Saturday, October 20, 2012

Triple Pork Chili Colorado

A fast and flavorful red-sauced pork chili with beans.

Fall weather finally kicked in with windy gusts of rain and cool temperatures, but after 80 days of record-breaking dry, warm sunshine I'm not complaining. After all, this is the Pacific Northwest, and cooler weather just signals the beginning of slow cooking season, a time for soups, chilis and stews. Mmmmm, mmmmm good... except when you are in a rush and haven't planned ahead. Like yesterday. 

With a hungry husband and my own grumbling stomach for encouragement, I put together a new chili recipe for our late lunch. As he finished his second bowl of chili, RL asked, "Did you write down the recipe? I'll want this one again." 

Write down the recipe? while I'm slicing and dicing and stirring and tasting? No way! but it was easy to scan the mess on the countertops and stove to remind me of the ingredients and jog my memory as to the the steps involved. Chili recipes are only guides, a basic formula to adjust and embellish a bit differently each time I cook. Surprisingly small changes can make a noticeable difference in flavor; even resting overnight in the fridge can mellow out a batch of assertive seasonings. Julia Child shared a few similar thoughts in her book From Julia Child's Kitchen
...few cooks, once they have mastered a recipe, want to do it exactly the same way twice--that's a pedestrian and boring way to cook....the main theme of the recipe is in your memory bank, and you can begin to have fun with variations of your own.Now you are really cooking.
This quick chili is a bit non-traditional. My usual pork chili features tomatillos, not tomatoes... verde not colorado. In our local TexMex restaurants, chili colorado is all about beef, not pork. Chili beans are typically a side dish, an accompaniment and not cooked with the meat in the chili pot. No matter, we're not strict chili traditionalists, it's all about flavor. The ingredient list appears lengthy, but this is not a complicated chile. It's just 3 kinds of pork, some onion, seasonings, tomatoes and beans simmered in a broth. It is simple and quick to prepare, but oh! so tasty... and that's not just due to major hunger pangs before lunch.

Triple Pork Chili Colorado
Serves 2-4

1/2 pound Mexican chorizo
2 strips bacon, chopped
1 very thick pork chop, chopped into small chunks
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 poblano chile, diced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cilantro
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of sugar 
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 can lo-salt diced, peeled tomatoes
2 cans lo-salt chicken stock
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can red beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon masa harina or cornmeal
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 bunch cilantro, rough chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar, cotija or jack cheese
sour cream (optional)
  1. In a cast iron skillet or heavy-bottomed pot, saute the chorizo over medium-high heat until the fat is rendered but not until crispy. Remove and set aside. Leave the fat in the pan for its spicy flavor (or drain it off if you are a total chili wimp).
  2. In the same skillet, cook the bacon and pork chunks until lightly browned on all sides. Remove and set aside with the chorizo. Leave the fat in the pan, you’ll need it for the onions and spices.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, poblano, oregano, cumin, cilantro, cinnamon, sugar and black pepper to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent.
  4. Return the meat to the skillet and add the tomatoes, chicken stock and beans. Bring to a boil; lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 45-60 minutes. Stir it occasionally and add water if needed (it might be necessary if the simmer is too vigorous).
  5. Taste and adjust salt, pepper and seasonings as needed. (I added several dashes of chipotle Tabasco to pop the heat level a bit.)
  6. If the liquid needs thickening, dissolve 1 tablespoon masa harina in a bit of water and slowly stir the mix into the chili.
  7. Add the lime and chopped fresh cilantro and cook an additional few minutes. Serve topped with a handful of shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Pass a basket of warm corn tortillas or crispy tortilla chips to accompany.
  • Add more broth and a cup of frozen Mexicorn and this would be a hearty soup.
  • Leftovers make good taco filling, nacho topping, huevos rancheros base or the best part of a chili dog combo. 

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