Shortly after my last attempt at chili (with an “I”) with fresh and dried chiles (with an “E”), a friend and cook I admire attempted at Cincinnati chili. To Jillian Blackie, I proposed a chili swap one day as I find myself making more slow cooked foods again in the cooler autumnal weather.
I love Autumn. I revel in the season with its lower temperatures encouraging longer sleeves; soft breezes rustling trees preparing for the winter; gorgeous sunsets colouring the sky; and smatterings of rain.
Heck, I found myself so inspired by the foliage changing colour and falling from the trees that I purposely collected leaves to “fall naturally” on a turkey pasta casserole I plated for a photo.
Most of all, I love the fall harvest. When Tara Simpson, the event coordinator for the Ottawa Farmers’ Market asked about favourite fall flavours, I couldn’t choose one.
@foodiePrints (Oct 11, 10:34 AM)
@OttawaFarmMkt fall food flavours? molasses, cinnamon, cloves, dark sugar root veg, savoury long cooked meats cc @thegoudalife @CestBonChef
@foodiePrints (Oct 11, 10:35 AM)
@OttawaFarmMkt sweet potato, apples, tomato… mirepoix carrots, celery, and onion… cc @thegoudalife @CestBonChef
@foodiePrints (Oct 11, 10:46 AM)
@OttawaFarmMkt Yes, fall is my favourite season…Also, buttery/lardy pie crust! /Don cc @thegoudalife @CestBonChef
That said, this is a chili post. As promised, I moved away from the braised and pulled meats this time around and went with something ground. Though, equally blasphemous, I opted to forgo beef and tomato. It wasn’t a bowl of “red” I was looking to prepare. I decided to make a leek-based “white” chili with roasted beans on the side.
Loosely speaking, I could still call this dish “chili.” It is a stew-like soup. It is made with meat. There are chiles.
I think chili should be a free-form dish; something you put together with odds and ends in the fridge and pantry. It should be something made on a whim.
When I walked by the Parkdale farmers’ market on my way to run some errands, locally grown leeks from Rochon Farms leapt heroically into one of my reusable grocery bags.
There are always dried beans like chickpeas in the pantry as they tend to last forever and I am wary of the salt (or salt analogs) in canned varieties.
Barbara Schaefer of Upper Canada Heritage Meats gifted me a half dozen trotters when I picked up a pork belly and some hocks several Saturdays ago. Schaefer raises pastured black pigs just outside of the city. During the festive season, I could not imagine baking pastry crust without the wondrous rendered lard she sells at the Christmas farmers’ market. She hinted there will indeed be Christmas farmers’ markets this December by the way.
And, I wanted to test pulverized corn tortilla chips as seasoning and a thickener.
So, 6 cups of water went into the slow cooker with two defrosted trotters. To accompany, a large white onion (“Frenched”), 2 cloves of garlic, and a tbsp of black pepper corns followed. Then, low heat and time had their way with everything in the crock. After 8 hours, I strained the stock and reduced it on medium heat to about 2 cups of concentrated sticky goodness. This, I left in the fridge to setup, as the fat would rise to the top and solidify, so it could be skimmed out.
To a metal-bottomed saucier, I added a knob of butter, a splash of olive oil, and a pint of white button mushrooms (washed and sliced). These, I sauteed until coloured on both sides.
Evacuating the saucier, I deglazed the bottom with the white and light green portions of 4 leeks (washed and chopped finely). Once translucent, I added these to a large metal bowl.
To the saucier, I added a smidge more olive oil and then browned up about 2 lbs of lean ground pork. For added bulk and flavour, I mixed in some crushed cracker crumbs and a generous pinch of a dried herb mix into the meat beforehand. This is completely optional. When the meat was crusted and no longer pink, I evacuated it to the bowl with the sweated leeks.
To deglaze the wonderful bits of fond left behind from sauteing the meat, I added two finely chopped green bell peppers and four finely chopped green chiles (seeded and stemmed).
Evacuating the saucier once more, I added the trotter stock, brought it to a simmer, and simmered it for 5 minutes. To this, I added everything back, sauteed mushrooms, sweated aromatics, and sauteed meat.
While the liquid heated back to a simmer, I crushed a half bag of corn tortilla chips to powder in a mortar and pestle. A less stress-relieving method involves a food processor. A more stress-relieving method involves a clean paper bag and a rolling pin. Either way, bash them chips good!
Then, I sprinkled the powder into the simmering mixture and thickened it to a bolognese consistency.
You could serve the chili, piping hot, in soup crocks that are twice as wide as they are tall. Why soup crocks? So you can sprinkle some cheese atop and broil, of course!
Or, you could up the veg quotient and serve the chili in hollowed out squash. You know? The kind you buy at the farmers’ market because they are pretty. The kind you forget to ask the vendor about the variety because you’re too busy thinking about using the squash as a receptacle for more herbal and less spicy take on chili.