Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fresh October Bean Chili with Bacon & Booze

Okay, Texans, I already know what you're thinking: This chili contains beans and tomatoes. Therefore, according to Texas chili orthodoxy, it is not actually chili at all, but rather an abomination. I don't want to hear it. I have, in fact, made a proper Texas Red right here on this very blog. It had beef and chiles and spices and that's about it. It was thick and smoky and stick-to-your-ribs fabulous. But this bean-packed chili is fabulous in its own way as well. If it offends you, however, I suggest thinking of it as a really, really thick bean soup.

It features one of the season's most anticipated (by me, at least) farmers market items: fresh beans. Around this time of year, my favorite vendor starts showing up with fresh (and shelled!) black-eyed peas, black beans, crowder peas, and these October beans, which I had never cooked with before. They resemble pinto beans, and that got me thinking about chili. It would be vegan, were it not for the use of bacon. Oh, and yogurt. But you could definitely make a flavorful version of this without all that if you're so inclined.

I finished the chili with a generous glug of whiskey - I used a local spirit, organic Catoctin Rye, but you can certainly use your favorite whiskey.

A note about the beans I used: If you don't have access to fresh October beans you could substitute fresh, canned, or dried pinto beans. If you go with canned, use less liquid than the recipe calls for and cook for a shorter time; if you use dried beans boil them for about an hour before adding them to the chili, but make sure to keep an eye on the pot to see if you need to add more liquid.

October Bean Chili
2 each costena, pasillo, guajillo, and chipotle chiles, dried
4 - 5 slices bacon
1 onion, chopped
1 Poblano chile, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
2 pounds of fresh October beans (or pinto)
enough vegetable broth to cover beans plus 2 - 3 inches
1 heaping teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
several sprigs of fresh oregano
a few shakes of liquid Maggi (it's pure umami)
1-2 tablespoons masa
salt and pepper, to taste
a glug (a shot or two) of rye whiskey

Place the dried chiles in a hot cast iron skillet and cook until just fragrant. Cover with water and cover until soft, about 30 minutes. When soft, remove seeds and stems and puree in an immersion blender. If necessary, add a bit of the liquid they've been soaking in. Set aside. 

Place the bacon strips in a large stockpot and heat over medium low, until the fat has rendered and the bacon has crisped. Remove the bacon and place on paper towels to drain. Increase the heat to medium and saute the onions and Poblano until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and stir for an additional minute. Add the next 8 ingredients plus the pureed chiles, stir, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until beans are tender, at least 2 hours - really, as long as you make sure to keep enough liquid in the pot the longer you simmer this the more flavorful it's going to be. At this stage add a generous amount of salt, making sure to taste as you go. Remove the oregano sprigs and blend with an immersion blender for a few seconds to help thicken the chili and give it a chunky texture. Sprinkle in the masa and stir. Simmer for 10 more minutes and add the rye whiskey at the end of the cooking. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired.

Serve garnished with crumbled bacon, Greek yogurt, and chives. 

Note that there's no bacon in my photos ... I ate it all. Oops. 


  1. What a lovely chili. Authentic or not, it looks to die for!

  2. O...M...G. You just reminded about the fresh beans at the farmers market. I can't wait to go on Sunday now. F the Texans (I'm allowed to say this as my family lives in Austin, but is that really Texas?) this chili is awesome. Love the boozey finish.

  3. Does this mean it's almost fall?? Oh, Nonetheless, looks ueber-flavorful!

  4. I have never shrunk away from offending a Texan so I quite think I would adore this authentic chili. Some of my best friends are abominations after all. And if that isn't enough, some of my favorite vegan dishes have bacon in them. This is certainly a winner!

  5. I think, since we live on the East Coast that we are allowed to indulge in whatever chili add-ins we desire.
    I am not ready for fall, but this looks lovely - and yes, I would have eaten all the bacon as well...

  6. I wouldn't know the difference between authetic and abominable Texas chili, but yours can be adapted to be vegan so that makes me totally gleeful! How many different types of chilies did you use, I counted 5? So, so exciting because my mom grows many different types that I'm always at a loss to utilize so this recipe is perfect. Oh btw, if you want to avoid the MSG in Maggi, try this trick... add blended nori sheets to your broth. It's pure umami heaven!

  7. You had me at bacon and booze... num. But then you made me think, I have no idea what's in Maggi... must look it up. I have never had those October beans... can't wait to taste them and have some of that chili!

  8. It's this time of year when I'm actually sick of all the BBQ options and crave hot, wonderful comfort food...your chili would hit the spot!!!

  9. never heard of Oct beans but sure have heard of pinto and whiskey - beans and chili are okay with me, gonna try this, putting it in my football watching lineup...

  10. Well I didn't know chili didn't have beans or tomatoes. So what I can gather a Texan chili is something between a cross of mole and bistec en salsa? Anyhow, your chili looks really good. This Mexican girls loves all bean dishes;) I love the addition of bacon and yogurt-yummy!

  11. I had no idea chili could have such etiquette attached t it. I love breaking rules so am happy with your tasty version...booze included.

  12. I'm not a Texan, but this delicious looking chili would sure hit the spot right now.

  13. What a great idea to use fresh beans. Add in the bacon and the whisky and I'm in. It looks like the perfect bowl of chili.

  14. I'm with you on finding the fresh shelled beans- wow! yippee! and let's make a pot of chili! Love all your flavors here and your version rocks my dear;-)