Winter’s cold blasted so long that I’m onto a third chili adventure. At once smoky, sweet and spicy, this one is hearty fare based on pulled pork, a summer barbecue favorite. Like other chilis I’ve made this year and last, the idea came from a cook-off at Whole Foods around Super Bowl Sunday, when various departments in the store compete for the best dish. Of course, wouldn’t you know, they also try to use the greatest amount of packaged ingredients to boost sales. I therefore always dial the recipes back to basics. This one came from the Marketing Department and was called “Val’s Smokin’-Sweet Pulled Pork Chili.” I thought it was a little sweet and not hot enough, a little heavy on meat versus beans and peppers, so I ran with the idea but overhauled the recipe.
You start by smoking or slow-roasting dry-rubbed pork butt for hours and then shred it with a pair of forks. I did this the day before, cooking the pork in the oven for 6 hours at 250 degrees. I added most of a bottle of dark beer halfway through, a good trick for making the pork moist. I cooked black beans in the oven at the same time. After a couple hours of soaking in water, the beans and their liquid went into the warm oven until tender, about an hour.
This made nearly a gallon of chili, though you could cut back on the liquid. I actually liked it soupy when served in a bowl, but strained off some of the liquid when serving it wrapped in a tortilla. It froze well, which was a good thing, since I like to feed workers who come to our house to fix or build things over weekends but I rarely know when to expect them. This was perfect for those hardy hungry guys. They were as grateful for the chili as I was for their work.
Pulled Pork Chili inspired by a Whole Foods Chili Cook-off
2½ to 3 lb pork butt
Dry rub (2 tsp each paprika, salt, onion and garlic powder, dried oregano and thyme)
12-oz bottle of dark beer
¾ lb (about 11/3 c) dried black beans, or 2-3 15-oz cans, drained
2 tsp vegetable or olive oil
4 slices bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chipotle powder
½ tsp smoked paprika or pimenton
2-3 tbsp chili in adobo sauce
1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
2 red Bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 orange or yellow Bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 qt canned tomatoes, chopped, or 1 32-oz can
1 qt meat stock (I used chicken), or 1 32 oz container
¼ c molasses
2 tbsp cider vinegar, or a combination of cider and balsamic vinegar
Optional: ¼ c smoky prepared barbecue sauce (use to round out flavors)
Garnish: cilantro leaves, lime juice combined with sour cream
Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the pork in a roasting pan. Combine the dry rub ingredients and coat the pork. Roast, uncovered, for 6 hours. At the 3-hour mark, add the beer. When the pork is done, set it aside until slightly cooled, and shred it with the grain, using a fork. I use two forks, one to hold the meat and one to shred it. You can cook the pork in advance.
If you are starting with dried beans, soak them in ample water in a Dutch oven with a lid when you put the pork in the oven. Around the same time that you add the beer to the pork, amply salt the bean water and place the pot, covered, in the oven. Check the beans after an hour. When tender, remove them from the oven and set them aside (drain them if they seem soft to avoid over-cooking. You can cook the beans in advance.
When you are ready to make the chili, place the oil and diced bacon in a large, heavy pot over medium heat and cook until browned. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add salt, pepper spices and oregano and stir to combine, cooking until they are fragrant.
Add the diced peppers and cook until softened. Add the minced garlic.
Add the tomatoes, stock and molasses, cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes or until the mixture starts to come together. Add the vinegar, taste for seasoning and add more chili in adobo sauce if needed. Add more stock or water if it seems too thick.
Add the pulled pork and cook for another 30 minutes over low heat. The chili should be quite well combined by now, Add the beans, which have been drained of any liquid and cook for another 15 minutes or so. Adjust by adding prepared barbecue sauce if you want. (I didn’t, but the original recipe used it.)
The chili can be cooked in advance since it will improve in flavor by the next day.
Serve with chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream that’s been flavored with lime juice.