Although it’s not a very Spanish dish, I love chile con carne. When my partner and I were dating, we used to frequent one of those fast-food pseudo-American restaurants in Spain (so what?… they were cheap… we were young and in need of money… ahem) and I always ordered chile con carne, that was served at cauterization temperature in an earthenware little cazuela, with a hamburger on top and a slice of cheese with a radioactive color. Yes, disgusting. I’m not saying chile con carne is junk food, just that the quality of the restaurant wasn’t… the best. Well, I’ve come to develop a somewhat finer palate over the years, which doesn’t mean that I don’t like some junk food once in a while. In fact, this type of restaurant is among my kids’ favorites… what’s the use of so much palate evolution? Never mind, for me to fight nostalgia for the old times when the fat I ate didn’t love to accumulate around my waist as much as it does now, I prepare a homemade chile con carne, much yummier than that restaurant’s chile and with an irresistible addition: chocolate.
This recipe comes from a cookbook called The Bittersweet World of Chocolate, though it’s undergone some tweaking. I recommend this book, it not only includes scrumptious sweet and savoury recipes with chocolate, but tells some very interesting things about cocoa growing and trade. It makes a good Christmas present… hint. The addition of chocolate in this dish relates it to the amazing Mexican mole, one of the most incredibly delicious sauces I’ve ever tried. I still recall the first time I tasted it, in a Mexican restaurant in a backroad… picture it, Sicily 1920… no, New Jersey, last century… tears spring to my eyes when I remember that spicy mole de pollo… the impression was so unforgettable that I even remember the name of the restaurant 12 years later: Kiki Rios…
Chile con carne and chocolate
- 750g minced meat
- 250g boiled Pinto beans, with the resulting stock (you can use canned beans)
- 1 red pepper (the recipe calls for a green one)
- 2 medium onions
- 4 cloves garlic
- 800 g canned pureed tomatoes (the recipe calls for 2 tbsp only)
- 1 tbsp ketchup
- 4 dried chilis (the recipe calls for 1 tsp of chili powder. The result is a lightly hot dish. The hotness can be adjusted to your taste)
- 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa (more can be used, I add 3 tbsp)
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves (this amount is a bit excessive for me, taking into account that the allspice that’s also added has a similar taste)
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp allspice (you better grind it or add it wrapped in a net or inside a tea strainer, so that you don’t bite into the grains)
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 2 tsp sugar (I don’t add this and I don’t miss it)
- 120 ml bean stock
- Olive oil
I also added a glass of red wine, a good addition for any dish… well, almost.
Start by peeling the garlic and then smash it. Dice the onions and red pepper. Pour some olive oil in a pan or even in a large casserole and fry the vegetables until wilted. I add the garlic nearly at the end so that it doesn’t burn. Take the vegetables out of the pan and leave aside. Use the flavored oil to fry the meat on high heat. Stir to coat all the meat in oil and brown it. When done, return the vegetables to the pan or casserole and add the rest of the ingredients: beans (previously cooked in water with a bay leaf and some salt), tomato puree, ketchup and all the spices, along with the bean stock. Stir thoroughly, cover and bring to a boil. When boiling, turn the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Watch the inside every now and then and stir if necessary, so that the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom. Add some water if it gets too dry. Or, if you can’t resist your primal instincts… some more red wine.
After 45 minutes, try the seasoning and add salt if needed. You can serve it with boiled rice, but I prefer mine with an oven roasted potato… yum. This is a super easy dish, perfect for feeding a large bunch of people. And also fit for warming you up in this chilly Autumn… who could ask for more?