I know, I know. Only one week after declaring a braise-cation, I’m right back at it. Technically, though, this isn’t a braise, or even a chili in the traditional sense. It’s more of a pork and bean stew, red and white (not brown) in color, and so flavorful you won’t mind that I went back on my word.
I first made chorizo chili years ago, when I was a personal chef in New York. I had a client who shared my love for encased meats – chorizo, Italian sausage, andouille, kielbasa (and even the occasional hot dog) – so when she asked me to come up with a recipe for chorizo chili, I jumped right on it.
In the great gourmet empire of any-food-you-can-imagine-at-your-fingertips, I found a brand of tasty chorizo right down the block at my local supermarket. I chopped it up and added it to my standard beef and three bean chili and Voilá! A decent chili that exploded with intense smoky flavor every time you got a bite with sausage but, truthfully, fell a little flat when you didn’t.
After we moved to Portsmouth, I couldn’t find the same brand. I tried using fresh chorizo from a local Maine farm, but WHOA! STOP! It was like someone had puffed a clove cigarette and blown the smoke straight into the pot. I tried a few other brands but nothing tasted quite right. The smoke was often just plain wrong, and always so intense that it drowned out every other flavor. I wasn’t going to write a recipe using something as fickle as pre-packaged chorizo. Trust me. You needn’t experience Clove-a-palooza.
Then I realized I HAVE a recipe for homemade chorizo I’ve been making for years – using ground pork and everyday spices – adapted from these delicious tacos. It tastes exactly as I imagine chorizo (the fresh, Mexican variety) should taste, with ground pork and smoked paprika, garlic, oregano, and the final, essential touch, cider vinegar, which gives the meat that characteristic tang and is the perfect counterpoint to the smoke and spice.
I used that pork as a base and added complimentary flavors from there; a drizzle of beer, a spritz of lime juice, some chiles in adobo, tomatoes, cilantro, and three different kinds of white beans. The result? A delicate stew with layers of flavor that reveal themselves one by one, with just the right amount of kick, and balance that brings you back for seconds. It’s more like a gentle unfolding of flavors than a knock-out punch; a dinner-party pork stew rather than a Superbowl standby.
I like it best served with sliced avocado, a few cilantro leaves, some wedges of lime and a little dollop of sour cream. As you might expect, the final kick is subtle, so pass additional hot sauce at the table.
- 1 ½ pounds ground pork
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 1 ½ tablespoon minced garlic (3 large or 5 small cloves)
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 yellow or red onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 12-ounce bottle of beer (not dark beer – a pilsner like Corona works well)
- 28-ounce can tomato puree
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can great northern beans, rinsed and drained,
- 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- In a medium bowl, knead the first nine ingredients together with your hands until combined and set aside.
- Set a 5 to 6-quart pot or Dutch oven on the stove over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onion, and pepper and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the pork mixture and stir, cooking until it is no longer pink and starts to brown, about five to seven minutes.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high, add the beer and simmer for three minutes until the strong scent of alcohol wears off, scraping down the sides and bottom of the pan. Add the tomato puree, water, chiles in adobo, and lime juice and bring up to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the beans and simmer, uncovered, for fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the chopped cilantro and serve.
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