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Home plate: It's chili time

 With the Enterprise’s seventh annual Chili Challenge on the horizon, it’s time to discuss the concoction.

 This is a recipe that has weathered the test of time in our family, unique yet agreeable to all. The meat can be cut into slices to lie in the bottom of each bowl, or shredded and stirred into the soup.

Chili Pork Stew  2 ¼ pounds boneless pork shoulder, at room temperature  1 medium onion, cut into ¼-inch dice  4 medium garlic cloves, smashed, peeled and finely chopped  2 tablespoons crushed dried hot pepper  2 teaspoons ground cumin  2 ¼ teaspoons ground coriander  1 ½ tablespoons chili powder  ¾ teaspoon dried oregano  ¾ teaspoon dried marjoram  ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper  2 cups lightly crushed canned tomatoes  3 cups basic chicken stock or commercial chicken stock  4 cups cooked kidney beans or 2 cans  Kosher salt, to taste  6 cups cooked rice, optional  6 tablespoons sour cream, optional  In a tall, narrow stockpot, brown the pork on all sides over high heat. Remove the pork and set aside. Stir in the onion, garlic spices and herbs. Lower the heat and cook until aromatic, about 2 minutes.  Return the meat to the pot. Stir in the tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 2 hours and 15 minutes. Turn the meat every 30 minutes. Remove the meat for the soup and allow the meat to cool slightly.  Skim as much fat from the top of the soup as possible. Stir in the beans and salt. Slice the meat across the grain into thin slices.  Return the meat to the pot and heat through. If desired, serve over white rice, topped with sour cream. Six or more main course servings n  This is a  recently discovered recipe that will raise eyebrows and ignite taste buds. A substitute for ancho chiles (I order these through Penzeys Spices online) is 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, but you won’t have the ancho smokiness. The beans don’t need presoaking. Carpe bean-um!

Beef Chili with Bourbon, Beer and Black Beans  2 dried ancho chiles (about 1 ounce)  1 cup hot water  2 tablespoons vegetable oil  1 large onion, peeled and chopped  4 jalapeños or other chiles, chopped but not seeded  3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely grated or minced  2 ½ teaspoons ground cumin  2 ½ teaspoons ground coriander  1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes  4 pounds boneless beef shank, cut into cubes (I use chuck)  2/3 cup bourbon whiskey  1 12-ounce bottle Mexican beer, or other lager  2 ½ cups dried black beans  1 quart cold water  2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt  2 tablespoons maple syrup  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put the ancho chiles in a measuring cup and add boiling water to the 1 cup mark.  Heat the oil in a large, heavy based pan, keeping in mind you have many things to go into it,  then add the onion and cook, stirring every now and again to make sure it isn’t burning, for about 5 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add the chopped jalapeños and cook, stirring for another 3 minutes or so, before adding the garlic, followed by the cumin, coriander and red pepper flakes. Stir well.  Add the cubes of beef, followed by the bourbon, and let it bubble up in the hot pan before pouring in the beer.  Add the black beans and  –you may want to wear disposable gloves for this – tear the soaked ancho chiles into pieces (discarding stalks) and drop them into the pan, then pour in the soaking liquid, followed by the quart of water and salt and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, then clamp on the lid and transfer to the oven to cook for 4 hours, by which time the meat will be meltingly tender. This, according to author Nigella Lawson, is better if left to cool and reheated in a day or two. She’s correct. n  Chocolate, coffee, bacon in chili?! Yes, trust me. This complex mix of flavors sends the traditional dish to new heights.

Spicy Beef and Red Bean Chili  ½ pound bacon (8 slices)  4 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes  Salt and freshly ground black pepper  2 tablespoons vegetable oil  1 large white onion, chopped  1-2 jalapeño chiles (to taste) chopped, including seeds  4 large garlic cloves, minced  2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled  ¼ cup chili powder  1 tablespoon ground cumin  ¼  teaspoon cayenne (or more, to taste)  1 14.5-ounce can beef broth  1 cup brewed coffee  1 cup water  1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes in purée  1 ounce good bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped  2 19-ounce can small red beans or kidney beans, rinsed and drained  Accompaniments: Chopped red onion, cilantro sprigs, diced avocado, lime wedges, sour cream and warmed corn chips  Cook bacon in a 6- to 8-quart wide heavy pot over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 12 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain; crumble when cool. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot.  Pat beef dry and season with salt and pepper. Add oil to pot and heat over moderately high heat until hot, but not smoking. Working in 4 to 6 batches, brown beef, without crowding, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate. Add onion and jalapeños to pot, reduce heat to moderate, and cook, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, chili powder, cumin and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Return beef to pot, with any juices accumulated on plate, and add broth, coffee, water and tomatoes, with their purée. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 1 hour.  Partially cover pot and continue to simmer until beef is very tender, 1 ½ to 2 hours more.  Stir in chocolate and beans and cook, stirring, until chocolate is melted and beans are heated through. Ladle chili into bowls and top with crumbled bacon. Serve with accompaniments separately.  The chili can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cool, uncovered, then refrigerate chili and bacon separately.