Pork and Pinto Bean Chili
I don’t do well in the cold. Being from Santa Barbara, I’m kind of a pussy about low temps to begin with, but I also have legitimately terrible circulation (a doctor confirmed this three years ago at my last physical). Fact: If it’s below 45 degrees, my fingers and toes will go numb and turn greenish/blue in approximately five minutes. It’s awkward and painful, and I tend to do a lot of shameless whimpering.
Luckily, when the polar vortex strikes, my self-employment allows me to hibernate for days at a time. I have zero control over the thermostat in my apartment, but the building cranks ze heat from November-March, so it’s basically spring break up in here. I’m not even wearing pants right now.
Anyhoo, when the cold front hit last week, I did my best hermiting, leaving my cave only for groceries and a dinner celebrating Lara’s engagement. I planned to continue being a shut-in through the weekend (cocktails in bed, naps, Netflix, baths, etc.), but then I remembered I had a meeting on Saturday afternoon. In Brooklyn.
Horror of HORRORS.
So, come 1pm Saturday, I bundled myself like the abominable snowman and waddled to the subway. I managed to take the L to Brooklyn properly (I’ve mentioned before that I’m not the best at the subway), but then I had to switch to the G train. I wasn’t exactly sure which direction I was going, but the choices were: “To Church St.” or “To Queens.” I thought to myself, “I would like to stay in Brooklyn, thank you very much. I shall take the Church St. route.”
I made the wrong choice.
After going half an hour in the wrong direction, I discovered my mistake, retraced my steps, and then walked half a mile in the Arctic to get to my meeting. By the time I made it home, I was exhausted, my bones were cold, and all I wanted was a long koala hug and/or some serious comfort food. Since my roommate was out of town and I don’t like to hug strangers, I settled for a big bowl of this Pork and Pinto Bean Chili.
I love chili (Exhibits A, B, and C), which is basically the food equivalent of a Snuggie. It’s warm and comforting, and even if it’s not the sexiest thing to look at, it’s guaranteed to make you feel all kinds of cozy.
This particular chili is my new go-to for several reasons. First of all, it’s a total taste treat. Tender pork tenderloin and buttery pinto beans are a match made in chili heaven, and when you get some toasty spices, jalapeños and green chilies involved, things really heat up (pun intended). A hefty splash of beer provides awesome depth, and a little apple cider vinegar magically ties everything together. YES.
Second, it’s ridiculously easy to make. Do not be deterred by the length of the ingredient list, peeps. A good third of it is optional toppings, and you probably already have most of the necessary ingredients in your spice cabinet/pantry. (So help me God, if you still don’t own cumin…) Then all you have to do is brown the pork, sauté some onions with garlic, green chilies and spices, add a little broth and beer, and simmer the whole shebang for about an hour. Done and done. Plus, you’ll only need a cutting board and one pot, so there’s virtually zero cleanup. Amen.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Pork and Pinto Bean Chili is that it absolutely crushes on the health front. There’s minimal oil involved, and lean pork tenderloin trims calories and fat (and cooking time!), while still packing plenty of flavor. Pinto beans are also pretty magical, since they’re extremely high in fiber and protein, folate, iron, copper and manganese. In short, this chili will boost energy levels, stabilize blood sugar, improve heart health, and keep all your “healthy eating”/wonderland body resolutions on track.
That said, I wouldn’t judge if you poured the pot of chili over a mountain of tortilla chips, and then smothered it in cheese and toppings to make the most chronic nachos ever. No-Calorie Sunday exists for a reason.
I dig this one-pot wonder as a fuss-free weeknight meal (there’s less than 30 minutes of hands-on time), but I also recommend keeping it in mind for casual winter entertaining. The recipe doubles easily, and it’s one of those fabulous creations that tastes even better the next day, so you can/should make it in advance of your Super Bowl fiestas, dinner parties, and Sunday gatherings. Just ladle the deliciousness into bowls, set out all your favorite toppings, and let people get weird.
Stay warm, friends!
Pork and Pinto Bean Chili: (Serves 4)
1 pork tenderloin (approximately 1 pound), trimmed of any excess fat and cut into 3-inch chunks
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided (You can also use olive oil if you like.)
½ large yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
1 4.5-ounce can diced green chilies
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup beer (I used Dos Equis, but you can use whatever you have on hand.)
1 tablespoon Cholula or hot sauce of your choice (optional)
1½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Suggested Toppings: (optional)
Shredded white cheddar
Non-fat Greek yogurt
Minced red onion
Crumbled bacon/turkey bacon
Freshly chopped cilantro
Preparing your Pork and Pinto Bean Chili:
-Pat your pork tenderloin dry with paper towels and slice it crosswise into approximately 3-inch pieces. Season all over with salt and pepper.
-Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven (or saucepan) over medium-high heat. When hot, add the pork pieces and brown them on all sides. (This will take about 6-8 minutes, peeps.) Remove the pork from the Dutch oven and set aside.
-Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon oil to the Dutch oven. When hot, add the onions, garlic, jalapeño, and green chilies. Cook for 3 minutes until the onions become translucent and the garlic is fragrant.
-Add the cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper and cook for 2 minutes until the spices are nice and toasty. Return the pork to the Dutch oven, along with the pinto beans, chicken stock, beer and hot sauce (if using). Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 40 minutes.
-Using a slotted spoon transfer 1 cup of beans to a blender or food processor. (Yes, there will obviously be some onions and peppers in there as well. That’s a good thing.) Pulse until relatively smooth. (This puree will help thicken the chili, but you can skip this step if you prefer a soupier consistency. Also, sorry this is kind of a gross picture.)
-Return the shredded pork and the bean puree to the Dutch oven. Simmer the chili, uncovered, for 15 minutes until slightly thickened. Turn off the heat and stir in the apple cider vinegar. Season with salt to taste.
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