This week with gray skies, blowing winds and flurries in the air, I was in need of something warm and comforting. I searched my larder and was inspired to make chili. Loving the combination of chili peppers and chocolate, and a supply of venison, generously shared by hunter friends, I decided to make these ingredients the focus of my recipe. If you are opposed to, or don’t have a source for venison you could substitute beef. Venison can be challenging as it is very lean and, although in need of tenderizing, can become dry when braised. Beef contains a higher fat content so cooking low and slow is not usually problematic. To compensate for the lack of fat, I browned the meat and then removed it and set it aside. I then assembled and simmered the sauce for 1 1/2 hours before adding the meat, cooking for another 1 1/2 hours or until it was tender. You can eliminate this step if using chuck which is the cut I recommend if using beef. The key to its heartiness is chunks of meat as opposed to ground and the rich sauce layered with the flavors of two different dried chilies, robust beer and beef stock. What provides the crown of glory, however, is finishing it with a dark and delicious chocolate. The depth of flavor and richness it provides is an indescribable treat for your palate. I have said it before and I will say it again, a good quality chocolate(unsweetened), 70% cacao or more, makes a huge difference.
That said, I must add that my husband enjoyed it so much he pestered me for days to make sure I wrote it all down so I could share with all of you and so he could look forward to eating it again (his real motivation). Here’s how it goes down.
JEANNE’S CHUNKY CHILI w/ DARK CHOCOLATE Serves 6-8
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
6 slices Applewood smoked bacon, diced
3lbs. beef chuck or venison, trimmed of fat and cubed
¼ c extra virgin olive oil, more or less as needed
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1-2 Serrano peppers (fresh or pickled), diced
2t ground cumin
2t dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1-2t chili powder, medium hot
1 large can (14.9 oz.) Guinness or other dark stout, porter or scotch ale
1 each dried Pasilla and chipoltle chili peppers, whole
2c beef stock
1 14.5 oz. can Mexican style diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen organic adobo seasoned)
4t good quality cocoa powder, at least 70% cacao
Grated cheddar or Mexican queso
Pickled peppers (jalapeno or Serrano), chopped
- In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, cook bacon until browned and rendered. Remove from pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Season the meat with a generous amount of salt and pepper and brown in batches adding olive oil as needed. Remove from pot and set aside.
- Add onion and cook until soft on medium heat. Add the garlic, Serrano pepper, cumin, oregano, and chili powder. Cook until the seasonings are aromatic.
- Deglaze the pan with the beer and cook for a few minutes until slightly reduced. Add the dried chilies, stock, and tomatoes with their juices. If using beef chuck, add it now. If using venison, wait to add meat. Bring to a boil, add the chocolate, reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for 1 ½ hrs.
- If using venison, add at this point along with the reserved bacon. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Continue to cook for another 1 to 1 ½ hrs or until meat is tender.
- Remove the lid and cook uncovered to thicken broth. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Serve hot with your favorite garnishes.
Although I have never met a bean I didn’t like, I chose to go Texas style with this chili and make the meat the star, no beans. This is a matter of personal choice and, as always, I urge you to make it your own. Hopefully you and your family will enjoy it as much as we did. I have a feeling I will be making it again very soon.
I know you must all be planning your holiday dishes as am I. Shopping, planning and making to do lists are all on the agenda this time of year. The aroma of tomato sauce is wafting through my house right now as I make preparations for Christmas dinner, Italian style. That smell always transports me to my grandmother’s and mother’s kitchens and memories of many family gatherings. The sauce will dress my mother’s lasagna which will grace my table after Santa is gone and tummies are ready for a holiday feast. I know I will be spreading the love and I hope you will be too…..one dish at a time. Wishing you and your family a blessed holiday season. Make it memorable. With love, Jeanne