Mildly piquant Poblano peppers add kick to this full-bodied black bean beef chili recipe with a cooling cilantro and avocado cream on top.
We woke up in Narnia. Snow had cascaded down from a dark midnight sky and left a soft white blanket that covered the ground and coated the trees. The grey mountains of snow at the ends of driveways had been washed clean and sparkled. Footprints and ice crusts were covered with nothing but pure, unadulterated white. The weight of it muffles sound and makes everything seem to move in slow motion as we file out the door and into the car.
Traffic crawls forward, hindered not only by snow-covered roads, but by the Sunday slowness. As morning turns to afternoon, we pull into the Target parking lot dreading the weekend crowds and busy atmosphere being exacerbated by the general wetness of the snow in the parking lot and making it difficult to push the bright red cart to your car. We trudge onward, feet wet and snow sticking to leggings and pant legs.
Pushing through the store, the six of us fill the cart with groceries and personal care items we hadn’t purchased during our Costco adventure or last night’s trip to Whole Foods and maneuvering around casual shopper roadblocks, the promise of being done with grocery shopping for the week steers us forward to the exit.
Red doors part as we approach and we spill out, the late winter sunlight blinding as it reflects off the snow, and we step into the now grey slush that fills the parking lot. Ole pushing the cart, I pull the oldest two to me and hang back slightly, waiting to walk past the first landscape island in the lot, the bushes and mulch covered by an oasis of pure white snow, untouched by the boot-covered feet, black tires, and red carts. The three of us stick our hands down into the snow. It clumps easily, adhering to itself in a sticky, wet snowball. Our frozen packages cupped in bare hands, we jog to catch up to cart with the two smaller kids sitting in the seats, my tall bearded husband at the helm.
When we reach them, snowballs are tossed directly into the back of his neck. I have to jump to plant mine there with my palm aimed perfectly so the snow falls not to the ground, but instead gets caught in the collar of his dress shirt, finding its way to the space between his shoulder blades, melting down his back. He lets out a surprised guffaw as the kids squeal with the delight of defacing dad. He instantly drops his hand to the snow oasis he is nearing, and before I even have time to move there is a ball of white flying towards me, spitting small snow particles as it whirls through the air.
We continue on, laughing, onlookers staring, and by the time we reach the truck the kids are opening doors when my husband stands on the back bumper, scraping fresh snow from the roof of our SUV. I am now a very small target and he has the better vantage point. Snowballs pelt my thigh as I turn to avoid their path. No oasis in sight, I pick up the remainder of the ball that just hit me and hurl it back at him, inching closer with each acquired ball.
My black coat is pelted with circular white spots. Snow clings to his dark brown beard. Our kids are cheering us on, and I’d like to think the rest of the Sunday shoppers agree that life is pretty darn sweet in this moment.
The sun is a bit stronger these days, warming the air and kissing your cheeks. Snow still falls, but the greyness of winter seems to be carried away on these promising rays. At home after the groceries are put away and wet snowball-hit shirts have been swapped for dry ones, warm bowls of chili wait to chase away the day.
Smoky beef was the impetus for this chili, the slight piquancy of poblano peppers and black beans came in when I determined I would be serving sweet potato biscuits alongside it, and clearly once the poblano and black beans were invited, avocado was rapping at the door, begging to be included as well. No ordinary scoop of sour cream would be good enough to grace this bowl.
- In lieu of smoking your own roast and then tossing leftover chunks into your pot of chili, I offer up an alternative method below. Still, if you happen to be the smoking type, a variety of leftover beef added in with the stock and tomatoes will do just fine. Think brisket, rib tips, or that whole roast you rubbed and threw on just because you had enough room and the smoker was hot and ready.
- I know what you’re thinking: “Oh my gosh, this still qualifies as soup.” I like eating with a spoon. Get over it. Or used to it. Spring will come soon enough. (Spring is never soon enough.)
- Poblano chiles get hotter as they ripen. Green poblano peppers are more mild than their red counterparts. Choose the ripeness to fit your fiery desires.
- So you hate cilantro: Don’t use it. The avocado cream works without it, and I’d hate more for you to miss out on that.
- I have a few friends participating in Whole30. (I’m looking at you, Mandi.) Swap beans for small sweet potato chunks, but add the chunks earlier with the meat. They’ll cook while you simmer away. (Omit the sour cream, too, obviously.)
- Canned diced tomatoes are a great way to get your tomato on in the winter months. You can use home-canned tomatoes or store-bought cans. I ended up tossing a large can of Muir Glen’s Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes in because they were kind enough to send me some (<--not a paid endorsement, by any means).
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon honey
For the chili:
1 pound beef, 1/2″ chunks (roast or stew chunks)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, diced
4 poblano peppers, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
2 cups chicken stock
28 ounces canned diced tomatoes
3 cups cooked black beans
2 tablespoons lime juice
salt and pepper
Cilantro Avocado Cream (recipe below)
1 avocado, sliced
Mix together all the meat seasoning ingredients, including the honey, until a paste is formed. Stir the beef chunks into the seasoning to coat evenly. In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the seasoned beef chunks and cook until browned on each side. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
Add in the onions and poblano peppers. Cook for 5 minutes until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Pour in the stock and tomatoes, and then add in the beef chunks. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to medium/medium-low. Simmer for 40 minutes.
Uncover the chili and stir in the beans. Cook until the beans are heated through, about 10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve garnished with avocado slices and with cilantro avocado cream.
Cilantro Avocado Cream
1/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Mash the avocado until smooth. Stir in the sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, cumin, salt, and pepper. Serve on top of chili.
Makes 6 servings.