Monday, February 13, 2012

Hurricane Chili

I made this three bean chili on the eve of Hurricane Irene this past summer. New Yorkers were in a frenzy boarding up and taping windows and sand bagging store fronts. The grocery stores were busier than any day I'd ever seen leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas, with lines wrapping around the store! We were shameless in showing our complete ignorance of what to expect and how to prepare for such a storm. In the end, it was nothing more than heavy rain, wind, and some minor flooding (but it was a great excuse for work to be cancelled and to stay in your pajamas all day watching movies).

Our friend Caitlin came to stay with me and Aaron during the storm, as she lived in a potential flood zone. So the three of us hunkered down and enjoyed a couple of days of guilt-free laziness. Just before the storm was expected to hit, I made this simple hearty three bean chili, henceforth coined "Hurricane chili." With the wind howling and the rain pouring down, together we enjoyed this classic comfort food with slices of freshly baked bread to mop it up.

Adapted from Tom Birchard & Natalie Danford, The Veselka Cookbook

3 tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. 80% lean ground beef
2 medium red or yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1- 15oz. can black beans, including liquid
1- 15oz. can white beans, including liquid
1- 15oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1- 28oz. can crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano brand)
2 tbsp. ground coriander
3 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 to 2 tsp. med-hot chili powder (or to taste)
1 tbsp. smoked salt (or regular salt to taste- see notes below)
1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, add the olive oil and sauté the beef over medium-high heat until fully cooked, stirring occasionally. Add the onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Drain off and discard any excess fat.

Add the beans, their canning liquid, and the drained kidney beans to the pot. Rinse cans out with a bit of water and add the liquid to the pot. Stir in the tomatoes, coriander, cumin, oregano, chili powder, and salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce to low, and gently simmer, covered with the lid slightly ajar, until the chili is very thick, about 1 hour. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt if necessary. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese, chopped red onions, and sour cream if desired. Serve hot.

Yield: About 3 quarts

  • I like to use smoked salt in this recipe because, as expected, it imparts a subtle smokiness to the chili. You can find it at your local spice shop or online. 
  • Feel free to substitute the ground beef for ground turkey.
  • This chili freezes quite well. Defrosted leftovers make an excellent weeknight meal in a flash.

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