Chili with Chocolate
About 8 servings
There’s lots of ways to soak and cook dried beans. Some use a pressure cooker and others use the soak and simmer method, as I do. If you wish to use canned beans, use 8 cups (1kg) red or pinto beans with their liquid in place of the cooked dried beans. I start my chili the day before by salting the meat and soaking the beans, although you can omit the first two steps and just go right in to the recipe. In France, butcher shops sell beef especially for long stewing, called Morceaux de bourguignon. (Or paleron or gîte.) For those who can’t get unsweetened chocolate, use an extra ounce (30g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and maybe skip the brown sugar. As mentioned, use whatever chiles (fresh or dried) are available to use.) I did find out from my friend the kind she gave me were pasilla and guajilo. And feel free to dial up the spices, if you’d like. I kept it more moderate, since I like the flavor of the beans to shine through. But you can certainly season to taste. Most dried chiles will soften once they are rehydrated, then simmered in the chili. If you think they won’t, you can puree them and add them to the pot.
1 pound (450g) dried red or variegated heirloom beans
1 bay leaf
2 pounds (1kg) beef stewing meat, such as boneless short ribs or chuck roast, cut into 1-inch (3 cm) cubes
3 teaspoons salt (total), smoked if available
2 to 4 dried chiles, or one fresh chile, minced
about 2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2-3 teaspoons red chile powder
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder (if available otherwise use an additional teaspoon of red chile powder)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
2 cups (50cl) beer
2 cans (15oz, 200g each) crushed or diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 ounces (55g) unsweetened chocolate (or 3 ounces, 85g, bittersweet chocolate)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar or lime juice
1. Rinse the beans and sort them to remove any debris. Put in a bowl, cover with cold water and let soak overnight.
2. Put the cubes of beef in a freezer bag with 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt, massage gently, and refrigerate overnight.
3. The next day drain the beans, cover with several inches (centimeters) of water. Add the bay leaf and bring to a full boil for ten minutes. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until tender, one to three hours, adding more water if the water boils away. Once done, remove the bay leaf.
4. In a large casserole or Dutch oven (at least 6 quarts, 6l), heat the oil. Working in batches so you don’t crowd the pan, brown the pieces of beef, resisting the urge to turn them until they are nice and dark on each side. The browning adds a good deal of flavor. As the meat pieces brown, remove the pieces to a separate plate and brown the remaining pieces. If necessary, add a bit more oil to the pan as you go.
5. If using dried chiles, snip them into a small bowl in very tiny pieces with scissors and pour just enough boiling water over them to cover. If using fresh chiles, remove the stem and chop them finely. Set them aside. (You can either discard the seeds, which are hot, or use them.)
6. Once all the meat is browned, fry the onions in the pot until they are wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and fresh chiles (if using), as well as the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, chile powders, oregano, cumin, and paprika, and cook for another minute, stirring constantly to release the flavors of the spices.
7. Add the beans to the pot along with their liquid, as well as the dried chiles (drained of their liquid), beer, tomatoes (with their juices), brown sugar, and chocolate.
8. Simmer the chili at the absolute lowest temperature possible (I use a flame-tamer) for at least 1 hour, or until the meat is tender. If necessary to cook much longer, you may need to add additional water if the chili becomes too thick. When done, stir in the vinegar or lime juice. Taste, and adjust any seasonings, such as the chile powder and salt.

Serving: There are plenty of ways to serve chile. Some like it over rice, others prefer it plain. You can offer bowls of grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, and chopped cilantro so guests can customize their bowls. Cornbread is a great accompaniment, too. There are some recipes in the links, below.

Storage: Chili can be refrigerated for up to three days, or frozen for at least two months. It will thicken considerably subsequent days so you may wish to thin it with water or beer when reheating it.