Beans and Beef with Chile and Panela

It’s the season for deeply flavored stews, braises, roasts and rich bean dishes. This one is not based on any specific recipe but like most cooking I do is more based on a flavor profile, in this case American Southwestern/Mexican. The starting point was the beef shoulder roast. I wanted it more substantial, enter the beans and I wanted some spice and a chile profile. It came out very good and worth documenting for future repeats. Here’s what I did.

I seasoned the beef with a combination of freshly ground Ancho and chipotle (the dried not canned chipotle) chilies, salt, black pepper, ground allspice and dried oregano and panela (more on that panela part a little later). I let that sit for several hour, doing this overnight is not a bad idea but I did not have the time.

Like most any classic braise or stew I first seared the meat in fat, pork fat in this case. Similar to what I did with the Sugo and Polenta dish I posted about recently, I wanted to cook this low and slow in my clay pot. So, once browned the meat would go there until all pieces where browned.

I sauteed a mixture of onions, garlic, peppers and more of the spice mixture in the fat left in the pan, then I deglazed it with beer to get all the good browned bits off. I added that to the pot with the meat, put in some pinto beans that I had soaked in water overnight. I topped it with tomatoes and water. For balance I wanted a very small hint of sweetness so I added a couple of spoons of Panela.

Panela is a type of unrefined sugar used a lot in Latin American cooking. It’s used to make sweet treats, drinks, or in stews. It usually comes in the shape of large disks or pyramid shaped blocks. I use a knife to shave off as much as I need.

It’s a very tasty stew that can be adapted to whatever you might have in the pantry, freezer or fridge. Depending on what part of the world you are in now too it is a lovely comfort food perfect for the cold weather. We enjoyed it just like a bowl of chili with jalapenos, sour cream, cilantro and cheese.

A Meat-y Update

I have not been neglecting my Vegetarian project. Well, maybe I have in the past couple of weeks, but not intentionally. See, we had a good friend staying over our house for a week or so and he had some specific requests for meals. Pretty much non of his requests were in the vegetarian domain to say the least. I am not really complaining, you see, we ate really good guilty stuff. In any case , the foods I cooked were worth sharing before going back to VDP posts, especially when I remembered to take a picture or two. Among other things we had…

Cheese Burgers (cooked these in my cast iron skillet). For a weekday dinner these were terrific and quick.

Lamb Kofta Kebabs with hummus, lentils and grilled (yes, right on the charcoal grill) flat bread. I cannot express how pleased I was with the breads cooking perfectly on the grill and not sticking to the grates. I will be doing more of this for sure.

Deep Dish Pizza filled with ‘shrooms, sausage and cheese. First try at this type of pizza. It came out pretty good, but next time I’ll need to use less dough in the pan.

Long and slow cooked Chili with all the trimmings. I properly diced the meat instead of grinding it. It results in a better texture and appearance. As you can see, it included a lot of spices plus chipotles.

VDP: Three-Bean ‘Chile Con Frijoles’

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It used to be just hearing the words ‘Vegetarian Chili’ would give me the heebie jeebies. Chili needs meat, it is all about the meat and the chillies! Well, I still dislike the name even though a dish with lots of dried and/or fresh chillies, spices, beans and vegetables can be very good. It’s just not Chili! That is why I am calling this ‘Chili con Frijoles’. It describes exactly what this is, beans with chillies.

The recipe I used here is a combo of two recipes from Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything Vegetarian“. One includes black beans, chocolate and coffee, the other is a more straightforward mix of beans and chili powder with onions and garlic. I loved the idea of making a deep dark and rich ‘chili’so I used a good homemade chili powder, lots of onions, garlic, Mexican chocolate, canned tomatoes and a few spoons of dark brown sugar to offset the acidity and the bitterness.

I brought the brew to a simmer in the Colombian clay pot with three different types of beans (black, red and pinto). I then put the pot in a low 230 F oven for a few hours and went to sleep. After resting on the counter all day, I just reheated it for dinner and served it with lots of garnished. I will certainly be making this again, it was utterly delicious garnished with sour cream, cilantro, avocado, farmers cheese, onions, scallions and a squeeze of lime juice. Maybe I’ll make some corn bread to go with it next time.