Autumn and chili seem to go hand in hand at our home and last night was no different. Pack 592, chartered by Parkway 2nd Ward, had a campfire pack meeting complete with S’mores and Halloween Safety instruction in our backyard.
Well before pack meeting, I had built and lit the fire so that there would be good coals for roasting marshmallows. But sitting out in the chilly Fall air by that campfire made me long for chili and the chili competitions I had won.
So during pack meeting, my wife answered the call to make quick chili. It was chicken with canned chili beans. I smothered two green chili tamales with it and cheese. After sitting the cold two hours I was ready for this kind of comfort food!
As a kid, my mom made great batches of chili. But she said we needed to wait a day to eat it, sometimes letting is steep overnight on the stove on low. Other times she made and put it in the fridge overnight, then we would take it camping and heat it back up.
Using her recipe I made gallons of the stuff at Camp Tracy’s winter camp for hundreds of Scouts. Making it Friday night and then serving it lunch was a great hit.
I guess I am not sure which works best. Making it ahead and letting flavors meld in the fridge or letting it steep all night on low heat.
At home, a slow cooker solves the problem of overnight cooking, but at camp, it is the nighttime cooldown in the Dutch oven that is your best tool. By that I mean, if you boil your beans as soon as you have set up camp and add all the spices and sauces, but not the meat, then let it sit in your dutch-oven until morning, it will have a much bolder flavor for lunch or dinner that day. Then fry up the meat early in the morning and let the whole thing simmer as long as you can (or make the meat ahead of time, bring it to camp frozen, then just add it in the morning when you begin reheating the chili.)
Black Bean Lamb Chili with Cocoa Mole
This hearty dutch-oven chili serves a patrol of 8, but wins every contest I enter it into. The lamb in this recipe gives the chili a slightly gamey richness, while the chocolate smooths the sauce and moves the whole flavor profile closer to that of a Mexican mole. The ingredient list isn’t as daunting as you might think:
Everything comes together in an 8 quart cast iron Dutch oven or at home in a slow-cooker with at least a 5 1/2 quart capacity.
|Prep: 20 min|
Cook: 4-5 hours
11 half cup servings
- 3 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 Tbl cooking oil or lard
- 2 diced onions
- 2 minced cloves garlic
- 2 finely chopped hot peppers
- 2 Tbl chili powder
- 1 Tbl ground coriander
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 Tbl flour
- Salt (to taste)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups beef broth
- 2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes plus their juices
- 2 15 oz cans black, pinto and/or navy beans
- 1/4 cup dark cocoa
- 3 Tbl finely chopped cilantro
Season the lamb with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the lamb pieces, transferring them to the Dutch oven or slow cooker as they are done.
Add the onions the skillet, stirring, until lightly browned, then add the garlic and peppers; mix together chili powder, coriander, cumin, oregano, thyme, cardamom, and flour and stir into the onions.
Cook for a minute or two and stir in the broth and tomatoes. Cook, stirring a few times, for about 5 minutes.
Transfer to the Dutch oven or slow cooker. Cover and bake for 4 to 5 hours with high heat (or in a slow cooker 8 to 9 hours on LOW). The lamb should be tender and nearly falling apart.
Forty-five minutes before serving, stir in the beans; cover and cook just until they have warmed through.
Just before serving, add the cocoa and cilantro.
MAKE AHEAD: In a crockpot, this chili needs to cook for 4 to 5 hours on HIGH or 8 to 9 hours on LOW. It can be refrigerated for up to 4 days and taken on a campout or served anytime any place.
I’ve come along way since making gallons of chili for winter camp to winning several chili competitions. Early on, I learned that competition chili does not have beans in it. They are served on the side with rice. But for this award-winning recipe, we put it all together at the same time, for your convenience at camp. However, if I had known the secret of cocoa for the taste of mole I would have started winning chili cookoffs a whole lot sooner.
I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. BTW mine batch is already in the crockpot simmering for our Halloween party this Monday evening. Enjoy, I know that we will.
Recipe Source: Adapted from “Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More,” by Andrew Schloss (Chronicle, 2013).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick of The Washington Post.
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