October brings fall, football and crisp weather, which, in my book, invites a large pot of chili to slowly simmer on the stove, filling the kitchen with the heady scent of browned meat, tomato and spice on a blustery afternoon.
Now, there are many versions of chili, and I am hardly a purist. Generally speaking, a good chili includes meat, beans, chili peppers, onions and tomatoes, and, in my opinion, it should be thick and packed with goodies. From there, the variations and tweaks are up to you. Not a meat eater? No problem — just double up on the beans. Want more substance? Add a hearty grain to thicken. Not too keen on heat? Tinker with the chilies, opting for more sweet than hot.
This is a chili template I use when I crave a spicy, hefty stew. The common denominator is the plum tomato stock amplified with a generous amount of Southwestern spice and chili heat and fortified with stout or beer. I’ll change the meat and occasionally add a grain such as barley for extra oomph. The beef chuck can be switched to pork, turkey or chicken — or entirely omitted for a vegetarian version with an extra helping of beans. In this recipe, I added barley for texture and extra nutrients. Other grains such as farro or wheat berries can be substituted as well.
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Beef and Guinness Chili With Black Beans and Barley
Active time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, plus 1 teaspoon salt during cooking
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large poblano pepper, seeded and diced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 chilies in adobo, finely chopped with juices
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
8 ounces stout beer, such as Guinness
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup pre-cooked black beans, or 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pre-cooked barley (optional)
Garnishes: Sliced jalapeno pepper, cilantro leaves, crumbled cotija cheese, chopped red onion
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Add to the pot in batches and brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to the same pot. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until softened without coloring, about 3 minutes. Add the peppers and saute until brightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chilies, the chili powder, cumin and paprika and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Return the beef to the pot and add the tomatoes, stout, tomato paste, bay leaves, brown sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Partially cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and add more sugar or salt if desired. Stir in the black beans and barley and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes.
Ladle the chili into serving bowls. Serve with the garnishes for sprinkling.