Dark Chocolate and Chipotle Chili
Oh, dear. I apologize for all that alliteration. Truly, I do. There’s no excuse for it, except that dark chocolate and chipotles really are two of the ingredients in this black bean chili. And they really do make it taste unusually delicious. I wanted to you to know that from the outset.
I am going to go ahead and say that I don’t like chili a lot of the time. It can be…insipid. Bland. And chili should be anything but insipid. Many chilis I’ve tasted have suffered from undercooked tomatoes, a dearth of spices, an excess of flavorless vegetables, and a flat overall flavor profile.
If you have been as disappointed as I, this chili will make up for it. And if you think you don’t like chili, give this one a go. You might just end up loving it. Black beans and tomatoes cooked with strong base of browned onions and three kinds of peppers, plenty of toasted cumin and ground chile, hearty black beans, unsweetened chocolate that provides an earthy, complex undertone, simmered with smoky chipotles long enough for all of the flavors to deepen and seamlessly meld. Don’t rush this chili. I find that it undergoes a sort of phase shift at about forty-five minutes of simmering – suddenly, when you taste it, everything’s come together, and it’s just better. Give it the time to get there.
I strongly encourage you to use whole canned tomatoes for this recipe. Diced tomatoes are processed with a mineral that helps them maintain their shape and not fall apart, exactly what you don’t want in this recipe. It only takes a minute to dice them up yourself and the rewards will be worth it.
My favorite way to eat this chili is topped with some grated extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, with cornbread alongside. It would also be excellent topped with sour cream or plain yogurt and chopped scallions, diced avocado or guacamole, or used as a dip for chips.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, minced (remove seeds for a less spicy chili)
1 habanero, minced (optional; omit for a less spicy chili)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chile powder (the kind that’s just ground chiles)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes in juice, diced
3 cups cooked black beans
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
3 dried chipotles
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. In a stockpot or large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent and beginning to brown.
2. Add bell pepper, jalapeno, and habanero, and stir to mix. Continue to sauté until the onions are a deep brown and the peppers have begun to brown as well.
3. Add garlic to pot and sauté for about 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and light golden.
4. Add chile powder and cumin. Stir to mix. Let spices toast for about a minute.
5. Add the tomatoes and their juice, black beans, chocolate, and dried chipotles. Stir the mixture together, scraping your wooden spoon against the bottom of the pot to mix in all the yummy browned bits that have stuck to it. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat to low. Allow the chili to simmer for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour, stirring occasionally, until it has darkened and melded together. Add salt and pepper to taste, fish out the chipotles, and serve with your favorite accompaniments.