Slow-Cooker Black Bean Chili

From Cook's Country | June/July 2008

Why this recipe works:

In a slow-cooker black bean chili recipe, black beans go into the slow cooker with an army of flavorful ingredients. So why is the result so often a dull, muddied mess? To build assertive flavor, we started our chili recipe by sautéing chopped onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeños in a… read more

In a slow-cooker black bean chili recipe, black beans go into the slow cooker with an army of flavorful ingredients. So why is the result so often a dull, muddied mess? To build assertive flavor, we started our chili recipe by sautéing chopped onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeños in a Dutch oven; beginning the sauté with bacon fat, rather than the usual oil, also helped amplify the meaty richness of the chili. When the vegetables were tender, we added chili powder, plus cumin and oregano, and let the spices bloom in the hot pan.  We opted for the salty richness a small smoked ham lent to the chili as it cooked; removing the ham at the end of cooking and chopping it provided plenty of meat. Dried beans added to the slow cooker at the outset were still too hard by the time the chili was done. To speed the cooking, we simmered the beans in the Dutch oven for 15 minutes before transferring the contents to the slow cooker. For the right combination of creamy whole beans and a thick, rich chili, we mashed a can of black beans into the base of slow-cooked dried black beans.

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Serves 6 to 8

We prefer the sweetness of red bell peppers here, but any bell pepper will work. Small boneless hams are available in the meat case at most supermarkets. The aluminum foil in step 2 helps keep all the beans under the surface of the liquid, where they cook evenly. We like to serve this chili with sour cream, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, and fresh cilantro.

Ingredients

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