Kabocha Chili Colorado
I first tried Rick Martinez's recipe for Chili Colorado about a year ago, and every time since then I've adapted it slightly. If I'm making a special occasion, multi-component meal I still cook it as-is, but when I'm reheating leftovers after work it's extremely unlikely that I'll eat something if it takes more than one pot (my rice cooker being the exception). I found myself putting the beans I had cooked separately into the same pot as the chili to reheat, and wishing I had vegetables... The only real reason I was preparing the chili and beans separately was for “authenticity”, so I decided to stop fighting my impulses and make the recipe my own.
When I cook with dried chiles I tend to disobey rules by leaving all the seeds in and using all the soaking water, because I love bitter flavors to death. Kabocha immediately came to me as a nice pairing for this earthy, bitter chili; the sweetness melds well and provides a nice complement, and now I would miss the squash too much if I left it out. Many times I'll go ahead and add beans to the chili as well, and mayacoba/yellow beans are my favorite here. The extra richness from the beans and sweetness from the squash make the sauce even better.
My default combination of dried chiles for this recipe is pasilla, guajillo, and arbol, because those are what I always try to keep around. The most recent time I used pasilla, arbol, cherry peppers from the farmer's market, and smoked habaneros a friend made. It's flexible.
I most often eat the chili with long-grain white rice, but it's rich enough that it stands up to brown rice, and arroz rojo or an herby Spanish rice also work well. Tortillas or corn bread are just as good. Something citrusy to drink (or an orange for dessert) is nice too.
- Vegetable oil or olive oil
- 2—3 lbs pork shoulder, cut into 1” pieces
- 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 6—8 cloves garlic, smashed or roughly chopped
- 1 t oregano
- 1 t cumin seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- Black pepper, to taste
- Salt, to taste
- ~7 cups water and/or stock
- Dried chiles (at least 7 large ones), with stems removed
- 2 cups mayacoba beans
- 1 small or ½ medium kabocha squash, cut into 1” pieces
- Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a large pot over medium. Brown meat in several small batches, transferring to a plate.
- Saute onion and garlic in pot, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until translucent. Add pork, oregano, cumin, bay, black pepper, salt, and enough water or stock to barely cover (2—4 cups). Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer 30 minutes.
- Place chiles in a bowl with 3 cups boiling water or stock. Cover bowl and let soak for 30 mins. Puree chiles in a blender or food processor (tear chiles into small pieces before soaking if no appliances or available).
- Add chile puree and mayacoba beans to pot. Continue simmering partially covered until beans are tender but not soft, around 60 minutes.
- Add kabocha and cook until squash is soft, checking every 10 minutes.
- Serve with tortillas, rice, or corn bread.