are far more appealing to the eye.

When preparing the beans for this recipe you can use a can of beans or make the beans from scratch. When making your beans you need to soak them overnight, covered with water, sitting on the counter top, (yes, in a bowl). The following day you can rinse them off and set them in a pot covered by about 2 inches of water. Add a pinch of salt, a couple of cloves of garlic split in half and three strips of hickory smoked bacon. Simmer this until the beans are soft and tender. Drain the pot, remove and throw away the bacon and garlic and allow the beans to cool.

In making chili, as with many recipes, several of the ingredients need to be cooked, sauteed, simmered or otherwise have heat applied before they are combined. This can be done simultaneously by using multiple pots.

First the ingredients:

Chef Darrel’s Black Bean Chili

Serves 10

1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil

6 slices thick cut hickory smoked bacon, small dice

1 lb ground pork

1 lb ground beef

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup red wine, optional (if deleting this ingredient substitute 1 cup of                               beef broth)

2 cups water

2 Tbl ground cumin

3 Tbl chili powder

2 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

36 ounce cans of tomato paste

2 tsp sugar

3 cans (15oz) diced tomatoes, with juice

2 medium onions small dice

1 red Bell Pepper, seeded, small dice

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, small dice

2 Tbl fresh cilantro, chopped

1 can black beans, or 8 ounces of dried beans, cooked

2 cups beef broth

Garnish:

Grated sharp cheddar cheese

Sour cream

Chopped onion

Saltine crackers  

In this chili recipe we need to sweat the bacon, (let's make it six slices instead of three). This means to cook the bacon until it is semi-crispy without burning any of the contents in the pan. We also need to sweat the onions, so for the purposes of maximum flavor we can sweat the bacon, remove the cooked bacon to a paper towel on a plate, reserving all of the bacon fat. It would be a good thing to wipe out the pan and then add back 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Now you would re-heat the pan and sweat your onions, (in that bacon fat). 

Cook the onions for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, add the minced garlic and chopped bell peppers, cook for 3 to 4 more minutes. In my recipe I list one red and one yellow bell pepper. When shopping at the store sometimes you can save a little money by buying a three pack, one red, one yellow and one orange bell pepper. You can put all three in this recipe and it will only add lots of wonderful color and flavor. By cooking the onions, and partially cooking the bell peppers, we are bringing the maximum amount of flavor to the forefront of these ingredients. If we just added them raw they would be crunchy and far less flavorful.

While this is going on over one burner you can take a separate pot or frying pan and brown the meat. When the meat is browned, drain off the fat and return the meat to the pan, add 2 cups of water, 1 cup of red wine and bring to a simmer. Stir in cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt and cayenne pepper, simmer for 20 minutes, add tomato paste and sugar, stir well, simmer for 10 more minutes.

At this point you will combine the contents of both pots into one, keeping your chili at a simmer. Add the bacon and black beans, one can is listed in the recipe or you can add two cans if you like, (for the finest flavor start with dried black beans and cook according to the directions above). Add the beef broth, it's best if you heat it first, to adjust the consistency.

The tomatoes can be added one of two ways. If you add them at this time they will cook, or stew, while the chili simmers. This will cause them to lose most of their shape, but not change the final outcome of your flavor. Or, you can wait until after the last 30 minutes of simmer and stir them in at the end. In this fashion they will be heated up by the hot contents of your pot, but will maintain most of their shape as you ladle the chili into your serving bowls. It's up to you, try each way and see what you like the best. And last, you can stir in your chopped fresh cilantro.

I hope this instructional outline will be helpful to you. When I made chili last week I refrigerated the leftovers in single serving containers. Refrigerated overnight and placed in the freezer the following day. Remember, when freezing foods always be sure that they are at refrigerator temperatures, (and not room temperature), as they go into the freezer.

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