I have never been a big chili fan, and it's all because of the beans. Despite a love of legumes, I have never been a fan of pinto and kidney beans. They repel me, and I don't really know why. There's probably some bad hot-dog association from the past. (Just looking a can of beenie-weenies gets my gag reflex going. Hot dogs are really gross- whether in a bun or in a soup. That's right, a soup. There is actually such a thing as hot dog soup.) But that's completely beside the point, because this post is about chili, not hot dogs. And while chili is frequently a topping for hot dogs, it is also a filler for bowls of bread and ceramic alike, a means for consumption of cheese and sour cream, and most importantly, an excuse to use obscenely hot peppers. And over time, I have come to really really enjoy chili. I still don't like kidney beans, but I'm ok with pintos.... as long they don't have hot dogs in them.
E is a chili master- he has made both vegan and meaty versions that would knock your socks off. I make a pretty good white chili (not as good as my mom's, of course), but that's another post altogether. And white chili certainly does not have the heft to handle the jolokia heat. (Note- pronounce jolokia as though it were a Spanish word for some nice alliteration in that sentence.) Chili was a great application for the jolokia- the peppers gave it a nice, building heat without making it too hot. Last year I made bread bowls when we had chili, and I was just giddy when it worked- I was a novice baker (well, still am, but more like novice 2.0). This year, I have the pleasure and honor of testing a recipe for the upcoming cookbook by Michael Natkin. His blog was one of the first I ever started reading. He has a masterful grip on utilizing international flavors and techniques to make some phenomenal new and traditional vegetarian meals. (Plus, and this is where his big bonus points come in, he introduced me to the Sodastream. If you don't know about it, watch his video and think about how awesome it would be to have your very own Perrier or Diet Coke machine taking up nothing but the tiniest bit of space on your kitchen counter.) At any rate, the recipe I tested is cornbread- specifically brown butter cornbread. And if it's cold outside, and it's football season, and there's cornbread, there should also be chili. I can't give you the recipe for the cornbread, but I can tell you that you should check out Michael's site and keep an eye out for his cookbook because it was the BEST cornbread EVER. But go ahead and make whatever cornbread you usually like, try E's chili recipe, and if you use jolokia, it will be that much better.
Chocolate Jolokia Chili
2 onions, diced
3 carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ribs celery, diced
salt and pepper
2 pounds ground beef (or 1 lb. beef, 1 lb. pork)
1 pkg pinto beans, cooked (or 2-3 cans, use some kidney if you want)
1 carton beef broth
3 cans diced tomatoes
2 beers (ale or stout)
1.5 bars dark (at least 60% cacao) chocolate
2 jolokia peppers, finely chopped
Prep the first 4 ingredients and add to a very large pot with a few tablespoons of oil over medium heat, sprinkle with cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Let them sweat, while browning the meat in a separate pan (also sprinkled with the same spices). This will allow you to drain off any fat you don't want to add to your chili. When the veggies become soft, add the beer and let it cook until the foam is gone. Then add the meat, beans, broth, tomatoes, jolokia peppers, and stir to combine. Heat to med-high and let it cook for a few minutes. Break up the chocolate bar and add to the pot, stirring until melted. Add more salt and pepper, stir and taste for seasoning. Bring down the temperature to med-low. E let it cook for over 6 hours, but you probably can get away with just 2 hours. Keep stirring every 30 minutes, and tasting for salt. (You may also decide you need some more cumin, etc.)
No pictures of the actual chili, but these gorgeous shots are of my mom's pepper bounty- feast your eyes!