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Author Notes: Cooking a thick stew starting with dried beans can be tricky. The liquid needed to cover the beans can leave you at the end of the day with a fair bit of broth, so we serve this over rice, which soaks it up. I call this a “meanwhile” dish because to get the ingredients into the slow cooker in the quickest, most efficient way possible, each task except for the very first is done while something else is happening. I clocked the active time at about 20 minutes (which includes clean up, most done as you go along); then there’s a long, slow hands off period, followed by a few finishing steps, 30 - 40 minutes before you plan to serve. See my notes at the end for make-ahead tips. I hope you like this. ;o)
Makes nearly 3 quarts
- 1 pound / 453 grams black beans
- 12 ounces / 340 grams / 3 medium Spanish-style chorizo
- 1 large onion
- 6 cloves of garlic
- Small bunch - 15-20 sprigs - cilantro
- Olive oil (or any neutral oil)
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 stalks of celery
- Black pepper
- 1 large bay leaf - or 2 small ones
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (preferably fire roasted, with green chilis)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 16-ounce can of kidney beans
- Zest of one orange
- Chipotles in adobo, to taste
- Juice of 2 limes
- Optional items for serving:
- Cheddar, grated, for garnishing
- Lime crema - 1 tablespoon lime juice per ½ cup sour cream with a pinch of salt
- Brown rice
- Tortilla chips for eating with, instead of a fork or spoon (kids love that)
- Put 5 ½ cups of water on to boil in a kettle or covered pot. Turn the slow cooker onto its “High” setting. NB: you’ll be turning it down before the long cooking period begins.
- Meanwhile, cut the chorizo lengthwise and then crosswise into 1” chunks. Put them into a medium microwavable bowl or Pyrex pitcher with ½ cup water; cover tightly and microwave on high for 3 minutes. (I use my 2 cup Pyrex measure for this, putting the water in first.) When the cooking time is done, remove and leave the container covered. You’ll be putting them back in. We’re cooking them like this to render as much fat as we can before they go into the slow cooker for the day.
- Meanwhile, coarsely chop the onions and garlic and put them into a medium microwavable bowl or Pyrex-style 4-cup measure. Microwave for 3 ½ minutes. Softening them first in the microwave results in a better texture later (this tip, and to warm the spices with the aromatics, courtesy of Cook's Illustrated).
- Meanwhile, use a mortar and pestle to crush the oregano with the cumin, coriander, allspice and 8 - 10 grinds of black pepper. Cut the cilantro stems below the leaves into ⅛” pieces.
- When the onions are done, remove the cover, make a small well in the middle of the onions, add the cilantro stems, the crushed herbs and spices, and the smoked paprika, as well as a good glug (a tablespoon or so, but don’t bother measuring) of olive oil. Cover tightly and microwave for another 3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, chop the celery into ½” chunks. Pick over the black beans to remove any shriveled ones and any dirt or stones. Put the beans and celery into the slow cooker.
- When the onions are done, remove them from the microwave and put the chorizo back in for another 2 minutes on high. Meanwhile, put the aromatics and herbs into the slow cooker, give everything a good stir and pour in 5 cups of boiling water.
- When the chorizo is done, pour off the liquid and discard the liquid, and add the chorizo to the slow cooker, along with a bay leaf and a good pinch of salt. Give it all a good stir, cover, TURN THE HEAT DOWN TO LOW, and let it cook for 8 - 9 hours.
- No less than 30 minutes before you plan to serve the chili (or sooner if you like, but not until the beans are quite tender), turn the slow cooker up to High. Drain the juice from the tomatoes into a medium microwavable bowl or pitcher and cook on maximum power for 4 minutes.
- Meanwhile, remove a cup or so of broth from the beans and stir the tomato paste into it. Pour it back into the slow cooker.
- Open and drain the kidney beans, and coarsely chop the cilantro leaves.
- Put the heated tomatoes and the cilantro leaves into the slow cooker; add the orange zest and give everything a good stir to incorporate fully.
- Microwave the kidney beans for 3 minutes -- do it in the same bowl or pitcher you used for the tomatoes -- and then add them to the slow cooker. Meanwhile, remove the bay leaves from the slow cooker.
- Stir in the chipotles in adobo, if using. Test for salt and pepper and correct as necessary. Add more chipotles to taste. (We serve the sauce -- Frontera brand which is available at Whole Foods Market here -- on the side to allow people to add individually to taste.)
- Once the cooker has been on “High” for 30 minutes, feel free to turn it back down to “Low” or “Warm” until you’re ready to serve. Stir in the lime juice right before serving.
- Serve with grated cheddar, lime juice-spiked sour cream, pickled red onions and good tortilla chips. (We use the chips instead of forks and spoons.)
- Make ahead tips: The night - or up to 2 days before - you can prep and microwave the chorizo. . . . . prep and microwave the aromatics and herbs. . . . . chop the celery (stir it into and store it with the onions, if you’ve cooked them) . . . . . and pick over the beans and put them right in the slow cooker with the bay leaf. Be sure to heat the cooked chorizo for about two minutes, and the onions for about 2 minutes. Feel free to reheat them together for 5 minutes, if that’s more convenient. If you’re serving lime crema, that can also be made in advance. Give it a good stir and test for salt right before serving. If you’re serving cheese, you can grate it up to 3 or 4 days in advance. If serving rice, you can make that up to 4 days beforehand, or take some out of the freezer and warm it up, if you’ve got some already made.
- If you are prepping the chorizo ahead of time (cutting and microwaving), you can reserve the cooking liquid, chill it, remove and discard the fat that rises to the top, and use the liquid to replace part of the water to be added to the slow cooker. Heat it in the microwave to near boiling before adding to the pot.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Hands-Off Recipe