Jeanette - Off The Cuff

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Blogger at: and -- My name is Jeanette, and I was born in Sweden, but unlike the famous Muppet, I am not a professional Swedish Chef. I actually studied design and photography. I also was a freelance indie-rock critic for several magazines from 1998-2005, and had an in-house PR company for a while. Cooking is in my DNA--my dad's brother was a chef and their father was a pastry chef, my mom's mother was a caterer, who published a cookbook of traditional Finnish breads and pastries when she was 92. Everyone else in my family loves to cook, and we're not afraid to experiment. I have a yen for interior design and remodeling.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Black Bean Chili with Cilantro

I promised in the last entry that there will be a "Chili" theme on the blog. Quite overly ambitious as I tend to be, I may have even promised a "Chili Week" but then I realized that would involve cooking chili multiple times in *ONE* week, and that led to the sure knowledge that I'd probably quickly tire of both cooking and eating chili.  Thus, to be realistic, I will just make a reasonable attempt to blog all the chili recipes by the end of November.

Which will bring us to December, and if you know me at all, you will know that December is probably my favorite month of the year, so I'd be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to share some holiday-related recipes, perhaps some of the Swedish standards that my family makes.  I don't believe I have ever blogged the Scandi-Standard (Scandard?) meatballs and lingonberries (made by Swedes; made famous by IKEA.)

(By the way, is it totally humorous that I'm watching "Julie & Julia" on Lifetime while food blogging? My husband walked in during a commercial break and asked me why I was watching a "Lifetime" movie.  He knows that it's not a station I tune on the dial regularly, but he has seen this film before so then it was all well with his perception of me.  Anyway, seeing this film tonight is my swift kick in the bum to get this recipe uploaded before the night is over. Oh... sorry, I got distracted by Dan Aykroyd's "Julia Child" impression from SNL that is featured in the movie.)

Now, enough with the parentheses, and on to the chili thing. Many moons ago, possibly as many moons as 12 or 15 years ago, I was slated to cook a meal for a large group of folks, and decided to make a big pot of chili.  The original recipe came from a magazine, or one of those newspaper inserts, or something along those lines. Since I'm not usually inclined to follow recipes to the letter, and since I probably only read the original recipe one or two times before I misplaced it, I have absolutely no idea who to source it to, not to mention that the ratios of spices have probably been altered a handful of times. The original recipe called for chicken meat,  but last night I made it with beef, and I usually switch back and forth between the two.

Aside from that first large group I made it for, I also  made this chili frequently when I was a nanny during my college years. It was a big favorite with them, so much so in fact, that one of the girls (at that point old enough to cook by herself) called me after I moved away, asking me to give them the recipe so they could keep making it.  It has been served to many a visitor, and whenever someone in my church has a baby, this is often a go-to. 

This recipe makes a LOT of chili.  It can easily be halved for a more manageable amount, or you can always freeze half of it in flat zip-lock bags for a quick meal some other night.


1 large yellow onion,  chopped to desired size
3-4 cloves of garlic

1 1/2 lbs of ground beef or equal amount of chicken breast

2 cans of crushed tomatoes (15 oz) (or equivalent amount of chopped fresh Roma tomatoes)
1 can of tomato paste (6 oz) (plus at least 3 cans of water)
2 cans of kidney beans, rinsed and drained (15 oz)
2 cans of black beans, rinsed and drained (15 oz)

1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp cumin
2-3 tsp paprika (smoked paprika is also good)
1/4 tsp ground arbol chili (not chili powder) or cayenne pepper (more if you like a lot of heat)

1/4 cup minced fresh oregano (or 4 tbsp dried oregano)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Start by browning your meat in a separate skillet until cooked through, and drain fat if necessary.  Simultaneously, get a large pot and sautee onions until soft and nearly clear in a dab of olive oil or butter.

Add minced garlic to the onions shortly before the onions are done sauteeing. Transfer over browned meat or chicken into the large pot or Cast-Iron Dutch Oven  and deglaze the skillet with a bit of water and pour that nice brown liquid in with the onions and meat in the pot.

Now starts the tedious task of opening cans. (Unless you are one of the ultra industrious folks who remembers a day ahead of time to soak your own.  I am rarely one of those people and it never seems to be enough time anyway, which always leaves me with slightly crunchy beans ... but I digress...)  Make sure to drain and rinse the beans to get rid of that sludgy salty stuff they are floating around in.  I like my chili to be as "pure" in flavor as possible.  Dump all the contents of aforementioned cans into your pot, add in seasonings except fresh herbs which should be added shortly before serving.

Let this all simmer for a good half hour or more.  You could probably also do this recipe in the crock pot on low for 4 hrs, by  browning your beef first, and putting your onions and garlic into the bottom of your crock.

When making this recipe, just keep a spoon handy after stirring in the seasonings, and give it a few minutes of simmering-- and taste it now and then. If you want more 'tang' add more cumin, if you want more smokey-flavoring, add more paprika, and if you want more hot-spice, add more cayenne.  Naturally, if it doesn't seem salty enough, add more salt! -- The cilantro is also one that you could add way more of. I only put 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro in the ingredients for this recipe, but I've been known to put as much as 1 cup in a big pot of chili, and I've also at times done up to 2 tbsp cumin because I like it a lot.  With some tasting and adjusting, it should be delicious!

Serve with corn muffins, grated cheese, a dollop of sour cream if you like.  It's yummy!

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