With our normally balmy weather consistently in the 50s for the past week, I just want to turn up every heat source I have in the house — and that includes my stove. Of course, it would be silly to leave the stove on all afternoon without something actually simmering on it, and this drunken pumpkin chili is just the thing.
I love to make a massive pot of this and graze on the chili all day long… sometimes with rice, sometimes with chips, and sometimes with a loaf of crusty bread. I make this when I know I’ll be home working all day with not enough time to make myself three different meals every three hours. It’s the kind of communal meal you can cook over a fire in a Dutch oven when you’re car camping. Or, combined with my mulled cranberry apple cider and a hot tub session under the stars, it’s the ideal evening to come home to after you’ve spent all day on the ski hill, achy and cold. And, it will feed 10 of your achy, cold, powderhound friends as well (or just 8 of them, if you’re all really hungry.)
While the pumpkin here is the star of the show, definitely don’t skimp on the chiles — after all, this is pumpkin chili, not pumpkin stew. (For the sake of clarity, I’ll refer to the peppers as chile and the dish itself as chili.) The variety of chile peppers used in this recipe is what gives the dish depth. Fresh chiles also mean we can skip the chili powder, a common spice in many chili recipes. The powdered version is never as balanced or rich as real chiles are.
The four different layers of spice in this chili offer a complexity in flavor you can’t get from using just chili powder. First, we have a layer of sweet and fresh from the Anaheim chiles, which are the mildest peppers. Then, we have a rich and fruity note from the poblano chile, heat from the habanero, and smokiness from the chipotle in adobo sauce.
An Anaheim chile is sometimes called a New Mexico chile or California chile, starting out as green and then maturing into red, at which point it’s called a chile colorado.
To make things even more confusing, many American grocers label poblano chiles as pasilla chiles, even though true pasillas are the dried form of chilaca chiles (but basically, you are looking for a fresh, wide, dark green pepper).
If you’re very sensitive to heat, try a cayenne pepper (medium hot) or serrano pepper (least hot) in place of the habanero.
While the recipe below may look intimidating, don’t shy away from making it; it’s a simple one-pot meal where most of the ingredients are dumped in at the same time. If you don’t have any pumpkin on hand, another orange-fleshed winter squash (like butternut, kabocha, or red kuri) works well in its place. And while this is “drunken” pumpkin chili, neither the pumpkin nor the beer in the recipe will make you drunk. (But I do recommend a very dark beer — like Newcastle’s limited-edition Cabbie black ale, which I used here — for added richness in flavor).
Drunken Pumpkin Chili
Makes 8 to 10 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 yellow onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 Anaheim chiles, chopped
1 poblano chile, chopped
1 habanero chile, minced
3 chipotle chiles canned in adobo sauce, chopped
3 cups diced pumpkin
2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer
1 cup strong brewed black coffee
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
Sour cream (for garnish)
Sliced green onions (for garnish)
Shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack, or colby cheese (for garnish)
Heat a heavy-bottomed 8-quart or larger stockpot over medium-high heat. Swirl in the olive oil and add the pork shoulder, stirring every few minutes until the pork is pinkish-brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the onions and garlic and sweat for 5 minutes, or until the onions start to turn translucent.
Add the medley of peppers and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the pumpkin, corn, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 can of kidney beans, beer, coffee, and chicken broth. Stir in the cumin, oregano, and brown sugar, then turn the heat to high and bring to boiling.
When the chili reaches a rolling boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.
Add the remaining can of kidney beans, stir to combine, and simmer for 1 more hour.
Serve with a handful of shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and a spoonful of green onions on top.