Mississippi is finally getting a taste of the cold weather that’s sweeping across the country, and though some transplanted Northerners here may think that it’s long overdue, I just want to hibernate. Maybe I’m getting old, but I have no desire to go outside once the weather is below freezing.
Yes, I know that in other places people are dealing with snow and ice and we’re lucky here that we have neither. I can certainly sympathize with those of you who are dealing with severe weather, but that’s why I live in Mississippi. Mild winters are our reward for putting up with humid summers and mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds!
I’m not the only one around here who doesn’t want to go outside when the temperature drops. Though the furry members of the family cope by burrowing under pillows or settling into comforters, I prefer to keep warm by cooking—and eating—hearty stews and soups. Mostly I’ve been cooking up old favorites that have already been featured here: Easy Bean and Vegetable Soup is my go-to recipe when I’m cold and in a hurry, and Beefless Stew is my family’s definition of comfort food. But a couple of nights ago I was craving chili—not pinto bean soup, as some chili recipes turn out, but thick, rich chili.
The recipe I came up with doesn’t differ much from most vegetarian chili recipes, except for the use of dried New Mexico chiles instead of chili powder. I was able to find dried chiles in my local supermarket, next to the refried beans and tortillas. Dried New Mexico chiles can vary in degree of heat, but the Melissa’s brand that I used were fairly mild; if you like your chili spicy, you’ll need to add red pepper to increase the heat in this mild, kid-friendly version.
Thick and Hearty Pinto Bean Chili
- 3 large dried New Mexico chiles (see note above)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 medium onion , chopped
- 4 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 bell pepper , chopped
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce (no salt added)
- 3 cups cooked pinto beans (or 2 cans, rinsed and drained)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- cayenne or other red pepper , to taste
Remove and discard the stems from the chiles. Place them in a small saucepan and pour the water over them. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Put the chiles and the water into a blender and puree until well-blended. Pour into a strainer, pressing lightly on the pulp to get out all the flavor. Throw the pulp away and reserve the liquid.
In a large non-stick pot, sauté the onion in a little water (1 tablespoon to start) until it’s beginning to brown. Add the garlic, bell pepper, and a little more water and sauté for 3 more minutes. Add the reserved chile sauce, tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, cumin, oregano, black pepper, and paprika and bring to a simmer.
In a small bowl, mix the cocoa powder with 1/4 cup hot water until it is well blended. Add it to the chili. Taste for seasonings and add salt and red pepper to taste. If it seems bitter add sugar. Cook on low for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
Nutritional information includes all optional ingredients.