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Chili is a wonderful thing to make on a snowy Saturday. Today happens to be April first, and Mother Nature decided to pull a prank and give us 8 inches of heavy wet snow for April Fools. You thought spring had arrived? Ha ha, she said, not for New England!

In order to combat the cold and blues, I decided to make a huge pot of chili. This freezes really well, so do not be alarmed when your end result can feed a small army. Chili is so delightfully warming; I particularly like making my own because I can dictate how spicy it is. If you are a fan of spice, feel free to use serrano or habanero chilis, up the amount of chili and cayenne powder, use more chipotles in adobo, chili paste or red pepper flakes. I tend to play it safe since I have a low tolerance for spicy heat.

My two favorite ingredients in this recipe are the pork and the maize. The pork because I prefer it to ground beef, and the maize kernels because of their unique corn but not quite corn flavor and texture. The masa harina, which is  a flour made from dried maize kernels, reinforces the maize flavor and thickens the chili perfectly. The layers of flavor, built up from the vegetables, the fond, the spices, the herbs and the liquid smoke, make an entirely satisfying bite of chili. Topping it with your favorite extras just makes the chili that much more comforting and delicious. Help yourself to a bowl, and say cheers to April snow!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 celery rib, finely minced
1 small carrot, finely mined
1 red bell pepper, finely minced
1 chili, seeded (I used anaheim) finely minced
1 medium onion, finely minced
freshly cracked black pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 lb ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2  tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
pinch red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon mustard powder
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili pepper paste
1 chipotle in adobo
2 bay leaves
1 14.5 ounce cab kidney beans, drained
1 14.5 ounce can pinto beans, drained
2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes, with juice
29 ounce can maize (white hominy), drained
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons masa harina
liquid smoke to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Garnish with spring onion, sour cream, cheddar cheese, sliced avocado- you name it!

In a large dutch oven, add one tablespoon of olive oil and the finely minced celery, carrot, red bell pepper, the chili of your choosing, and onions. Crack in some black pepper and sauce over medium high heat until the vegetables turn translucent and soften, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook a further 30 seconds, until frgrnat. Add in the beef and pork and sprinkle over the salt. Brown the meats until they are no longer pink and develop some well- browned bits. Skim away excess grease as needed. 

Add the oregano, cumin, paprika, chili powder, cayenne powder, red pepper flakes and mustard powder. Cook for about a minute, until the spices are toasted, awoken and fragrant. Add the tomato paste, chili pepper paste and chipotle in adobe and cook for another minute or two, until the pastes begin to caramelize and develop a fond on the bottom of the pan. 

Add the bay leaves, the beans, the tomatoes, the maiz and the water, stirring well to deglaze the pan. Add the brown sugar and lower the heat to a simmer. Put the lid on and let the chili cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.

Take the lid off, and add the masa marina. Cook for another 20 to 30 minutes, until you rich the thickness you like. Add in the liquid smoke to your taste. Take a bite of the chili and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Garnish with sour cream, sliced avocados, spring onions and cheddar cheese. Serve with tortilla chips, cornbread or on rice. Enjoy!


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