Monday, December 06, 2004

Black Bean Chili

from The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison

2 cups black beans, soaked overnight (no need if you use a pressure cooker)
2 bay leaf
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
4 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I use 1 teaspoon because I like it hot)
1 chili negro or ancho chili, for chili powder, or 2 to 3 tablespoons chili powder (see separate post about how to make your own--I use the ground powder of just the chilies)
3 tablespoon canola oil
3 medium yellow onions, diced into 1/4-inch squares
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, juice reserved
1 to 2 teaspoon chopped chipotle chili (from can of Chipotle in Adobe Sauce)--I omit because I don't care for Chipotle)
about 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Garnishes:(if you are making the enchiladas, you don't need the garnishes)
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup muenster cheese or Monterey Jack, grated
Green chilies: 2 poblano or Anaheim, roasted, peeled, and diced
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
6 sprigs cilantro

Sort through beans and remove any stones. Rinse well, cover generously with water, and let soak overnight. Next day, drain beans, cover with fresh water by a couple of inches, and bring to boil with the bay leaf. Lower heat and let beans simmer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Heat a small heavy skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds, and when begins to color, add oregano leaves, shaking the pan frequently so the herbs don't scorch. As soon as the fragrance is strong and robust, remove pan from the heat and add paprika and cayenne. Give everything a quick stir; then remove from pan--the paprika and the cayenne only need a few seconds to toast. Grind in a mill or mortar or blender to make a coarse powder. This method of heating the spices really brings out their flavor.

Preheat oven to 375. To make chili powder, put dried chili in the oven for 3-5 minutes to dry out. Cool it briefly; then remove the stem, seeds, and veins. Tear the pod into small pieces and grind into a powder.

Heat oil in large skillet, and saute onions over medium heat until softened. Add garlic, salt, and ground herbs and chili powder, and cook another 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, their juice, and about 1 teaspoon of the chilpotle chili. Simmer everything together for 15 minutes, add this mixture to the beans and, if necessary, enough water so beans are covered by at least 1 inch. Continue cooking beqans slowly until they are soft, an hour or longer, or pressure cook them for 30 minutes at 15 pounds' pressure. Keep an eye on the water level and add more, if needed, to keep the beans amply covered. (Unsoaked beans require 45 mins in pressure cooker. Add about water to cover by about 2 inches--approximately 6 cups. If you end up with too much liquid boil it down and then add back to beans.)

When beans are cooked, taste them, and add more chilpotle chili if desired. Season to taste with vinegar, additional salt if needed, and the chopped cilantro.

Prepare the chili garnish by roasting them over the flame of a gas burner until blackened. Then throw them in a paper bag and let them steam for 10 minutes. After they have steamed, scrape off the charred skin and dice.

Makes 8 cups.

I just finished making a double batch of Black Bean Chili from the Green's Cookbook and made a number of observations about the recipe. I have notated them on the blog, but thought those of you who own the cookbook might want to print this email out and put it in the cookbook for future reference.

1. I think using the pressure cooker is the best method; the cooking time is 45 minutes once it comes to full pressure. Also, just make everything in the same pot: cook the onions, throw in the spices and let them cook for a few minutes, then add tomatoes and beans, put the lid on and cook it. No need to dirty two pans. Also there is no need to soak the beans overnight.

2. You can double the amount of beans (2 cups dried = 1 pound so a double recipe = 2 pounds dried turtle beans), but you DON'T have to double rest of the ingredients. Just make sure that you have the beans covered by about 2 1/2 inches of liquid.

3. Freeze extra beans in 3 cup quantities; 3 cups fits nicely in 1 quart Ziploc bags--3 cups of cooked beans, which is just the right amount for a batch of the enchiladas.

4. The Chipolte chili specified in the recipe comes in a can (Chipotle in Adobe Sauce). You find it in the Mexican section of the market, and once you open it, it will keep almost indefinitely in a container in your refrigerator. I found this information in the back of the cookbook. I can't tell you how many cans of this stuff I've opened only to throw most of it away, because you only use 1 or 2 of these chilis and there must be at least 12 in each can.

5. Make a big batch of your own chili powder and use it (an option in the recipe).

6. Use the cooked onion version of the Tomatillo Sauce.

7. I had a problem with my black beans when I attempted to make this on Saturday--I didn't use the pressure cooker and the beans refused to soften up; I think my hard beans were the result of being "old" rather than not being pressure cooked, so a word to the wise: don't make it with beans that have been sitting around for several years.

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