One of my most-coveted items on our registry was my Caribbean Blue, oval Le Creuset Dutch oven. However, by virtue of the fact that we got married in mid-May and came back from our honeymoon when it was pushing June (in DC, no less), I haven’t exactly gotten as much use out of it yet as I would have hoped. I have tons of ideas for things to do with it in the fall and winter – short ribs, bolognese sauce, various stews – but for now, in the 90 degree heat, I had to settle for breaking it in on a good-in-all-seasons chili. At least, that’s my opinion because I happen to love chili and would eat it in any weather. I adapted this recipe from a feature that Williams-Sonoma did on a chili cook-off. This was their vegetarian chili recipe, and the main change I made was to add bacon because, well…it’s bacon. However, I am sure it would be almost as good vegetarian-style. I also had some leftover saffron rice in the fridge (that’s the yellow in the photo above), so I used that as an extra mix-in, which was quite tasty. This makes a LOT (it almost didn’t fit in that pretty little Dutch oven), but what makes a better leftover than chili?
Finally, I know this picture isn’t great, but I have to include the shot of my new blue friend:
Adapted from: Williams-Sonoma
1 lb. (or 2 cups) dried black beans
½ lb. thick-cut bacon, chopped into small strips
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ yellow onions, diced
2 fresh jalapeño chili peppers, seeded and minced
5 large garlic cloves, minced
3 ½ Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 cans (28 oz. each) crushed tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup coarsely grated Monterey jack cheese
Any other toppings you like
(Next time, I would also add a tsp. or two of sugar to balance out the flavors a little more with all that chili powder)
1. Pick over the beans and discard any damaged beans and stones. Rinse the beans. Place in a bowl and add water to cover generously. Let stand for about 3 hours. Drain the beans and set aside.
2. In a large, heavy saucepan (or your new Dutch oven J) over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bacon and cook until nearly crisp. Turn heat down to medium and add onions, garlic, and peppers and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne and oregano and sauté, stirring, for 2 minutes more. Add the beans, tomatoes and water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are very tender and have begun to fall apart, about 3 ½ hours. Add water if the beans begin to dry out but are not yet cooked.
4. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls, sprinkle with the cheese and serve immediately.