Chicago’s fleeting spring weather took a turn for the worse earlier this week, and I found myself craving a pot of warming chili after a particularly violent battle with the wind on my way home. Hence, I go from Spring Soba Noodles to this hearty meal. The generous amounts of vegetables do make for a somewhat lighter chili. Make sure to really go for it with the garnishes of cilantro, lime juice, and queso fresco – they truly make the dish. I also served this with my favorite cornbread – 101 Cookbook’s Firecracker Cornbread.
Veggie-Heavy Black Bean Chili with Dark Ale
1 cup dried black beans, soaked overnight (or two 14 oz cans)
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
few pinches of dried Mexican oregano (if using dried black beans)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut into a 1/4″ dice
7 garlic cloves, minced
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 large red bell pepper, diced
12 oz dark ale
14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
juice of half a lime
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
crumbled queso fresco
1.) If using dried beans – Drain from soaking liquid, place in a large saucepan, and cover with an ample amount of cold water. Add a few pinches of Mexican oregano, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until beans are tender, but still quite firm to the bite, as you will finish cooking them alongside the rest of the ingredients; about 30-50 minutes, depending on how old your beans are. Season with the salt after the first 30 minutes. When beans are nearly cooked through, drain, and set aside.
2.) Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic, chiles, cumin, and a few pinches of salt, and saute for 5 minutes more. Add bell pepper and saute for 5 more minutes; until your ingredients have taken on a delicious golden hue and your kitchen is aromatic.
3.) Stir in beans, ale, tomatoes, and corn. Bring chili to a boil, and reduce heat to low and simmer gently for about 45 minutes; until thickened slightly. It is important that you are, indeed, simmering the beans (a few bubbles gently rising to the surface), and not boiling them, as this will cause your beans to split open. When finished cooking, taste for salt and season with more, if necessary. If the beans taste flat, don’t fret – they just need more salt. Stir in the lime juice.
4.) To serve, garnish with generous amounts of cilantro, queso fresco, and pass additional lime wedges around the table.