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Chili, yo!

(post, kari hardin)

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Dude. I made chili.
Like, a lot of chili.
Like, so much chili I was nearly incapable of properly stirring it.
So much so, that I filled an entire crock-pot full to unload on some friends and still had a nearly unzippable gallon sized zip-lock bag left in my fridge.

I've been planning a chili day for weeks. I got my beans, the usual dried variety blend from the bulk section: kidneys, blacks, pintos (this is where the quantity mishap began. I stumbled into my kitchen half asleep after realizing I'd forgotten to soak my beans, so in my stooper I poured the entire bag of beans into the water, enough intended for two large pots of soup, oops). I pulled my meat to thaw, a lonely pork loin that's been in my freezer since Thanksgiving. I was ready.

When I woke up in the morning my soaking beans had, what seemed like, quadrupled in size. This isn't the first time I've done this. I recently found my self fishing spoon-fulls of half cooked peas out of a pot of split pea soup once I noticed I would need a pot twice the volume once they were rehydrated. How much do beans/peas grow, anyways? When you look at it, it seems like they would just barely double in size after cooked. Like if you look at a dried black bean and compare it to a cooked one. Doesn't it? I have always known I have a really poor perception of size and distance, like when I assume something is an inch, it's really more like two. Clearly my assumption that they only double in size has steered me wrong, I should probably read up on that one.

So anyways, back to the chili. I did something new this time. I've always been a ground beef kinda girl when it comes to chili. It's not necessarily that I prefer it, it's just the meat that comes to mind when I think of making chili. It probably has something to do with the pantry full of Stagg canned crap when I was growing up (it was delicious at the time, thank you mom). This time, as mentioned, I used pork loin. As opposed to braising, I did a browning/boiling combo that seemed to work nicely. The meat got fall apart tender but still held most it's shape. Perfection! It created a really flavorful base to build the rest of the chili on.

This turned out was awesome! Smokey and robust, lots of garlic and pepper flavor from the pablanos, but still kid proof. Pablanos (larger wide, dark green) are the peppers typically seen in chili rellenos, nice bright flavor, very mild heat. Combining these with anaheims (long narrow, light green) will give you a well rounded pepper flavor and you can adjust the heat by adding smaller amounts of a spicier variety like jalapenos or serranos. Also, if you have any whole dried chilies like anchos or pasillas, toast them on a hot dry pan and add to the boiling stock/pork. This will add a much deeper, fresher flavor than dried chili powder. For heat, I used a bit of ancho paste I had lying around from an attempt at homemade hot sauce that never quite panned out.

This is the part now where I'm supposed to give you the recipe... But I failed to pay attention to quantities of anything, hence the overabundance of beans, so I'm just gonna give you a general ingredient list and let you play around.

Chili con Pork
1-2lb pork loin, cut into 1 in. cubes
4 c dried bean mix, or so, you can always use extra beans for something else
one pablano pepper, small dice
one anaheim pepper, small dice
one large yellow onion, small dice
one bunch fresh cilantro, chopped, reserve half for garnish
a few scallions, chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
ground cumin
chili powder
dried oregano
dried thyme
2-3 cans diced tomatoes with juice, fire roasted ones are nice for this
4 c vegetable stock
3-4 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

So there's two basic parts to the recipe: Boiling the beans, boiling the meat. Soak your beans overnight, and boil til tender, about an hour or so. You can choose to use canned beans to make it easier, but boiling your own allows you to add aromatics like bay leaf, pepper flakes and garlic to add an extra layer of flavor. Remember: never salt beans until they are tender, the salt will lengthen the cooking time and toughen the bean. Drain beans and set aside.
Heat olive oil in pot you plan on making chili in. Slowly add pork cubes allowing them to brown, when meat has good color, toss in the peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro, spices and salt and pepper. Let that caramelize for a bit to add some color and then cover it with vegetable stock and let it simmer, with tight fitting lid. Test meat after an hour. It should hold it's shape but pull apart easily with a fork. At this point, just add tomatoes, beans, any water if needed and salt and pepper to your liking. Adjust seasoning and spice, and let it simmer and low heat for awhile to incorporate flavors.
Meanwhile, grab your favorite hot sauce, some chips or cornbread. And remember to share, cause if your the only one who ate chili, an hour later everyone will know where that smell came from... Seriously, lethal.