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Melissa Clark's Pork and Black Bean Chili

Melissa Clark Pork and Black Bean Chili


It's me.

I know. It's been, like, 8 months.

(Insert chagrined grin emoji.)

I nearly shut this thing down. No, really. But I couldn't pull the trigger! So here I am again. I missed you guys.

What's been going on? Well, Bruno turned two. Hugo learned how to read and write. In many ways, things are just fine. In other ways, though, the past year has been really difficult. Just life, you know? Nothing spectacular or out-of-the-ordinary. Mothering two young children, noodling forward in a marriage, trying to figure out my career, dealing with money issues...but to top it all off, I've recently been diagnosed with a string of stress-related health problems. I knew something was off last year already, but couldn't put my finger on it. This year, so far, my body has been telling me in no uncertain terms to spend a little more time saying no, putting myself first and finding peace.

Easier said than done! yelled a million mothers in exasperation as she skulked off to a corner to use her phone to meditate. (Insert eye roll emoji.)

It's been scary and humbling and also kind of nuts to witness my body manifest a lot of the crap that I do not do a good job of managing. And I'm kind of overwhelmed at how much willpower it takes to take care of myself. I feel like I'm a total champ at taking care of other people, so it's doubly weird to realize that I'm really failing at me. I'm sort of embarrassed by that. I'm also embarrassed about this paragraph! Let's move on.

Feeding the children has pretty much become a shit show. Hugo has the appetite of a small bird. Bruno is incredibly picky. (The only green thing he eats are spicy olives.) (THE ONLY GREEN THING.) (SPICY.) (MOTHERLOVING.) (OLIVES.) Every once in a blue moon, I throw my hands up and make alphabet noodle soup with a bouillon cube because it's Hugo's favorite thing to eat (insert exploding head emoji) and because Bruno will usually eat it too. But most of the time, I cook the food I want to eat (within reason, people) and then there's a lot of whining and uneaten food and smoke comes out of my ears and no matter what I've made, the meal always ends with Bruno eating chunks of Parmesan cheese.

Because, surrender!

(I read that in a lovely cookbook called Repertoire by Jessica Battilana - in a headnote about newborns and surviving and fattoush salad - last spring and spontaneously burst into tears because it was so profound and wise and right and also WTF why are children so difficult? I sometimes debate going around my house and taping pieces of paper with SURRENDER written on them to the walls. You know, just to remind me.)

Last year, I also discovered this chili from Melissa Clark's most recent cookbook called DINNER: Changing the Game (via Whoorl, but I can't remember in what context) and there were a few brief, shining evenings in which the children and Max and I all enjoyed eating it. Since then, Bruno has decided that ground meat is for the dogs and Hugo hates stew, but Max and I continue to think that this is an exceptionally delicious chili. (It's also a delight to make, which seems important if you derive some modicum joy from cooking, as most of us here do? I hope?) It has sage and beer in it, plus cheddar on top, and it's just really satisfying and wonderful. I'd call it my favorite chili.

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Melissa Clark's Pork and Black Bean Chili
From Dinner: Changing the Game
Serves 4 to 6

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 pound ground pork (or turkey)
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more if needed
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp minced fresh sage
1 tbsp chili powder, plus more if needed
2 minced garlic cloves
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup lager (like Negra Modelo)
Grated cheddar or sour cream, for serving (optional)
Lime wedges, for serving

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and pepper; cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened and lightly browned, about 7  minutes. Add the pork and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until it is cooked, about 7 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper, oregano, sage, chili powder and garlic and cook for 1 minute.

2. Add the tomatoes and their liquid, the black beans and the beer. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture is slightly thickened, 30 to 40 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve topped with grated cheese (or sour cream) and with the lime.