Smokey Grit Chili was inspired by The Grit in Athens, Georgia. I love The Grit restaurant and though I haven’t eaten there in well over ten years, I still crave both the atmosphere and food. Fortunately, their cookbook allows me to re-create some of my favorites.
(Yes, if you click on the cookbook and buy something -anything- I will get a couple of pennies. My first copy is 15-years-old and falling apart, so I bought a second copy!)
I think I’ve mastered making the grit-style tofu and the Golden Bowl. Garlic-parsley mashed potatoes I’ve made for years. And then there’s the black bean chili.
I think I improved it.
I know, I know. That shouldn’t be possible or perhaps even attempted. But fiddling around with a batch a few weeks ago, it happened.
The original recipe is perfectly fine as it stands. After all, it’s a staple in the restaurant. But it’s too hot for me – too much heat in the cayenne and chili powder. I love *flavor* not heat.
I found exactly what I was looking for by removing the extra cayenne completely. And then I upped the umami to create Smokey Grit Chili.
Extra cumin, extra oregano, bay leaves, smoked paprika, and liquid smoke gave this recipe just the right punch to make me say, “Oh hell yes.”
And then I dived off of vegetarian and went straight to beef.
Beef bouillon cubes, so not a totally vegetarian fail. But combined with all of the other adjustments put this chili into the stratosphere for me.
Also be warned: This makes a huge batch – more than 16 cups if you do it right. You’ll need your largest stock pot and mine was completely full.
You must start with dried beans. It makes a huge difference in taste, and on a cold Saturday afternoon doesn’t take that much longer to prepare.
This week I’ve eaten this as a simple bowl of chili with chips on the side. I created my own version of the restaurant’s Mondo Burrito: a big open-faced burrito filled with smokey grit chili, salsa, shredded cabbage, and cheese.
And like most chili recipes, feel free to add more or less of things that you like. Really, that’s the beauty of this recipe. You can change it, remove things you don’t like, add things that you love, and -if you’re lucky- it’s amazing.
Smokey Grit Chili is colorful, tasty, and hearty enough for autumn. Freeze some for later when the snow flies.
- 1 quart dried black beans, sorted and rinsed.
- Water to soak and cool beans.
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (1-2 cups)
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 3 tablespoons McCormick's chili powder
- 2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 8 bay leaves
- 8 cups water, or enough to cover the soaked beans
- 8 beef bouillon cubes
- ½ teaspoon liquid smoke, or more to taste
- 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1-2 cups bunch celery, finely chopped
- 1 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 cups corn, fresh or frozen (or more to taste)
- 1 cup carrot, finely chopped
- 2 28oz cans diced tomatoes
- ½ cup parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Prepare the Beans. I use the "quick soak" method recommended on most every package of dried beans. Spend a wee bit of time checking the beans over, then place in a large pot. Cover with hot water - enough to cover the beans completely. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to soak for 2 hours.
- Add Flavor. Drain and rinse the beans, and into the large stock pot. Add 1 chopped onion and all of the dry spices (garlic powder through bay leaves.) Add water and bouillon cubes, and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are as tender as can be. This will take at least an hour, perhaps longer. The longer it takes, the deeper the flavor becomes; just remember to add liquid as needed to prevent burning.
- Saute. In a separate pan, saute pepper, celery, onion, and carrot in an oil of your choice until the celery is tender.
- Combine. Once the beans are tender, combine them with sauteed veggies, diced tomato, corn, and parsley. Turn the heat off, remove the stock pot to a different burner and let sit for at least an hour - if you can stand it. Taste and adjust seasonings.