I’ve done quite a bit of cooking since 2016 began, with well, mixed results. I’ve learned valuable lessons though, like if you’re going to put baby back ribs in the slow cooker, the membrane MUST stay attached; otherwise they completely fall apart on you. I’ve also learned that kumquats have a very mild flavor when slow roasted, and probably weren’t worth the trouble as they only lent a slight citrusy background note that likely could have been achieved with some basic orange zest. (I might try that pork dish again with that change, because it was otherwise quite tasty.) Anyways.
This chili was, thankfully, superb. Despite my pickiness about chili texture, I do enjoy shaking up the flavors from time to time. Sure, I’ll always be loyal to a Texas bowl o’ red, but I don’t feel guilty for occasionally stepping out on it. Pork in chili is delicious. It just is.
This chili features pork in three ways, with bacon, Italian sausage, and ground pork shoulder. Despite the Italian sausage, this chili’s flavor profile is definitely Tex-Mex. The Italian-ness of the sausage doesn’t distract, it just provides an interesting note to wake up your tastes buds a little. Seeing as we just sat through a blizzard, I’m wishing the leftovers weren’t already gone… Enjoy!
Source: adapted a little bit from The Chili Cookbook by Robb Walsh
1 tbs unsalted butter
3 thick-cut strips bacon, chopped
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, removed from its casings
1 lb. ground pork
1 large white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
4 cups water
1 (15 oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
¼ cup whiskey or bourbon
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tbs chili powder
1 tbs paprika
1-2 tbs ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tbs masa harina
Garnishes of your choice (sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, scallions, pickled jalapenos, chopped onion…)
In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisped and the fat has rendered. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Add the sausage to the bacon drippings by pinching off little free-form meatballs. This will give your chili some texture later. Stir the sausage chunks until browned all over, then move all the sausage to one side of the pot. Add the pork and cook, breaking it up with a spoon or potato masher, until no traces of pink remain. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Now add the water, tomatoes, whiskey, brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir well to mix and increase the heat to a simmer. Cook the chili at least 1 hour or more, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from scorching. Adjust the heat up or down as necessary to keep a simmer going.
Add the masa harina and stir to thicken. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Once the chili is to your desired thickness, serve with the garnishes of your choice.