This is a variant of my "Slightly Smoky Mixed Bean Chili"–that one was based on a recipe from Sunset's Vegetarian Cooking, here using only one type of bean. I had two pounds of Rancho Gordo Snowcap beans to use up, and this seemed the perfect opportunity to develop this recipe further. The beans came out large-ish and pillowy after simmering. I added some cocoa for depth and a minced chipotle chili in adobo because, well, I had it in the pantry waiting to be used and had never tried them before. Don't skip the garnishes, as they liven up and freshen the hearty beans.
2 pounds \"Snowcap\" or other dry beans (I used Rancho Gordo), picked over, washed and soaked for at least 3 hours in water to cover with 1/2 teaspoon salt
5 fresh bay leaves, twisted and cracked along the central vein
2 small or one large onion, peeled and left whole
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 medium-to-large onions, diced
4 fat cloves of garlic, minced
1 or more canned chipotle chili in adobo--you know best. If you wish, you may slice open and scrape out the seeds to lower the heat. If you are from the Southwest or Far West, keep the seeds in. Mince the chili.
2 tablespoons plus one teaspoon ground chili, or to taste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, rubbed between fingers
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 28-oz. can whole fire-roasted tomatoes
1 12-oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Fresh tomatoes, diced, for garnish
Regular or goat milk yogurt, for garnish
grated cheddar cheese
crumbled soft goat cheese from a log
minced white or sweet onion
brown rice pilaf (see my recipe for Megedarra with Brown Rice Pilaf)
guacamole (recipe below)
refrigerated-type salsa, or homemade salsa fresca, as an accompaniement
4 ripe avocadoes
2 cloves garlic, minced and mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt
1 lime, juiced
Step 1Drain beans of soaking water, and combine in a heavy soup pot or casserole with 2 of the fresh bay leaves, the whole onions, salt and water to cover by a depth of 2 or 3 fingers. Bring slowly to a boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, keep a tea-kettle of hot water handy to add as the water in the pot is absorbed by the beans. You want to keep them mostly under water. Reduce heat, place on a flame tamer if desired, and simmer until beans are tender, stirring occasionally, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours or longer, depending on freshness of beans. Test by removing a bean and slicing through it crosswise.
Step 2When beans are tender, remove whole onion(s) and bay leaves.
Step 3Make a sofrito from the aromatics: in a large heavy saute pan, swirl some olive oil over medium high heat until hot and shimmering. Add diced onion and the 3 bay leaves and saute until onion is golden and translucent. Push aside some onion, add a bit of olive oil, and add the garlic. Saute until fragrant, and toss with the onions. Add the minced chipotle chili, stir for a few seconds, remove from heat, then stir in the ground chili, cumin, and oregano. Add the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and stir again.
Step 4Add sofrito to the pot of beans, then stir in the canned tomatoes with some juice, squeezing tomatoes in your hand to break them up before dropping them in the pot. With a soup ladle, remove about 3/4 of a cup of the broth to a small bowl or coffee cup and add the tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder. Whisk until smooth. Add back to the pot. Taste for salt and seasoning, adding more to taste if necessary, and simmer over low heat another 30 minutes or so until flavors are blended and tomatoes are broken down. Can be prepared up to this point one day before, chilled and reheated just before serving--this will develop the flavor further.
Step 5Serve chili with brown rice, onions, cheddar and/or goat cheese, yogurt, lime quarters guacamole and salsa for everyone to layer as they like.
Step 6Halve the avocados and squeeze out of their shells. Mash coarsely with a fork.
Step 7Stir in garlic and lime juice. Serve as an accompaniment to chili.