Paris has been cold and wet and the nights are longer than they ever are in Chicago. It's the right time of the year to dust off the Crock Pot and fill the flat with the rich smell of stewing meat. I'm still not entirely convinced that the Crock Pot is the Cook's Best Friend but I'm slowly building a small repertoire of recipes that make use of its unique properties. The one I was most interested in testing - as a receptacle for hot buttered rums or mulled wine - is now off the menu for me until next year so I'm not as enthusiastic about trying it. If we have a few guests over around Christmas I may give it a whirl anyway, but my heart won't be in it.
Instead, I combined the two elements I felt best suited the slow cooker so far: dried beans and pork with chipotles. It exceeded my expectations, the whole tasting much better than I expected the sum of parts to be. We had it the first night as a kind of chili, with grated cheddar and crème fraîche (sour cream being unavailable) with a side of quesadillas. Corn bread would have been even nicer, to help soak up the extra juices. And the next night, as it had thickened a bit overnight, I used it as a very tasty filling for burritos, with just a little cheese and some thinly sliced raw onions.
It was spicy enough for me, though I think the Critic would have doubled the chipotles if he were in charge of the kitchen. But even without a nuclear spice level, it was full of flavour and a hearty satisfying dinner. And relatively quick and easy to prepare (aside from the stewing time) which is what the Crock Pot is all about.
Black Bean and Chipotles in Adobo Slow-Cooked Stew
500 grams pork
400 grams dried beans
3 or more Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 cup red wine
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt, pepper to taste
a little olive oil
Soak the beans overnight. The next morning, drain them and put them in the Crock Pot with enough water to cover by about two inches. Turn on the Crockpot to high. In a frying pan, heat a little olive oil. Add the pork - cut in large chunks if you have the time, but whole is fine too if you are in a hurry. The meat will fall apart in the stewing, but if it's in chunks you'll be able to brown it better. Quickly brown on a high flame in batches if necessary. As the meat browns, add it to the pot of beans. Once it is all browned, deglaze the pan with the wine and pour the resulting gravy into the pot. Add the onions and the carrots, cleaned and cut in thick chunky pieces. Add the spices, stir and turn down to low. Leave to cook for eight hours or so. An hour before you are ready to serve, check to see that the meat is tender and the carrots cooked. If they seem to need more cooking you can turn the heat up to high. Taste for salt, pepper, chipotles, and spices.
Serve - in a bowl or a tortilla - with cheese and sour cream on the side. As mentioned, corn bread would be lovely too!