Lentil Chili (…but not vegetarian in any way)

Are those lentils in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Ah, but before you chastise me for having sexual thoughts about your pure, virtuous lentils, let me just say: lentils were meant to be sumptuous and awesome. They just need a little bit of help from the food that makes *everything* sumptuous and awesome: bacon!

Keep in mind that the goal is to build flavor. I don’t want a finished product that simply tastes like bacon, because that would be weird in this instance. What I want is to use bacon as a stepping stone to achieve a tasty chili.

First things first: boil about two cups of lentils and drain them. I gave my lentils about 20 minutes (and used red lentils which don’t take as long as your garden variety ones.) The result was a kind of porridge-y consistency that I wanted for the chili:

lentils

So appetizing, right??

Anyway, start frying some chopped onions in a large pot at medium-low.  While those are going, chop up a few pieces of bacon and fry them in a separate pan.  Get rid of most of the grease and let the bacon sit for a bit.  Meanwhile, once your onions are looking nice and translucent, and on the well-traveled way to brown, add chopped red pepper. Then, the most delicate and essential herb: garlic.  Season everything with salt n’ pepper.  You can also add oregano and cumin and probably some kind of chili powder. (It’s chili, right? What else is chili powder even for?)

Now’s when you can really start to amplify your veggies with the addition of various members of TEAM FLAVOR, depicted below:

20130322_121658

Add a tablespoon of tomato paste, a couple of smoky chipotle peppers from a can, plus a can of diced tomatoes — and your cooked bacon (minus most of its grease.)  If you feel adventurous, you can add your favorite hot sauce. (I was using some frighteningly potent habenero stuff (above) so I added only a few drops.)  At this point it looks something like this:

20130322_130359

Then pour in as much chicken broth as you dare; I used about two thirds of a Tetra Pak™ of the stuff. Then I got confused about whether or not I could recycle said Tetra Pak™, but that’s another story.

Now dump in your lentils, which look kind of comical:

20130322_130509

Finally, mix this all together and let it simmer on low heat for about an hour, with the lid  off so that you can a) reduce some of that broth and b) make the whole house smell like spicy goodness.

Your final product should look something like this:

20130322_145642

Yummy!

Whatever you do (e.g. whether you add more veggies or use ground beef instead of lentils,  for a more orthodox chili), you’ll find that the small amount of bacon and smoky chipotle peppers really round out the flavor.  Instead of just spicy, your chili will possess a pleasing tangy-ness.

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About Thomas

Thomas currently tutors Chinese, writes blog posts, and works in the non-profit sector.
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