The way I see it, there’s no reason to make a small batch of chili. This yield is generous—about 1 1/2 quarts—and it freezes perfectly. You could even double it! Consider it a weekend project, which will pat you on the back for weeks to come. I used prunes because they were what I had on hand. Feel free to play around, say with raisins or apricots; just make sure they have no added sugar. I also think there’s no reason to make a small batch of chile paste. The yield here is roughly three times what you’ll need. Freeze the extra in ice cube trays for an on-call flavor boost. (Alternatively, just divide the chile paste recipe by three!)
Note: You can make your own chile paste (below), or use any pre-made or store-bought brand you have.
Make the chili paste. Use a scissor to snip the stems off the chilies. Shake their seeds into the trash. Set a cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add the chilies. Cook until toasty and fragrant—stirring every so often—about 5 minutes. Add the liquid and simmer for about 20 minutes until the chilies are soft. Add the chilies and liquid to a food processor and puree until smooth. (You can make this in advance! Either refrigerate or freeze. If you’re making the chili right away, no need to clean the food processor; you’ll be using it again.)
Onto the chili! Set a large pot over medium-high heat, then add a thin film of canola oil. Add the onions and peppers and season generously with salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften—about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and cumin and stir-fry until fragrant and toasty—about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and stir. Add the beer, stir, and cook for a few minutes. Add the chili paste, tomatoes and their juices, chipotles, and beans. Stir and let that simmer.
Meanwhile, combine the prunes and 6 tablespoons water in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Simmer until the fruit is plump and soft. Add to a food processor and puree into a paste. Stir into the chili.
Simmer for at least 30 minutes, until the flavors have mingled. Just before serving, add the vinegar, soy sauce, and Worcestershire. Season with salt to taste. Serve with cornbread, rice, or a stack of warm, flour tortillas.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.