Monday, September 13, 2010

Smoky Chili with Plenty of Pig

September is here and that means it is time for the National Football League (and Green Bay Packers!!). Sundays are now for getting together with friends and family, eating good food, imbibing beers, and huddling around the big flatscreen to watch our beloved teams.

I usually like to get up early, throw coffee in the pot, and prep ingredients while listening to pregame football talk on the radio. Usually, the menu consists of some type of soul food/comfort food. I love my stews and soups and slow cooker recipes for fall sunday football days. For week 1 of the NFL, I wanted to make a pork-filled chili that would simmer slowly and build flavors all day until the halftime of the Packers vs. Eagles game.

Chili usually consists of basic ingredients: ground beef, peppers, beans, onions, cheese, tomatoes. This chili incorporates ingredients that are slightly different from normal  giving the chili a Mexican flair, sweet and tartness combined with smoky, robust flavors.

It is also a very meaty chili, which is essential for my type of chilis. Pork shoulder, ground pork, and smoked pork neck bones fill up the pot and all add a different texture to the chili. No beef is present in the chili, no beef! And tomatillos are added to give the chili some zip.

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1lb pork shoulder, cut in half inch cubes
  • 3 cups cut onions
  • 2 cups cut green bell pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup lager-style beer, I used Sam Adams Boston Lager
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 tomatillos, quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 - 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes, undrained (I used fire-roasted tomatoes from Muir Glen)
  • 1 -  15 oz can pinto beans, drained
  • 1 - 7 3/4 oz can Mexican hot-style tomato sauce
  • 2 smoked pork neck bones or smoked ham hocks, or one of each!
  • chopped cilantro, green onions for garnish
  • crumbled queso fresco
  • lime wedges
Cook ground pork in pan for about 5 minutes, drain, and place in slow cooker. Place pork shoulder cubes in pan and brown until done. Transfer to slow cooker.

Add onions and bell pepper to pan and saute for 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, saute for 1 minute. Add tomato paste, cook another minute. Add beer and cook for 1 minute. Stir to combine ingredients. Transfer mixture to slow cooker.

Add salt, chili powder, and next 9 ingredients to the slow cooker. Cook until meat is tender, about 8 hours on LOW setting or 5 hours on HIGH setting.

Ladle chili in bowl and garnish with cilantro, green onion, queso fresco, and the juice of 1 lime wedge.

Serve with cornbread. I made a jalapeno blue cornbread to accomodate the porky chili.

It was a great day! The Packers beat the Eagles 27-20 while the chili packed a punch similar to a Clay Matthews sack (Sorry QB Kevin Kolb).

The chili did have a very deep, robust flavor. The smoked neck bones gave the chili a woodsy flavor. The neck bone meat with the pork shoulder and ground pork thickened up the chili but did not dominate the bowl. The fire-roasted tomatoes also added to the smoky touch while the tart of the tomatillos and acid from the lime balanced the smoke.

The garnish was quite lovely. I spent decent money on the queso fresco but it was worth it, as there is no substitute for queso fresco. It adds a nice creamy touch. The jalapeno blue cornbread was a perfect side dish. Whole corn kernals, minced jalapenos, and toasted pine nuts are added to a blue cornmeal mixture and cooked for 40 minutes resulting in a comforting and pleasing addition.

You can vary the hotness of the chili if you like. I made mine at a moderate level. I'm really not into chili bowls that are super hot and make you sweat, needing 2 beers a bowl to take away the heat. Chili allows you to be flexible with the ingredients, using your instincts to add this or that and quantity of certain ingredients. That is what is fun about cooking chilis, it can be anything you want basically.

And I must admit, the chili tasted better because the Packers won the game.

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