Auntie A's Choice Chili

My little sis has become quite a capable cook. Last month she came up from Pittsburgh to visit the family, but mostly to hang out with her nephew (my son), Jack.

While she was here I asked her to cook dinner for us one night and she could choose what to make.

She concocted a fabulous chili with a couple of surprising ingredients.

Here's her basic recipe for a chunky, meaty, beany chili with a good kick. I did alter the recipe slightly, but that's the great thing about chili -- it's really customizable depending on what's in your pantry. These were the ingredients in my pantry today.

Ingredients (eyeball it):
1 lb. of beef, cut into bite size bits
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
Two fresh jalapeños, finely chopped (optional)
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
2 fresh anaheim peppers, chopped
2 canned chipotle chilles in adobo, chopped finely plus 2 tsp. chile powder OR 3-4 dried peppers such as pasilla, ancho or chipotle
2 large cans of tomato (whole, chopped or crushed), with their juices
chicken stock
2-3 Tbs. cumin
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
3 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2-3 squares of unsweetened chocolate OR 1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cans of beans of your choice, such as cannellini, pinto, kidney or black -- partially drained and not rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

If you'd like your peppers to have a smokier taste, do the following steps. Otherwise, just chop the peppers.

Turn your gas stove to medium and place the pepper directly over the heat, on the burner itself. Blacken the peppers on all sides (the process takes about seven minutes) and place in a Ziploc bag for 10 minutes. The steam should help make the skin come off easily. When cool enough to handle, remove as much skin from the peppers as possible. You now have roasted peppers and have no need to ever buy them in a jar again. Chop them and prepare chili as follows.

Heat a large dutch oven or pot over high heat and coat the bottom with olive oil. When hot, add the cubed meat and brown on all sides. Set aside with any juices. Add a little more olive oil and cook the onion and peppers till onions are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the meat (and any juices), tomatoes, paprika, chocolate, garlic powder, oregano and cinnamon. Stir thoroughly. Add the chile powder/chiles and cumin slowly. These strong spices are hard to chase away once added. Add a little at a time, wait five minutes, and then taste whether it's a good move to add more.

Bring to a simmer and turn down the heat, stirring once in a while so the bottom doesn't burn. If it's too thick, add some chicken stock. If you like a more soupy chili, cook with the pot covered. If you'd like it more stewy and thick, cook uncovered. Either way, cook for at least an hour. Twenty minutes before serving, add the beans and cook till beans are heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with grated cheddar cheese in a squirrel bowl, if you desire.

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