Black Bean and Corn Chili

There is probably no food that offers as much nutrition at such a low cost as the lowly dried bean. Many people are put off by directions that the beans be soaked over night and cooked for hours. But it need not be that way. While soaking might help the beans cook a bit more quickly it is not necessary nor does it really do anything to reduce any possibly embarrassing after effects. I use a pressure cooker to just soften the beans then cook them in the chili. Note that I make my own chile powder. You could use store-bought, but developing your own lets you fine-tune it to your taste and control the amount of salt in the dish.


½ pound, 1¼ cup, dried black (turtle) beans

½ slice, about 1 ounce, bacon (optional)

Neutral cooking oil such as Canola

1 medium onion, chopped

4 or 5 cloves garlic, unpeeled

2 medium or 3 small dried guajillo chiles

1 medium dried ancho chile

1 medium dried pasilla chile

2 small dried hot chiles such as árbol or moritas, to taste

12 ounce bottle beer, I use Saranac Pale Ale, a medium English-style red ale

2 cups water

6 ounces, 1½ cup, corn kernels from the cob or frozen

6 ounces, 1 cup, medium grain rice

½ medium onion, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. oil

2 cups water or stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Masa harina or fine cornmeal to thicken

Sour cream to serve, I use low fat


Rinse the beans and pick them over for small stones, in a 4-quart pressure cooker, cover with water by 2 inches, and cook at 15 psi for 10 minutes after the weight starts jiggling. Let stand for 5 minutes then cool the cooker under cold running water and release the pressure per the manufacturer’s instructions. Drain the beans discarding the cooking water and set aside.

Render the bacon in a large enameled Dutch oven or other suitable pot over medium-low heat until crisp. Remove and set aside. If needed, add enough oil to the rendered bacon fat to make up about 1 Tbsp. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring from time to time, until golden brown.

While the onion is cooking put the chiles and garlic on a dry griddle or in a dry cast iron skillet over high heat, turning occasionally. When done the garlic will have blacked spots; the guajillos will have turned dark, and the other chiles will be fragrant. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Cut the hard stems from the chiles and peel the garlic. Coarsely chop the chiles and add to a food processor. Process for a couple minutes then put into a coffee grinder that you reserve for spices and grind until medium fine. Process the garlic for a few seconds.

When the onions are done add the garlic and chile powder to the pot. Stir for a minute then add the beans, beer, water, and reserved bacon if using. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes then add the corn. Continue simmering until beans are tender.  Adjust the seasoning. (Depending on the beer and the chiles you use, this chili can be a bit bitter. It will need a generous amount of salt and perhaps a small amount of sugar.) If desired, “tighten” the chili with a bit of masa harina or fine cornmeal mixed into cold water and stirred into the chili.

After adding the corn to the chili, start the rice. Put the oil into a medium pan with a tightly fitting lid; add the onion and rice, and cook, stirring constantly until the rice is chalky. Pour in the water, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, over very low heat for about 15 minutes, or until done.

Serve the chili over the rice topped with a dollop of sour cream and a bit of hot sauce if you like.


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