Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chipotle Chocolate Chili

So Jen had been craving some chili lately and I decided to make a batch on Wed, which happened to be April 20th, Carmen Electra's birthday!  Also, it is supposed to be some sort of stoner holiday or hippie celebration or something...not sure where I heard that.  Anyway, since stoners, bachelors, and assorted college students (was that redundant?) always have a trusty can of chili in the cupboard for that "Crap I can't afford food" emergency meal, I thought it would be fitting to undertake such a meal on said day.  For musical accompaniment, I had a variety of tunes but the most fitting for this adventure would have to be Sublime's "Smoke Two Joints".  I know it's not very punk but they used to be a punk band...and, well, we live in Humboldt.  Reggae, ska, and such are just the norm around here.  Everyone's got a Che Guevara tee or a knitted rasta hat and dreads, so this works for the day and setting.

This chili is actually very easy to pull off and has an amazing complexity to the flavor and heat.  There's a slow, medium burn at the end of a spoonful that stays with you for a bit and warms the body nicely but it's not very hot up front.  It has a bit of chocolate, cinnamon and agave nectar (to mellow out some of the heat) so it's very Mexican inspired and ends up having a very silky texture and a dark, smokey flavor that is a definite plus in my book!  Plus, it's made with a whole bottle of dark beer, which we all know makes everything taste better! - justin

Prep Time:  40 minutes
Cook Time:  2-3 hours
Difficulty:  medium
Serves:  8-10, depending on serving size

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef (20/80)
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 12oz bottle of dark beer (I used Lost Coast Brewery's 8Ball Stout but a porter or Guinness would work nicely as well)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 whole poblano chili
  • 1 whole jalapeno chili
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, pureed
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 2 cans (14oz each) whole peeled tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 tablespoon New Mexico chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Chili de Arbol powder
  • 1 tablespoon Pasilla chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp Light Agave Nectar 
To start the beef you'll need to heat a high-sided skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add  the 3 tbsp of olive oil and when it starts to shimmer add the ground beef.  As the beef starts browning add the salt and pepper and cook until well browned.  Drain off the excess fat and add the cumin, cinnamon, and chocolate to the beef and continue stirring to melt the chocolate chips.  Once they are mostly melted add the bottle of dark beer (making very sure to save a bottle for know, for safety) and cook the liquid down till it's mostly evaporated.  This concentrates all the seasonings and flavors in the meet before it's added to our vegetable base.

Fire roasting the jalapeno and poblano chilies is not necessary but can be done very quickly over a gas burner on the oven.  Use tongs so as not to fire roast your finger tips.  When the skin starts to snap and pop and singe, you are done.  The peppers can then be cut in half, seeded, ribbed, and diced.

In a separate soup pot, add your 2 tbsp of olive oil and set on medium high heat.  When the pan is hot, toss in your onion and sweat it down until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.  While the onion is sweating, puree the whole peeled tomatoes and the chipotles in adobo (found in the Mexican or ethnic aisles of the market) in a blender or food processor.  Add the garlic, poblano, and jalapeno to the onion and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add the powdered chilies, tomato/chipotle puree, and the chicken stock, turn the heat up to high, bring the pot to a boil, and let it boil uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.

After the 20 minutes are up, puree the entire pot.  I used a stick blender but a standing blender or food processor would work.  Make do with what you have.  The main idea is to break down the sauce to a smoother consistency, unless you want a chunky chili, in which case, ignore this whole paragraph.

Add the meat to the veggie pot and stir in.  Cover with a lid and let it simmer on low for an hour.  Add the 2 tbsp Agave nectar (one could alternatively use maple syrup or some light molasses, or dark brown sugar for another twist on the flavor profile) and stir in thoroughly.  At this point, one must taste and season as needed.  If it's too spicy, add a little more sweetness to cut some of the heat.  If it's not spicy enough for ya, toss in another chipotle and simmer for another 10 minutes or so.  Serve with some bread for sopping, a little grated cheese and some sour cream and you have one killer bowl.  This pot of chili will serve 4-6 folks with hearty appetites.

Oh, almost forgot to mention the best part!  This chili gets better with a certain extent.  It tastes great the night that you make it.  Try it the next day for lunch and you'll find that the flavors really marry in the fridge overnight.

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