Really Good Chili

I have two weeks left of my first semester of grad school! I am feeling the pressure, let me tell you. Papers and projects plus work and work. Aaah. Somehow I will get it all done. Somehow.

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As the cooler weather starts coming on, I always start thinking of soup. And chili. I love chili. I decided to get a bit complicated with it this time and make Lisa Fain’s Seven Chile Chili (by the way, does anyone else get bothered when people interchange chile, chili, and chilly? Chile=pepper, chili=stew, chilly=cold) as featured on the Amateur Gourmet, a blog that I’m increasingly pulling really good recipes from. This chili cooks a long time, but the prep time isn’t so bad, so just find something to do for five hours or so in the meantime. The recipe below is written as I made it – who cares what Texans think because I love beans in my chili – but for the original, see here.

Really Good Chili

adapted from Lisa Fain’s recipe, as posted on Amateur Gourmet

4 dried ancho chiles
2 dried pasilla chiles
2 dried guajillo chiles
4 dried chiles de arbol
4 pieces of bacon
1 pounds chuck roast
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bottle of beer (I used Goose Island Harvest Ale)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 15-oz can black beans
1 28-oz can diced or whole tomatoes (if whole, you will need to break them down a bit after they’re cooked)
1 28-oz can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons masa harina
Grated cheddar and chopped onions, for serving

Start by toasting the dried chiles. Rip the stems off the top and dump out most of the seeds – I left a few in to add some heat to the chili. Put them in a dry pan and toast them over medium heat for a few minutes, until they’re sort of fragrant. Pour water over the chiles, bring to a boil, then turn off heat and let the chiles soak while you prepare the other ingredients.

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Prepare your meat by removing the gristle from the chuck and then cutting it into 1-inch cubes. In a large pot or dutch oven, fry the bacon until pretty crispy. Remove and place on paper towel, leaving the bacon fat in the pot. Add the chuck and cook in the bacon fat until browned on all sides.

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Remove the beef and place on a separate plate. Add more oil if needed, and cook the onions and garlic until translucent. Then add back the beef plus the beer, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and salt. Crumble in the crispy bacon. Stir for a few more minutes to combine all the flavors, then add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beans. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil.

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Meanwhile, drain the chiles (save the water!) and place in a blender with one cup of the chile water. Blend until you have a smooth paste. Add the paste the the chile.

Turn the heat to low once the chile boils and let simmer uncovered for 5 hours. At this point, you can taste for seasoning and add a little more salt and/or pepper if needed. I also added just a touch more cumin and a smidge of granulated garlic.

In a separate bowl, mix 1/4 cup water with the masa harina (you can also use corn flour or corn meal here, like I did). After 5 hours, pour the masa harina mixture in the pot and stir.

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Simmer for another 30 minutes or so. Top with fresh-grated sharp cheddar cheese and onions.

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Creamy White Beans with Kale and Bacon

I don’t have many words tonight – there are many exciting things happening right now, but I’m not at liberty yet to share them on the internet. Soon, hopefully. I also have a ton of really tasty recipes to share – like my first ever loaf of bread! And a new soba noodle recipe. And more Vietnamese tastiness. In the meantime, enjoy this great recipe from the ever-reliable Heidi Swanson.

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I’ve seen many recipes for something similar, but not one has been as good as this. The secret is the creamy and crusty white beans. That, and in my particular case, really good bacon. I bought this great bacon from Whole Paycheck straight from their meat department – no plastic packaging, no nitrates or nitrites, and no preservatives. Just good ‘ol smoked pork belly with some bacon-y spices. I’m convinced that part of the reason these beans turned out so well was that the bacon was of such high quality.

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Creamy White Beans with Kale and Bacon
Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking

1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1-inch strips
1 large shallot, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 bunch lacinato kale, stems cut out and leaves cut into strips
salt and pepper

Saute the bacon over medium-high heat in a skillet, working in batches. When the bacon is nice and crispy, remove it from the pan and set it aside on a plate lined with paper towel, leaving the bacon fat in the pan.

Make sure the beans are very dry, then place them in the bacon fat in a single layer, again working in batches. Let them sit for a minute or two, until the bottom of each bean is golden and crispy, then stir them and flip and let sit for another minute. When both batches are finished, toss in the rest of the beans and bacon.

Add the rest of the ingredients – garlic, shallot, and kale. Season with salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes longer to wilt the kale and cook the shallot and garlic. Remove from heat and serve immediately.