Big Game Chili — Chocolate Cherry Chili

Chocolate Cherry Chili with cheddar, cheddar and parsley, sour cream, and avocado

This coming weekend, the big game will be played. It’s the end of the football season and while we’re not big football fans, we are fans of the food, if it’s done right. (We prefer rugby for many reasons; it’s a quicker game, the players don’t wear pads, and the men are hot!) I know anyone can open up cans of chili, or go to the store and pick up bags of chips, containers of dips, guacamole, etc. and call it a football spread. But, to truly make this game, and the food, as memorable as possible we suggest that you make a big batch of chili, and not just any chili but Chocolate Cherry Chili. It’s not as hard as many people think and with a pressure cooker you can have it made before the first quarter is finished. Which will give you enough time to whip up a batch of cornbread so everyone can enjoy the halftime show and still have time to watch the last half of the game, which we all know is the most exciting part. The cornbread recipe is courtesy of Mark Bittman’s blog, but if you have a favorite recipe go right ahead and use it.

Steve and I had a disagreement the other night about how to cook the beans. I prefer to soak the beans for a few hours, with salt, the Cook’s Illustrated way. While he prefers not soaking the beans but cooking them separately in the pressure cooker first, Mark Bittman’s way, browning the meat and onions in a skillet and then combining all items again in the pressure cooker for a final cook. Ultimately the decision is yours, but I found an analysis of the different methods on The Captious Vegetarian’s blog.

We also recommend getting your beer from a local brewpub. First, the beer is much fresher and tastes better than most bottled beer. Second, it helps local businesses. And third, there’s less waste when reusing the “growlers.” It’s a winning situation for everyone. Plus, the recipe only asks for 1/2 cup, that will leave you with 60 ounces for consuming, much better than a messily 8 ounces from a bottle.  Cheers!

Chocolate Cherry Chili

¾ pound ground beef

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Olive oil

4 slices bacon, diced

2 onions, diced

8 ounces mushrooms, quartered or halved

Salt and pepper

2 cloves minced garlic

¼ cup chili powder (or ground dried assorted chilies)

2 tablespoons cocoa

2 tablespoons tomato paste

½ cup dark beer (or red wine)

⅔ cups dried cherries

4 cups low sodium chicken stock

1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes with liquid

2 cups kidney beans*

*Cook’s Illustrated method: soak at least 8 hours or overnight in salted water [2 tablespoons per 3 quarts water] proceed with the recipe below

*Bittman’s Method: Cook dried beans in a pressure cooker for about 20 minutes in unsalted water. No need to soak the beans first. Cook the onions and meat in a skillet, add to the pressure cooker, then deglaze the pan with the beer and add to the pressure cooker. Add the tomatoes and season with salt. No need to add chicken broth unless the chili is very thick.

Add the soy sauce to the ground beef and set aside in the fridge. In a pressure cooker or stockpot add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the diced bacon and render the bacon over low-medium heat.

Remove rendered bacon from the pot, add the onions and mushrooms along with ½ teaspoon of salt and sauté until the onions and mushrooms are slightly darken in color and a nice fond has developed. Remove from the pan and add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, than add the ground beef and allow the slightly brown before breaking up. Sauté again until slightly dark and a fond has returned. Create a hot spot and add the minced garlic and tomato paste, cook for 30 seconds to a minute, add the chili powder and cocoa, cook again for 30 seconds to a minute, stirring constantly. Add the beer (or wine) scrapping the bottom of the pan, cooking for about 2-3 minutes until reduce and there is little liquid. Add the dried cherries and absorb what liquid is left.  Add the liquid from the canned tomatoes with the chicken stock. Crush the whole tomatoes in a bowl with your hands, taking out any peel or green parts, and then add to the chili. Pour the bean water off and rinse under running water to remove the salt, add to the pot and heat on the stove until the chili starts to boil.

When the chili comes to a boil the lid on top of the pressure cooker and cook for 15 minutes. Check the beans to see if they are tender. If you need more time check the beans every 5 minutes.

Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Serve with chopped fresh shallots, sour cream, and diced avocado.

Corn Bread Recipe

5 thoughts on “Big Game Chili — Chocolate Cherry Chili

  1. Oh, this sounds very interesting. A break from chili as pure fire. Do chocolate and cherry meld in, or do you detect them in the finished product?


    • Ah, they meld Roland. The unsweetened chocolate adds complexity. Chocolate and chili is a traditional flavor pairing. The dried cherries soften and disappear into the chili but their sweet, tart flavors subtly cool the fire.


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Food for thought.

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