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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Spicy Black Bean Chili with Cheese, Maple Pain Perdu

Ladling the chili directly on the pain perdu made it a little soggy

This was much better as the bread retained its crisp exterior - brush the edge with oil and sprinkle with chopped herbs

The cooler weather is just around the corner here in Montreal and I have to admit that this is my favourite time of the year.  I'm not talking about the freezing, snowy -20°C temperatures we sometimes get in the middle of winter but  the wonderful - thick sweaters and sleeping with the windows open kind of weather.  It usually lasts all of September and October and it is when I really begin to want to start cooking comfort food.  For me, there is nothing as enjoyable as spending some time hiking in the woods to admire the vibrant colours of the leaves changing on a cool day and coming home to a warm house that smells wonderful.  Add to that a roaring fire, some great music, and I am at my happiest.

Chili is a staple for the cold months in our house.  It's easy, can be made in big quantities to serve a crowd and frozen for a quick go-to meal after a day of skiing.  It's one of those great comfort foods that everyone has their own take on from childhood.  I was inspired to try serving it this way by my brother in law.  Whenever we eat chili, he toasts a thick slice of bread and covers it with a generous portion of chili and then tops it with cheese and sour cream.  We usually just eat it with corn chips but sometimes changing things around allows you to discover a whole new way of experiencing the food.

I had some leftover, dried out cheese bread and thought that serving it as a pain perdu (french toast) might be interesting.  To make it more Canadian, I added a little maples syrup to the egg batter and the result was very good.  The first time I served it, I ladled the chili onto the bread but this made it soggy in some parts.  The next time, I just placed the bread beside the chili  so that it would retain its crunchy toasted outside exterior - it worked much better.  The slight sweetness of the cheese bread with a hint of maple syrup helped to balance out the spicy chili and the result was excellent.

You will need:  For the Spicy Black Bean Chili - about 6 serving

  • 2 lbs (1kg) of well trimmed beef chuck-shoulder (macereuse, paleron in French), cut in large pieces (remove any connective tissue that you feel would be too tough to eat)
  • 1 small piece of salted lard (lard salé - 100g) - optional
  • 3 tbsp (45ml) of oil
  • 1 - 2 tbsp of chili powder (this depends on how spicy you would like your chili and the potency of the chili powder you are using)
  • sprinkle of dried chili flakes (optional and according to your taste)
  • 1 tbsp of dried bouquet garni herbs (or dried herbs of your choice)
  • 1 large onion, large dice (120g)
  • 3 medium carrots, diced (120g)
  • 2 cans (400ml each) of good quality chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups (500ml) of beef stock
  • 1 can (400ml) of black beans, strained and rinsed
  • Salt 
  • Sour cream and chopped baby greens as garnish
  • 2 more carrots, diced-  to add when reducing the sauce to add texture - optional
  • Roasted red pepper, cut in even pieces - optional (this will also add a little sweetness, colour and texture)
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F (165°C);
  2. In a large pot, over medium high heat, add the oil and brown the meat (2 lbs - 1kg) and salted lard evenly.  Set aside and season with a little salt;
  3. Reduce heat to medium and add the chopped onion (1 large - 120g) and carrots (3 medium - 120g).  Cover pan to allow vegetables to release water and deglaze the bottom of the pan.  Cook for about 3 minutes;
  4. Remove cover and add dried herbs (1 - 2 tbsp of chili powder, sprinkle of chili flakes and 1 tbsp of dried bouquet garni) and cook for 1 minute to allow them to release their flavours;
  5. Add  canned chopped tomatoes (2 cans - 400ml each) and beef stock (2 cups - 500ml).  Scrape bottom of pot well to release all the browning flavours;
  6. Once liquid has begun to gently boil, cover the pot and place in the middle section of the oven for about 3 hours or until meat is very tender and pulls apart easily with a fork
  7. Pick out the beef pieces and set aside.  Pour the braising liquid through a sieve into smaller pot, pressing down on the solids to release all the flavours.  Discard salted lard;
  8. Over medium heat, reduce the sauce and add the diced carrots (2 medium), cooking for about 20 minutes.  Finally add the can of black beans (400ml), strained and rinsed and the chopped roasted read pepper if you have.  Note:  You can choose to serve the chili as is without straining the sauce but by adding fresh diced carrots to adds a sweet component, colour and texture to the chili.  The chopped roasted pepper will have the same effect.  
  9. Taste and season;
  10. Pull the meat apart with two forks and return to the sauce.  Heat gently when ready to serve.  
  11. Enjoy!

Note:  If ever you find your chili too spicy, you can add a little butter or oil and honey to help balance out the pepper.  The slight sweetness of the pain perdu and sour cream will help to do this also.  If you don't like the idea of pain perdu or don't have the time, you can just slice the cheese bread, toast it and butter it generously to serve with the chili. Delicious too!

You will need:  For the Cheese, Maple Pain Perdu (6 portions)
  • 6 slices of cheese bread, cut in the shapes you prefer - you can get creative  (I removed the crusts and cut it in triangles)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp of maple syrup
  • 1 cup (250ml) of milk
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp of butter (or clarified butter if you have) for frying
  • 3 tbsp of chopped fresh parsley or herb of your choice

  1. Heat oven to 350°F (180°C) 
  2. Whisk the eggs, maple syrup, milk, dried thyme and salt and pepper in a bowl and let sit for 15 minutes (to develop the flavours);
  3. You bread slices should be dry to absorb more of the batter mixture.  You can place them in the oven or toast them for this;
  4. Place the egg batter in a flat cake pan and allow the slices to sit and absorb the liquid (about 2 minutes on each side;
  5. Remove the imbued slices and allow to strain over a rack for a few minutes
  6. Heath the butter in a large pan over medium heat and add the slices of bread.  Using thongs, Cook for about 2 minutes on each side until golden and place in the oven to continue the cooking process (5 minutes);
  7. Brush one side of the bread slices with oil and dip in chopped fresh parsley or herb of your choice.  
  8. Serve with your chili and enjoy!
Note:  As I was making this pain perdu I was inspired to make it as a desert with an apple and caramel sauce (like a tarte tatin - I used to eat apples with cheese all the time - I'm going to work on this one soon.

Thought and smile of the day!xo

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