Snow Day Chili
Chili is one of those foods with a few different "right" ways to make it depending on who you ask. I'm not from Mexico or Texas nor do I have immense expertise in these cuisines, so I make no claim that this is the "right" way to make chili. With all due respect to chili experts and aficionados, I will simply say that this dish tastes delicious and is a lovely, cozy, hearty meal on a snowy day. We can call it "Minnesota-style" chili.
As I was researching the history of chili while waiting for it to cook, I learned that chili has its origins in Aztec cuisine and evolved into northern Mexican and Texan cuisine as well. Some people say true chili is only chilis and meat while others add beans; the inclusion of tomatoes is also often debated. This recipe adds beans, tomatoes, and a whole lot more, including two relatively surprising ingredients my friend clued me in on: coffee and chocolate. They add a depth of richness and bitterness that balances the acidity of the tomatoes.
Here's how to make it:
1) In a large dutch oven, brown ground meat (usually beef, but I used turkey here) and season with a chili powder blend and the sauce from 1 can of chipotles in adobo (reserve the chipotles). I get my hot chili powder from Penzey's Spices.
2) Remove the ground turkey from the pot and drain any excess fat, leaving a bit in the pot. Sweat diced white or yellow onion, 1 red bell pepper, and 1 green bell pepper over medium-low heat and season with salt, MSG, and chili powder. I continue the recipe using the dutch oven, but at this point you can also transfer the mixture to a crock pot.
3) While the vegetables cook, char 3 jalapeños and 1-2 habaneros directly on a gas burner. (If you don't have a gas stove, you can char them in a really hot cast iron skillet.) Once they are charred, wrap them in foil to steam.
4) Chop the chipotles. Remove the other peppers from the foil and, with gloves on, remove the charred skin and finely chop them, removing excessive seeds.
5) Add the chipotles, jalapeños, and habaneros to the pot. Add 1 can of crushed tomatoes with green chilis, 1 can of corn (drained), and 2 cans of your favorite beans (also drained). I used red kidney beans and pinto beans.
6) Add .5 oz finely ground coffee and 1 square of dark chocolate (about 60-80% cacao).
7) Add one pint of crushed tomatoes and 32 oz stock or broth. Mix everything up, take a taste, and add salt and/or a pinch of sugar if needed. Keep in mind that the heat from the chilis will mellow out as it cooks, so if it doesn't taste spicy enough, now's the time to add more chili powder.
8) Simmer on low heat, covered, for a few hours. The longer you cook it, the more flavor will develop. Check on it periodically to ensure it isn't too hot and sticking to the bottom of the pot. Taste it a few times during the process and adjust the seasoning as needed.
9) Garnish with avocado, cilantro, lime, sour cream, and cheese.