After having finally tried my hands at making beans the real way rather than from a can, I’ve been meaning to do it again because man oh man were those good. I wanted to do something more than just feature beans as a side dish though, so I decided to try to make them the star of one of my favorite meals: chili. Since this wasn’t going to be loaded up with beef like I’m used to though, I thought I needed to ensure there was still a good amount of protein, so in addition to the beans, I also added some quinoa after seeing the two together.
Now I realize this meal could have gone all vegetarian, but I couldn’t help myself–I live in swine country, so I used a bit of pork for seasoning (some chorizo and fatback) to enrich the flavor of the dish. The result was really spectacular–the beans alone would have been delicious, but taking it in the direction of chili made them incredible.
Unlike canned beans, these were tender (but not small and mushy), but hearty and distinct with a thick stew-like quality. I opted for a mix of pinto and black beans, but really, whatever suits your fancy would work. While the beans cooked with the simmering pork, I prepared a simple stewed down mix of peppers, tomatoes, corn, and other chili-centric seasoning (various dried chilis, adobo, etc), and roughly around when both were done, I mixed them together, stirred in a bit of quinoa (for added body), and there you have it–a surprisingly simple chili. I was skeptical whether or not this would taste convincingly like chili, and the flavors were all definitely there to hit the spot. With a bit of cornbread and a good beer, you’ve got yourself a great meal (or if you absolutely need meat as the main item, this would be one hell of a side dish).
- 8 oz (~1.25 cups) dry pinto beans
- 8 oz (~1.25 cups) dry black beans
- ~1 cup cubed fatback
- 1 chorizo
- 10 cups water
- 2 big shallots
- 1 red bell
- 2 poblano peppers
- 2 fresno peppers
- 2 jalapeño peppers
- 2 serrano peppers
- 6 cloves garlic
- a few dried chilis (I used 2 guajillos, 2 anchos, and 2 chipotles in adobo)
- 3 big tomatoes
- 1 ear of corn (cut off of the cob)
- 1.25 tsp salt
- ground cumin
- dried oregano
- ground pepper
- 2 cups chicken/vegetable stock
- 1 cup quinoa
In a large pot, add the beans, fatback (cut into 1/2-1 inch cubes and rinsed of excess salt if yours came heavily cured in the stuff), crumbled chorizo, and water. Remove any floater beans, heat this to a boil, and then drop to a low simmer for 2 hours. Partially cover the pot, gently stir now and then, and periodically add more water as necessary to keep the beans submerged by roughly 1/2 an inch of water. You’ll find this is more important to keep an eye on during the second hour of cooking.
During the final 30-45 minutes of that, you should concern yourself with the rest of the chili. In a large pan, melt down a few more pieces of fatback (or bacon) so you have some grease to cook with. Then, sauté the minced shallots and fresh peppers for roughly 10 minutes. Then add the minced cloves of garlic and cook for a minute further. Grind the dried chilis up in a blender/food processor and toss them in the pot as well.
Coarsely chop the tomatoes and throw them in with the fresh vegetables. Use the liquid to deglaze your pan if necessary. The tomatoes should relax and things should stew a bit. Add the dry spices/seasonings, cut the corn off of the cob and throw that in, too. The goal is for this mixture to look somewhat thick and not be sloshy and super wet, so let this simmer for 10-20 minutes or so.
Once time is up, add this mixture to the beans (which have been doing their thing for 2 hours now). Let this continue to simmer for another 30 minutes so that all the flavors can come together. After that, remove the cover and boil a little harder to get things to be almost as thick as you would like, but leave some liquid there. Once you add the quinoa, it will absorb the rest.
During the final 30 minutes, in a separate saucepan, cook the quinoa. This is incredibly simple: put the stock and quinoa in a pot, boil, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender.
Finally, add the cooked quinoa and diced cilantro to the bean chili, give things a good stir, and sample it. Adjust the seasoning to your liking and grab a bowl. Enjoy!