There's almost no way to make chili photograph well. Obviously, alliterative foods are the best foods. Such is the case with a recent creation: my Chocolate-Chipotle Chili!
Sometimes, the dishes I feature here at Hungry Sam seem to constitute a survey of "how to make awesome reasonably healthy food when you're broke." ("On a budget" is such a cliche. Besides, aren't most people, rich or poor, "on a budget" of some sort? Even a badly thought-out, credit-heavy budget?)
Chili is the perfect, ultimate, ideal "awesome reasonably healthy food for when you're broke." (So many adjectives!)
Now, I know you're already aware of my chili fixation (See my posts/recipes for Pumpkin Turkey Chili and Epic Turkey Bean Chili), but this is really something special. That's because this time, I thought to myself, "how can I make chili even more hardcore and decadent while adding more ANTIOXIDANTS!?!?" Because these are things I think.
The answer sprang to mind at once: I should use chocolate! (Recipe after the jump.)
|TASTY. And yeah, that IS cocoa dusting on the sour cream garnish -- good eye, good eye.|
- It's delicious: Chili is delicious.
- It's customizable: Chili can be anything you want it to be. In fact, an interesting discussion might be had as to what, exactly, chili "is" (if it is in fact, a meaningful descriptor at all). Hungry Sam does not shrink from a difficult food-defining challenge, as we know. Another time, perhaps.
- It's super cheap: Even meat chilis can be amazing and jam-packed with a range of interesting components for less than 10 dollars a GALLON. You know, if you measure your chili in gallons, as I tend to. (I am HUNGRY Sam.)
- It's healthy: Well, if you want it to be.
- It's easy: Chili is hard to screw up AND many of the ingredients are shelf-stable items you can keep on hand.
- It keeps/freezes wicked well. Perfect make-ahead dish, folks.
So now that I've sold you, let's talk about this particular adventure. I'd already decided on chocolate before I ever put pen to grocery list paper, so the overarching theme was enshrined from the start. I went beef this time, opting for a mixture of 93% lean and 85% lean (balancing tender fattiness and healthfulness), but turkey's always an option, as is bison or chicken, etc. This recipe would actually do fine as a vegetarian entree, if you want to take that route. Chipotles were a natural choice for the critical, spicy kick -- their smokiness complements the chocolate well. I stayed traditional with the veggies and legumes, but as always, went for a nice palette of colors.
In sum, the dish ended up with level after level of flavor; it was smoky and dark and just a little sweet, with a smooth, silky texture. This recipe is definitely a keeper.
Chocolate-Chipotle Beef Chili
2 pounds ground beef. Use whatever fat content you like, and substitute equal amounts of any other ground meat if you so desire. In choosing between the options, I like to look for meat from animals certified to be free of any artificial growth hormones -- but hey, that's me.
2 medium onions, diced medium.
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed pepper strips OR 2 whole bell peppers, any color. Frozen is what I happened to have; Archer Farms sells frozen pre-grilled peppers which add additional smoky awesomeness.
2 tablespoons minced garlic (equivalent of two large cloves).
2 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped, plus 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce OR 2 teaspoons of ground chipotle pepper. Either is fine; feel free to adjust to suit your tastes. (Chipotle peppers in adobo come in a smallish can, FYI, and can be found at most supermarkets in the international foods aisle.)
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes.
2 cups chicken stock. I used leftover homemade, but use what you have!
3 14.5-ounce cans of beans, drained and rinsed. Any assortment of beans will do, but I used light red kidney, black, and great northern varieties.
2 tablespoons of flour.
1/2 cup of brown sugar.
Salt and pepper.
Optional toppings: sour cream, mozzarella cheese, more cocoa powder.
Directions: Working in a large (5 quart-plus) dutch oven or stock pot, heat about two tablespoons of olive oil over medium to medium high heat. Toss in the meat and onions, season with salt and pepper (a solid 1/2 teaspoon of each), and cook, stirring, until meat is browned through (about 8 minutes). Add bell pepper, garlic, half the cocoa, and the chipotle (ground or from the can); cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Everything should start getting very fragrant at this point, that means it's time to add your chicken stock and tomatoes (juice from the can included). Bring to a low boil (bubbling, but not violently so), then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until somewhat reduced (about 30 minutes). Add beans, the rest of the cocoa, the brown sugar, and two tablespoons of flour, stirring well, and simmer another 30 minutes or more uncovered.
|I'm getting hungry...|
At this point, you can't really simmer the dish too long. Just make sure it never rises to a real boil and that you don't lose TOO much liquid. If you like a thicker chili, or if you need to serve before you've hit your desired consistency, feel free to add a little more flour.
Serve topped with whatever you'd like -- I recommend the sour cream and mozzarella cheese for consistency and creaminess, and a dash of cocoa powder for show.
Some final thoughts: I love this dish, and it only gets better in the refrigerator as the flavors mellow and mingle. I'm totally copying this inventive, slap-dash effort down into my recipe box. One idea for next time -- fry just a little bacon in the bottom of the pan to start instead of using olive oil. This might further enhance the smokiness and depth of flavor.