Black Bean Chili with Adobo de Ancho
My faith in Rick Bayless remains devout. A U.S. Southerner who seems to be single-handedly championing the cause of Mexican-Cuisine-As-World- Class-Fare, the sub-text of his cookbooks and cooking shows is that you should RESPECT Mexican food. When he calls for oregano in a recipe, he's sure to specify, "preferably Mexican" in opposition to just about all other cookbooks where oregano is "preferably Greek". Lard, for Bayless is "rich-tasting", which by the way it is if you render it yourself, despite what everybody else says. I can't help but think that to the degree that people in the U.S. grow in respect for Mexican cuisine (especially as equal in stature to Italian and French) they will grow in respect for Mexican people. When I taught Spanish in Mid-West universities, respect for Spanish-speaking people was a sub-text of what I taught too. So Rick Bayless embodies two of my great loves, Food and Latin America.
Which is why I whole-heartedly forgive him for the disaster that was last night's chili.
It came from page 49 of "Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen" and it looked so promising, so relatively easy. Based on the ancho chile paste that I've made countless times it seemed like an opportunity to break another of my many childhood food taboos. Chili was always one of those things I was too picky for as a child. My mom never made it and it seemed like something gross that would come out of a can and could hide any number of icky things in it's deep, ruddy thickness I wouldn't have known I'd eaten until it was too late. So I was hoping, led by Bayless-in-whom-I-trust, to broaden my culinary horizons to the greatness of chili.
Well, it ain't happened yet. My virgin chili experience was exhaustingly heavy to eat; I felt like I had to catch my breath between bites. And believe it or not, the mashed potatoes I ate it with LIGHTENED the texture. So I'm wondering, what went wrong?
Here's what I did:
The night before I made the Essential Ancho Seasoning Paste:
8 lg garlic cloves, unpeeled
8 medium ancho chiles, stemmed & seeded
1 1/2 tsp oregano, preferably Mexican
1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2/3 cup beef or chicken broth (I had chicken)
1 tsp salt
I dry-toasted the anchos on my cast iron skillet (10 seconds max. per side) while I left the garlic cloves to brown at the edges of the pan. I soaked the toasted chiles in hot tap water for 30 minutes. I put the drained chiles, roasted, peeled garlic and all other ingredients in a food processor and whizzed until I got a thick, uniform paste. I scraped this paste through a mesh sieve and left the pristine seasoning paste in the fridge for the next day. I set my black beans a soakin' on the kitchen counter. All this was as instructed.
2 lbs ground beef/pork
1 lg onion, minced
bacon drippings/lard (rich-tasting, of course)
ancho seasoning paste
water + chicken broth
salt to taste
sugar ("a touch")
1 cup of tomato puree
2 cups of cooked black beans
I browned the meat in the bacon drippings in a big dutch oven over medium. I removed it, and added the onion. Cooked that over medium heat until brown and added the meat back. I poured the ancho seasoning paste in and allowed it to sear and get a little darker as suggested. I added water and chicken broth (ok, so it was supposed to be BEEF broth, but I didn't have any. Could that have made such a difference?) until everything was "floating freely" as explained. I added the tomato and set the pot over low heat and let it simmer for 3 hours rather than the suggested 1 hour. Music to simmer chili by: "Rusholme Ruffians" by The Smiths on the album Meat is Murder. (Look the lyrics are in English and in Italian for all you Italophiles out there! The lyric "my faith in love is still devout", translated into Italian reads, "La mia fede nell'amore è ancora intatta". And here's the actual music. I added the beans somewhere in there. Gabriel gets home pretty late, so I had the time and I figured it couldn't hurt... Was I wrong? Bayless said to stop cooking when "it looks like chili". Let me reiterate, I'm a chili novice. I stopped when Gabriel got home and the chili looked rich and delicious. I added the salt and the sugar (suggested to temper the pungency of the chile paste). And we ate the heaviest meal we've had in months, including the Swiss cheese fondue. So my question is: when does chile "look like chile"? How soupy is it supposed to be. Should you be able to float a dollop of mashed potatoes on top of it? Should I add a lot more chicken stock to the left-overs or would that be pouring in good food after bad? Any chile experts out there with some advice?