Tuesday, August 13, 2013

White Bean Chili with Roasted Corn and Poblanos

This chili requires several steps and multiple pots and pans, and it will leave your kitchen wrecked, unless you're better than I am at cleaning up as you go. But I've never felt so in-tune with the late summer harvest: roasting corn, toasting pumpkin seeds, scorching and peeling poblano peppers, it's about as ritualistic and satisfying as cooking gets.

Part of my plan here was to teach Henry how to roast peppers. Unfortunately, I was a terrible model. I grew impatient with the process, like I always do, and didn't blacken them enough or steam them enough, and wound up grumpily scraping off little bits of tenacious pepper skin until I finally gave up and left tons of skin on.

It was fine. The end result was smoky and delicious, and provided an opportunity to teach my son that you don't have to do everything perfectly right to produce a damn good bowl of food.

Anyway, late summer is short - maybe too short to worry about peeling every piece of skin off a pepper.

White Bean Chili with Roasted Corn and Poblanos
Serves 6-8

1 lb small white navy beans, sorted, soaked, rinsed, and drained
4 poblano peppers, roasted and peeled (good tutorial here - I used a little olive oil instead of cooking spray)
4 medium ears corn (in husks)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
Big handful cilantro, leaves pulled off, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
8 ounces soft goat cheese (optional)
2 tablespoons milk (optional)
Big handful raw pumpkin seeds

To cook beans:

Place in a large pot with six cups cold water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce to strong simmer, and cook one hour or so, until beans are cooked tender but not mushy. Check regularly to make sure beans are immersed in water - add more if necessary.


Roast and peel the poblano peppers (link to tutorial above). Chop roughly and set aside.

Roast the corn (keep husks on) in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. When it's cool enough to handle, husk and use a sharp knife to scrape off the kernels. Set aside.

Warm olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and a small pinch of salt. When onions sizzle, reduce heat to low and cook ten minutes, stirring occasionally  Add garlic, chopped roasted poblanos, oregano, cumin, salt, and about half the cilantro leaves. Cook five minutes, stirring.

Scrape every bit of olive oil/onions/garlic/poblano mixture into a blender. Scoop out 1/2 cup or so of bean cooking liquid and add to blender. Blend well - at least 1 minute. You will have a gorgeous green saucy paste. It will smell so good you won't believe it. Add more liquid if necessary. Stir mixture into beans.

Add corn and lime juice to beans. Taste and adjust seasoning, and simmer over low heat 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure beans don't stick or burn. You might need to add a little more water.

Roast the pumpkin seeds by stirring in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until they pop and smell toasty. This demands constant attention.

Warm milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add goat cheese and stir constantly to make sauce. (To make dish vegan, omit goat cheese sauce and top chili with vegan sour cream or yogurt substitute).

To serve: Ladle chili into a bowl, spoon a few tablespoons of goat cheese sauce on top, add pumpkin seeds and cilantro to garnish.

Harvest time. Coming soon: Roasted Tomato and Jalapeño Sauce!