Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The More the Merrier
What’s cooking? Pork Chili with Beans

I’ve long thought of January as a great month for a party. The whole holiday thing is over, and toward the end of the month, people get that glazed look in their eyes that says they’ve watched too much television and are really starting to tire of their family members for conversation. For most of the country, it’s too cold and snowy to go for a nice walk outside, so tempers get short, the kids get on your nerves, and pretty soon you just want to throw something at someone. I remember going to the grocery store just to get out of the house.

For many years, my husband and I gave a soup party in January, inviting more friends that we could really handle, but that didn’t seem to matter to those who showed up. The level of desperation among our guests was clear – even in snow or ice, they came for the party. One year, we actually had some guests who snowshoed over, and another couple who made runs in their SUV to pick up stranded neighbors.

For me, the best thing about the cold was that I could use our garage as an auxiliary refrigerator. The menu for the party contained three soups, and as I finished one soup after another in the days before the party, I just stored them next to the cars.

That m.o. doesn’t work in Austin, where the temperature is more likely to be 70 than it is to be 17. I know, I shouldn’t complain, but the change in climate pretty much obviates the need for a party to bring folks in from the cold.

Nevertheless, the month fairly screams “Soup!” to me, and now it turns out that someone has decided to make it official: January is Soup Month. So let us celebrate with my best recipe for chili.

I especially like this recipe because it has so many ingredients. I love the lively mix of the spices, the extra depth of flavor from the beer and coffee.

Oops -- use only one can of the tomatoes.

I found the original version on, where it had more than 70 reviews, and more than 90% would make it again. Today, the review count is over 100. Over the years, I’ve tweaked it in line with some of the reviewers’ suggestions; a few changes are mine alone. It was always a winner at the soup parties; make it ahead, as it tastes as good – maybe better – the second day.

Kitchen Goddess note: My former neighbor in NJ will tell you that beans DO NOT go into a good chili. Phooey. The KG likes beans, and thinks they are a real plus in this recipe. If you, like my NJ neighbor, are a purist about beans, leave them out.

Pork Chili with Beans

Inspired by a recipe from Gourmet Magazine, January 2000

Yield: Serves 6-8.

½ pound sliced bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces
4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable/canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups beef broth
1 cup brewed coffee
12 ounces flavorful beer (I used Negro Modelo)
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with purée
2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Garnishes – more is always better.
Garnishes (a few ideas – use as many or as few as you like):
– toasted salted pumpkin seeds
– grated cheddar cheese
– chopped fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
– diced avocado
– lime wedges
– sour cream
– crumbled bacon
– tortilla chips.

Cook bacon in a large heavy pot over moderate heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pot. Crumble bacon and reserve for topping.

Using paper towels, pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper. Add the vegetable oil to the bacon fat in the pot and heat at medium high until hot but not smoking. Brown the pork in batches (you’ll need 5-6 batches) and, with a slotted spoon, transfer browned pork to a bowl. Kitchen Goddess note: Do not crowd the pork in the oil; if you do, it will simply steam and not brown. The pieces should not touch each other in the bottom of the pot.

Be sure to get the pork nice and brown.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion to the pot. Sauté 5-6 minutes over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until softened. Add garlic, oregano, chili powder, cumin, Aleppo pepper, brown sugar, and cayenne, and continue stirring 1 minute. Return the pork to the pot with any juices that have accumulated on the plate and add broth, coffee, beer, and tomatoes with purée.

Simmer the chili, uncovered, for about 2 hours, until the pork is very tender. Stir occasionally. Remove the pot from heat and let cool slightly. Using paper towels, blot up as much fat as possible from the surface of the chili. Stir in beans and bring to a simmer. Serve with crumbled bacon and other garnishes.


  1. aha! you never brought this to the chili party! and i'm sure i missed this at the soup parties - had to get my fill of gumbo et al. must try this.

  2. Can you blame me? Why subject my favorite chili recipe to the scorn from the No-bean crowd? And yes, you must try. :-)

    1. What is a substitution for the Aleppo pepper?

  3. To substitute for 1 Tablespoon of Aleppo pepper, I'd double to amount of cayenne (to 1/2 teaspoon) and add 2 1/2 teaspoons of sweet paprika. The Aleppo isn't terribly hot, mostly is a flavor thing. Let me know how it turns out!