Thursday Dinner: Pinto Bean and Chorizo Chili

I fall in the “with beans” camp when it comes to chili. This is a divisive debate among chili eaters, on par with the pizza (New York vs. Chicago) and barbecue (Texas vs. Carolina vs. Memphis vs. Kansas City/St. Louis) differences that split our nation and threaten to tear us from asunder.

Chili differences are subtle, but breakdown to beans or no beans. In some parts of the country, adding beans to a Texas bowl of red or Cincinnati bowl of vomit, could be punishable by fine or 180 days in jail. Beans are not a regional preference per se, but an inexpensive way to bulk up the chili and make it more filling. They also add a natural, non-grain starch to your soup, stew or chili. After letting the beans cook down, you will notice that there is an added thickness to the liquid. Those would be the beans working their magic.

When I make traditional chili, it is based on the recipe by Drew Magary, malcontent and writer for Deadspin. But, I’m also a big believer in non-traditional chilis. Sometimes they’re white. Sometimes they’re green. And sometimes they use sausage.

A few weeks ago, I made a batch of chorizo and it starred in this adaptation of a recipe from the genius J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats.

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WHAT WORKED: There are occasions when I wish we had a quality Mexican markets in Syracuse. This was one of those times. We have a number of Asian groceries, but none that specialize in Latin American foods. My homemade chorizo is pretty good, but I would rather have something fresh and made with a little expertise.

WHAT DIDN’T: This is pretty tight. Easy to follow and not much chance to screw things up.

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy.

BEST FOR: A mid-week simple dinner or when you want chili but don’t have an entire day to let it cook down.

SERVE WITH: Tortilla chips and a lager or ale. Actually, next time I might add in a bottle of Tecate instead of the chicken stock.

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Chorizo and Pinto Bean Chili
Adapted from the original by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats

  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs. fresh raw Mexican chorizo without casings
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 3 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 14 oz. canned diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 tsp. Asian fish sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 15 oz. cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz. low-sodium chicken stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

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Set a Dutch oven over high heat. Add oil and cook until it shimmers. Add the chorizo, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Cook 5 minutes until browned but not crispy. Stir in the onion and garlic, cooking in the sausage grease, until soft and the garlic becomes fragrant. Sprinkle in the oregano, chili powder, and cumin. Stir vigorously to combine.

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Add the tomatoes, beans, fish sauce, bay leaf, and stock. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer partially covered for 25 to 30 minutes.

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Adjust flavors with salt and pepper, remove the bay leaf and serve hot with tortilla chips, diced avocado, chopped tomatoes, chopped cilantro, sliced scallions, sour cream, and shredded cheddar or crumbled cotija cheese on the side.

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