Friday, October 9, 2009

Chili Weather

It’s prime season for tailgating (even if it’s in a cozy living room). Football is going strong, the Twins are in the playoffs (sorry, Tiger fans), and the National Hockey League has just begun its season. I don’t really know if hockey fans actually tailgate. I always intend to follow hockey, and, well, never actually do. The point is, the grills are fired up for brats and burgers, but it suddenly got cold outside. A good chunk of autumn has been skipped over, and there’s snow in the forecast. (Seriously!) Diehards will still get out the grill, but why not cozy up with a pot of chili instead?

There seem to be more ways to make chili than there are people to eat it. Cook up a well-seasoned stew of meat and/or veggies and/or beans and you have chili. There must have been a line drawn somewhere, but I’m darned if I know where the heck it is. Beef, chicken, pork, sausage, tomatoes, tomatillos, black beans, red beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, vegetarian, multiple meats, this must be in it, that is taboo, noodles, rice…need I go on…really? And the passion involved! Forget soap operas. Let’s film some chili operas! If you’re serious about chili, only your way is right. I, however, am willing to give peace a chance when it comes to chili, and try them all. Can’t we all be right just this once?

My brother makes a mean chili. It’s based on the chili my mom always made, but he’s cranked it up several notches on the Scoville scale. (We’re more demanding when it comes to spice than my staunchly Midwestern parents.) I could make that chili, I suppose, but being a part of chili culture seems to mean coming up with your own chili recipe. My problem is that I can never decide what style I like best, and would be happy trying one after the other until the end of the chili universe. I did try a great chili recipe with chorizo sausage from Cooking Light magazine many years ago, however, and my modified version seems to have caught on as “my” chili, as far as Harry is concerned. At least it is the one he always requests, and, for him, football season is the best time to eat it. My Chorizo and Chipotle Chili is chunky and meaty and spicy (its also alliterative), and there’s just a bit of chocolate thrown in at the end that gives it that something. You know, that something (aside from continuing the alliteration).

I have used both fresh (Mexican) and cured (Spanish) chorizo in this recipe, and both work well. The fresh chorizo, which I used when I took the photos in this post, is quite soft, and sort of melts into the chili, giving it a unique thickness. Using the Spanish chorizo results in a chunkier chili. The diced cured sausage keeps its firm, chewy texture. I think that if you wanted to make this vegetarian, you could replace the chorizo with another can of beans. Perhaps mashing some of them would help to thicken the chili like the fresh chorizo does. (Hmmmm…I might just have to try that!)

Even if you don’t like to watch sports, consider warming up with a bowl of hot chili this weekend. You can try this recipe, but I’m betting that, as part of honorable chili tradition, you just might have one that’s all your own!

Chorizo and Chipotle Chili Recipe
The sour cream garnish, to me, is reqiuired rather than optional because it somehow brings out the chocolate flavor in the chili. If you cannot find fire-roasted tomatoes, use regular tomatoes.

8 ounces Mexican or Spanish chorizo sausage, diced if using Spanish
1 chipotle chile canned in adobo sauce, minced
2 cups chopped onion
3 bell peppers, preferably of different colors (one can even be a poblano chile), chopped
1 teaspoon salt, divided
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3 (14-ounce) cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes, such as Muir Glen brand. Do not drain.
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 ½ ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
sour cream and crumbled tortilla chips for serving

1. Heat a large pot, such as a Dutch oven, over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook (breaking it up if using Mexican-style) until browned, about 3 minutes.

2. Add the onions, peppers and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often 7 minutes, or until the onions are beginning to brown, stirring often. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano and cinnamon and cook 1 minute more.

3. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, corn and remaining ½ teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the lime juice. Taste the chili and add a little more salt if necessary. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until melted. Serve garnished with sour cream and tortilla chips.

Makes 6-8 servings. I like to serve chili with a side of fresh-baked cornbread.


  1. Sounds absolutely fantastic, and perfect with the side of cornbread! Waking to over 2 inches of snow on the ground and more falling this morning makes it perfect chili weather indeed! (Though the Twins aren't in the playoffs any more).

  2. Yes, since the Twins lost, the chili now has to serve as comfort food :(.

    We didn't get as much snow here, but 'tis gloomy enough. Hooray for chili!