Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Recipe: Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

As much as I love oysters and could easily consume a metric ton on my own, when we visit Tomales Bay we like to make sure that we bring other food to eat as well. In this case, at least one of the people going with us doesn't even like oysters (I know, I don't get it either), so a few of us volunteered to make a few other dishes. In addition to salami and cheese and a zesty pasta salad, I contributed a new recipe for me: sweet potato and black bean chili.


This was a bit of a departure for me as I have what I consider to be a pretty tried and true recipe for chili, but the night before we left I realized that I was missing several key ingredients for my favorite stand-by. Being too lazy to walk to the store, I looked in our fridge and cupboard and saw that we had canned black beans and several sweet potatoes. I remembered that I had pinned a pumpkin chili recipe not too long ago so I decided to pull that up and make a version of it, substituting the sweet potatoes for the pumpkin. I'm not going to link to that recipe here because after several hours of cooking - that is, after giving the flavors plenty of time to blend - I just didn't love the base of the dish. It was overly acidic and the sweet potatoes didn't seem to meld well with the flavor of the tomatoes. I thought about how I could save it when Alan mentioned that I could possibly use some cocoa powder and then it hit me - a molé base! I'm not too shabby when it comes to making molé and I conveniently had all the ingredients on hand so I adjusted the recipe a bit and let it cook for several more hours before throwing it in the fridge to chill for the next day.

Because this was a new and somewhat on the fly recipe for me, I made sure that I prefaced to everyone in attendance that it might not be great. That is to say I gave everyone ample warning that I might have brought a real dud of a dish. Well, I'm happy to report that was NOT the case and several people liked it. In fact, I've since been asked for the recipe by someone I consider a good cook himself, so I figured if it's good enough for him, it's probably good enough to share here on the blog. So, here you go. Keep in mind that this recipe isn't an exact science since I was adding a bit of this, and a bit of that as I went, but this should get you close enough that you can tweak it to your liking.

1 red onion, finely diced
6-8 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 lb ground beef
2 cans of black beans
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can of tomato sauce
1 sweet potato, cut into chunks
1/2 cup chili powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon of chipotle powder
3 tablespoons of cinnamon
2 cups beef broth
salt & pepper to taste

Sauté onions & garlic in olive oil until slightly opaque
Add chili powder & stir
Add ground beef and cook until browned
Add black beans and tomatoes and cook for 25 minutes
Add cocoa, cinnamon, and chipotle powder and stir well
Cook for an additional 25 minutes
Add sweet potatoes and broth and stir
Cook for an additional two hours on low temperature
Serve with queso or creme fraiche or whatever you like. I'm sure finely chopped cilantro would be great too.

(Note: if at any point you're not satisfied with the flavor profile, feel free to play with the seasonings. Like I said, I futzed with it a lot while it was cooking so my measurements are likely off. Also, you may like it hotter, or smokier, or more chocolatey. Let your tastebuds guide you.)