Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pinto Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

When I sit down to watch a football game, be it for my beloved Packers or Badgers, I need a special snack or meal. This behavior was imbedded in me from a young age when my dad and I would watch the Packer game together enjoying our Packer snacks (I even insisted that we each take our first bite when the kicker's foot hit the football on kick-off). As an adult I have continued this tradition, though I can't seem to convince my husband of the import of taking your first bite at precisely the right time.

When the Badgers took on the Ducks in Rose Bowl, I had to choose how best to honor the game with culinary accompaniment. I debated on making something with quintessentially Wisconsin ingredients like brats or cheese, but I was gripped by a deep craving for chili and cornbread. I've made and enjoyed all manner of chili, be it beef and bean, turkey, or white chicken chili, but given my recent mild obsession with the delightful combination of beans and sweet potatoes, this recipe spoke to me. With the New Year my quest for healthy, yet flavorful recipes was reinvigorated, and this chili also satisfied that search expertly. The chile powder is one of the strongest influences on the character of the chili, ranging from scorchingly hot to mild and sweet. By choosing ancho chile powder, this became a smoky and only slighty spicy chili, much more accessible to dinner companions who don't share my slightly masochistic love of spicy food. Now that we're finally receiving some long overdue snowfall, I know many more bowls of chili with their companion cornbread are destined for my dinner table, steeling me against the icy winds of a Wisconsin winter.
Pinto Bean and Sweet Potato Chili
adapted from Bon Appetit, via Epicurious
serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 cup canned vegetable broth or water, plus additional water or broth if needed
1 10-ounce red-skinned sweet potato (yam), peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 14 1/2- to 16-ounce can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
1 15- to 16-ounce can pinto beans, drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 to 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped raw onion, and cilantro, for serving (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in heavy medium sauce-pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder and stir 1 minute. Add broth and potato. Cover pan; reduce heat to medium and simmer until potato is almost tender, about 10 minutes.

2. Add tomatoes with their juices and pinto beans. Simmer uncovered until chili thickens and potato is very tender, about 10 minutes. Mix in cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon at a time to taste and serve warm, topping with an extras you like.

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