Fall’s officially here. Time to transition to some warm, hearty comfort food. I finally gave in to my nagging desire to buy Jack Bishop’s A Year in A Vegetarian Kitchen (see sidebar for Amazon link). It arrived on Saturday and I spent the morning flipping through it and drooling over what looks like some very nice recipes. It’s organized by season which is always helpful in coordinating with fresh ingredient availability and state of mind. What caught my eye on this cold weekend was the hearty red been chili with ancho chiles and coffee. Coffee? Sounded interesting. His foreword touts the quick / easy nature of his recipes (he claims he cooks most nights and has dinner on the table in an hour or less — including cleaning the kitchen first). I must have chosen the one recipe that takes closer to 4 hours to make. I guess if you count the number of days you can eat the leftovers you’d get to an hour average! Apart from the time, it was easy – and it turned out to be delicious. It had a pleasant spiciness due to the chiles and was rich and creamy due to the beans. I added a pound of white meat ground turkey, to make it extra hearty, which I sautéed with a little salt and pepper and a pinch of cumin (so much for vegetarian!). He suggests serving with either rice or corn bread (there’s a very nice corn bread recipe in the book which I plan to try too).
Red Bean Chili with Ancho Chiles and Coffee
2 1/2 quarts water
1 pound dried dark red kidney beans, rinsed and picked over to remove any stones
2 bay leaves
4 dried ancho, quajillo, and / or pasilla chiles
1 1/2 cups boiling water
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 cup brewed coffee
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Hot sauce, such as Tabasco (optional)
Place the water, beans, and bay leaves in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and continue to simmer until the beans are beginning to soften slightly but are not yet completely tender, about 45 minutes. Discard the bay leaves, cover the saucepan, and set the beans aside in the cooking liquid.
Snap off the stems of the chiles and discard. Shake out as many seeds as possible and discard. Place the chiles in a medium bowl and cover them with the boiling water. Soak until the chiles are soft about 15 minutes. Lift the chiles from the water and transfer them to a blender, reserving with water. Pour the water through a strainer into a measuring cup to catch the remaining seeds. Discard the seeds. Puree the chiles, adding as much of the chile soaking liquid as necessary to make a thick but smooth puree (You will probably need about ¼ cup soaking liquid; reserve the rest). This step can be done as you are cooking the beans to save time.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until golden and soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cumin and cook until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Scrape the chile puree from the blender jar into the pot and cook until very fragrant, about 3 minutes.
Add the remaining chile soaking liquid, coffee, tomatoes, and beans and their cooking liquid to the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and the chili is thick, 1 to 1 ½ hours. (The time will very depending on the freshness of the beans and how quickly the liquid cooks off. You can’t really overcook chili. If your beans aren’t as creamy as you would like but the pot is getting dry, just add some water and keep cooking.) Stir in the cilantro and add salt to taste and hot sauce if using. Serve or refrigerate in an airtight container for several days.
Variation: Add 1 lb lean ground turkey (browned with salt and pepper and a pinch of cumin and add to the chili ~30 minutes before finished)