Espresso Black Bean Chili

MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

TIME: 11/2 to 2 hours, largely unattended

This deep, richly flavored chili has enough caffeine to keep you awake literally. (Bear this in mind when you’re serving it; use decaffeinated espresso if you or your guests are caffeine sensitive or reserve it for lunch or early dinner.) Serve this with rice, a stack of warm tortillas, or tortilla chips, some crumbled queso fresco or sour cream, and parsley or cilantro.

Other beans you can use: Earthy-flavored beans that can stand up to the other flavors pinto, kidney, or dried soybeans work best.

3 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

2 onions, chopped

2 tablespoons minced garlic

3 cups chopped ripe tomato (about 11/2 pounds whole; canned is fine; don’t bother to drain)

1/2 to 1 cup freshly brewed espresso, 1 to 2 cups brewed coffee, or 2 tablespoons espresso powder

2 tablespoons chili powder (to make your own, see Chili Powder)

1/4 cup dark brown sugar or 3 tablespoons molasses

One 3-inch cinnamon stick

1 pound dried black beans, washed, picked over, and soaked if you like

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the oil in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Stir in the tomato, espresso, chili powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, and beans and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the liquid bubbles steadily but not violently. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are beginning to soften, 30 to 40 minutes. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Continue cooking until the beans are tender, anywhere from another 45 minutes to 11/2 hours. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more sugar, salt, or pepper. Serve or store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Smoked-Tea Chili. The rich and smoky flavor of Lapsang Souchonga Chinese smoked black tea is fantastic in this chili with other Chinese flavors: Add 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger; omit the tomato; replace the espresso with 5 to 6 cups freshly brewed Lapsang Souchong tea or any smoked black tea, and the chili powder with hot red pepper flakes to taste. Substitute 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns for the cinnamon and dried soybeans for the black beans. Add water to cover the beans if necessary and proceed with the recipe.

Chocolate Chili. Closer to a deeply flavored Oaxacan mole: Replace the espresso with 1/2 cup chopped Mexican chocolate or 1/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate. Decrease the sugar by half if you’re using the Mexican chocolate.