Lentil & Sweet Potato Chili
Part one of a three-part series on flexible weeknight dinners - a spicy lentil chili you'll be able to use in all kinds of meals!
Every family has their own go-to chili recipe, it seems. Or they have a few variations. I know the two Dave and I grew up with are quite different: my mom’s chili is a tomato-intense ode to the essentials: ground beef, chili beans, and cumin. And boy is it good.
Dave’s is a whole different ball game – it’s more nuanced, but also much more dramatic. He sears beef and pork cubes and makes the broth with a bottle of beer and chipotle chiles. As you can imagine, it packs a big punch, and the spice can be adjusted by adding or subtracting chiles. I prefer to have it pretty spicy, so I can throw a huge heap of sour cream on top and have a little with every bite. And boy, it is good, too.
Here’s what you need to make Dave’s chili.
Begin by cooking the bacon in whatever pan you’re going to use – we use an enameled Dutch oven – to get a little layer of fat in the bottom of the pan. If you have pork fat of some kind, now’s a good time to use it because it will impact the whole flavor of the chili. You can use vegetable oil if you don’t have any around, but to sear the meat (in the next step) the temperature will be too high for olive oi.
Set aside the bacon when it’s barely cooked, and then turn up the temperature and sear the cubes of meat – allow them to cook most of the way through also, but make sure you get a good sear. Then set them aside. There should be all kinds of delicious meaty drippings in the bottom of the pan now, and they might be sticking. Leave ’em alone! We’ll get to that in a minute.
Next sautee the onions, poblano and garlic in the fat that remains from the meat. You can add a little oil if you need more fat.
When they’re mostly cooked, but still a little crunchy, deglaze the pan with half of the bottle of beer. You can use more or less of it depending on how soupy you like your chili. At this point, you can also add the beans, the chipotle chiles and the can of tomatoes. Use your spoon/spatula to break the tomatoes up as they cook. Liquid will cook out of them and add to the broth, so you shouldn’t need to add any extra – part of what makes this chili pack such a punch.
Salt and pepper liberally, and add whatever else you might wish to include as the chili simmers for 20 minutes or so. Cumin is a favorite, along with paprika and of course, chili powder.