I had originally planned to begin this post with the line, “Fall has arrived in North Carolina!” And it had when I made this chili last week. It was a cool morning, the air was crisp and the leaves were blowing. I think the high that day was 58 degrees. It was beautiful. But you know how fall is, that silly, fickle season. He comes to town with promises of scarves, jackets and mugs of hot chocolate, but just when you get nice and cozy in your favorite oversized sweater and furry socks, he forgets what he’s doing and wanders off, probably somewhere north. The thermometer creeps back up near 80, and your neck is angry and irritable from all that extra fabric you’re determined to keep wrapped around it. “Come back, fall,” you say repeatedly. “ I promise you a warm cup of tea and the best spot on the couch if you’d just hunker down and stay a while.”
Well, our trusty(ish) local weatherman assures us that the cooler weather will return this weekend (followed by another bout of near-80s temperature, but let’s not borrow trouble), so I plan to make another round of this tastes-like-autumn chili to celebrate the season. This recipe is beautifully hodge-podgety in that you really can add or subtract as you wish. For more heat, add more spices; for more flavor, try some smoked peppers or chipotle Tabasco. The version below is a Jared-and-Katrina compromise that has some kick but isn’t too spicy and uses some of our favorite ingredients. Oh, and the brown sugar is a yummy touch if you like that bit of sweet. When mixed with the sweet potato, it actually comes off tasting a bit honey-ish. Crazy, right? Crazy delicious you mean. Zing!
Slow Cooker Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
• 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 large sweet onion, diced
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• 2 cloves of garlic, minced
• 2-3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, diced
• 2 15-ounces cans of black beans, drained
• 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
• 1-2 tablespoons chili powder (depending on your heat preference)
• 2 teaspoons cumin
• ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• ¼-½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (again, depending on how spicy you like it)
• 1-2 tablespoons light brown sugar (depending on your sweet preference)
• 2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, plus more if desired
• ½ to 1 pound short pasta, such as macaroni, rotini or rigati
In a large pan, sauté the onion in the olive oil until it becomes soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the salt and garlic during the last 30 seconds to 1 minute, just so the garlic gets golden and fragrant. Remove from heat.
In the slow cooker, add the sautéed onions and garlic, sweet potatoes, black beans, diced tomatoes, spices and sugar. Give it a good stir so all the ingredients and spices are evenly dispersed. Add the two cups of chicken or vegetable broth, and give it another good stir.
Cover the slow cooker, and set it on high for about 4-5 hours. (I haven’t tried the recipe in the slow cooker on low, but I would expect that 8-10 hours would do the trick. For the stove top, I’d bring everything to a boil and then let it simmer for about an hour, until the potatoes are soft.)
During the last 15 or so minutes of cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Use more or less as you see fit, depending on how smooth you like your chili. Add the cooked pasta to the chili, and mix to combine. Remember, you can always add a bit more chicken broth to reach your desired consistency. Enjoy!
Has fall arrived where you live? Have you brought out the slow cooker and jumped aboard the soup/chili/recipes-that-cook-all-day train? What’s cooking in your house this weekend?