1 onion (yellow or white)
2 fresh peppers (jalepeno, serrano, habenero. Go nuts)
4-6 cloves garlic
Pad of butter / olive oil
Chicken stock - no salt added
3 tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
5 oz Dried chiles (guajilo, cascabel, ancho, hatch...whatever you want / whatever is available)
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
6 Roma tomatoes
Protein - 2 lbs of beef (ground or steak) or 6 chicken thighs, or some slow roasted pork.
1 can of beans - your choice
Start with the onions. Get them into a small dice, then add them to the pot with your choice of fat (oil or butter), and some salt. You can either sweat these on medium high until almost translucent (5 min), or go all the way and let them caramelize if you have the time and patience (30 minutes on low heat). Once the onions are starting to look good, add in your choice of pepper. I found that serrano, seeds, ribs and all, gives it that right kind of heat where it starts out not too bad, but ends fairly spicy. You could go with jalepenos that have been trimmed and throw in a habenero to kick it up a bit, or omit the spicy peppers altogether. Find what jives with you. As for the garlic, you want it to be fine, so either pressed, minced, or in a paste will work. The stuff in the jar is fine, too. Let all of that start to mingle for a few minutes. You could also add in other aromatics if you wanted, making a traditional mirepoix, but this works out fine for me.
While you are waiting on your onions, or before you even started them, you can work on your spice paste. You have two options - either blend everything together in a blender, or use a spice grinder for the peppers and cumin, and then add everything to the pot. Either way, start by cutting/tearing your dried peppers into maybe ½ inch strips, removing all stems and seeds as you go, although a few seeds won’t hurt. Usually you can use your fingers to rip them, but a pair of kitchen shears does wonders to make this process faster.
Place the dried pepper strips into a dry pan and put over medium/high heat, stirring occasionally, until they just start to smoke.
Perform the next steps after your veggie base is finished.
If you have a spice grinder:
Put the dried peppers in there, as well as your cumin seeds. Grind until you get a uniform powder. Add the chicken stock to the veggie base, then add in everything listed in the spice paste, and stir to combine.
If you have a blender:
Put everything in the spice paste in your blender, reserving maybe half the chicken stock. Blend until most of the dried chiles is small particles. Doing this in the blender leaves you with more remnants of the dried chiles, which I find to be unpleasant, but not dish ruining by any stretch. Add this and the remaining stock to your veggie paste, stir to combine.
This is a good step to check your seasonings - taste the broth and adjust the salt as required. I found my first chili to be a bit too ‘bitter’ or ‘dark’ tasting until I added a large amount of salt. This is also why it’s important to use unsalted chicken broth - it gives you full control over the final product. Feel free to add in any additional spices as well.
Next, core and slice your roma tomatoes. There are two ways to do this, depending on knife skills. You could either halve each tomato, and then use a spoon to scrape out the inside of the tomato. Then dice the remaining flesh. The other method is to stand the tomato upright, and peel along the core. This was giving me ¼ segments, which I then halve before adding in.
As far as protein goes, I think this one is completely up to you. Ground beef is the traditional meat which works out pretty well - just make sure to work in batches so you get a good sear on all of it. If you wanted to go for something like a chuck steak, that will work too, just making some small slices and again making sure you brown it all before putting it in. I’ve become a fan of putting chicken breasts in, after cooking at 425 on a wire rack for about 25 minutes. I haven’t tried it yet, but stew might would probably be amazing in this dish, as well as cheap. If you don’t think it would work, you aren’t cooking it for nearly long enough. Don’t worry about seasoning your meat too heavily, because the flavors you have been putting in so far are going to do that work for you.
Finally there is the matter of the beans. I use a can of white beans, but you can use whatever kind of bean you want, and you could probably use two cans if you wanted a beanier soup. There are also two times you can add beans - right when you add the protein, or about half an hour before cooking ends. If you add it with the protein, the beans will break down and thicken the soup, which is what I prefer. If you add them at the end, you get some whole beans in your soup which can also be nice. As with a lot of this recipe, it’s your call.
Once you have everything added, bring to a boil over medium/high heat, then reduce down to just above a simmer. I usually start everything at lunch, and let it go until dinner, so about 5 hours. After the first hour, I reduce from a slight boil to a simmer. You will want to stir about every 20 minutes or so. After you are sure your meat is cooked (I get worried with chicken, so about an hour in for me) start tasting again to adjust seasoning, or just because this stuff is addicting. I could drink it out of a thermos at this point.
The low and slow cooking is going to mean that all of your non-meats are going to sacrifice themselves to the broth. After 5 hours, I am almost always left with just meat with no sign of bean, onion, or pepper. If you wanted to preserve the veggies, you could reduce the cooking time, but I don’t enjoy that nearly as much. If using chicken or pork, you will slowly see the meat ‘unravel’ over cooking into strands of meat, which is ideal.
I personally think that a nice, dark break goes well with this. Something like pumpernickel or a hearty rye, toasted for good dipping. You could also top with whatever cheese you have around, preferably a good cheddar. Oyster crackers or saltines are also good additions for some texture.