Crisp rain is falling on Baltimore this morning and the instinct to hibernate is fully engaged. Should I strap on my running shoes and dart through the falling leaves and knife-like rain drops? Or should I stay in my cave, simmer up some Halloween spirit, and prepare a cauldron of Jack-O-Lantern Chili?
This chili always has my vote. It embodies the perfect blend of sweet, spice and smoke, and holds magical healing powers that keep you warm and cozy no matter how callous the weather is.
3 slices thick cut bacon, diced
2 sweet onions, diced
5 garlic cloves, grated
1 lb. extra lean ground chicken
1 butternut squash, seeded and diced
3 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. coriander
2 tsp. dried oregano
3 chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
3 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
2 cans black beans, rinsed well
1 bag of baby spinach
Kosher salt (to taste)
Red pepper flakes (to taste)
2 tbsp. brown sugar (to taste)
In a large heavy pot, render bacon on medium heat until crispy. Add onions and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic; stir one minute. Add ground chicken and break apart with a wooden spoon. Once chicken is browned, sprinkle in chili powder and coriander. Stir in tomatoes with juice, butternut squash, salt, pepper flakes, chipotles, and oregano. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the squash is tender, stir in rinsed black beans, brown sugar and spinach. Cook until the spinach is wilted and the beans are warmed through. Adjust seasonings to taste. Divide chili among bowls and top with fresh cilantro.
Cook’s note: I find this is the perfect consistency just using the juice from the tomatoes; however, feel free to add a little chicken stock to loosen it up. Serve with brown rice for a hearty, healthy meal.