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One Pot Meal: Hawaiian-style Pork Chili
Beef and Beans: It's not what's for Dinner
Chili is not only a very appealing dinner from a nutritional standpoint (what better way to get your veggies?), it is also an incredibly complex blend of flavors coming together to meld into one delicious dish. No specific ingredient should ever dominate. But as a kid growing up in upstate NY, when I thought of chili for dinner it was always the same image in my head: ground beef and kidney beans in a tomato-based sauce. Simple, but not necessarily appealing. Not to mention, I wasn't wild about beans.
Fast forward two decades and the world has taught me otherwise. Not only is there much more to chili than just beef and beans, but it's the inclusion of the latter that is the single biggest debate among chili enthusiasts.
Chili has a long, storied history throughout the world. In some regions it was a poor man's meal, blending readily available ingredients with what little meat was available. This would help explain the inclusion of beans as an inexpensive filler. In other regions though, where there was an ample meat supply, chili evolved as a meat distribution device. In North America, chili was largely popularized by cattle drivers and trail hands in the American Southwest. There's an old Texas saying "If you know beans about chili, it's that there's no beans in chili". But if you go up North to New England, you'll find most chili recipes contain ample amounts of beans.
So who is right? Does it even matter? Not really, because the point is this: Ingredients are regional, and so long as yours blend together nicely as a whole, you can construct a chili any way you want.
Enter: The Pig
In looking to create a non-traditional style chili, my first thought was to incorporate pork as the protein source. Let's be honest, when it comes to animal versatility and taste, you cannot beat a pig. Ham, bacon, loin, chops...it's ALL delicious. While trying to figure out the best way to showcase several varieties of pork in a chili, it occurred to me to look to the Pacific Islands for inspiration, where pigs and pork have always been a staple. I looked no further than Hawaii.
Despite not being native to Hawaii, the pig plays an important role in Hawaiian culture. In fact, the demi-god Kamapuaa found in ancient legends, takes the form of a pig. Centuries ago, the pig was a prized source of food, and even an indicator of one's wealth. They were in high demand and those that raised pigs made a good living doing so. They were used for sacrifice and feasts in religious ceremonies. And even today, modern luaus feature a Kalua Pig, which roasts in an underground oven.
This recipe incorporates several Hawaiian flavors like pineapple and rum with more traditional chili ingredients...cumin, paprika, chili pepper...for a balanced chili with a subtle sweetness that works very well with the pork for protein. And without any added beans, this chili is 100% Paleo-friendly.
Prep & Cook Time
- 2 lb. Ground Pork
- 1 lb. Thick Cut Bacon
- 1 lb. Ham Steak, Diced
- 1 can Diced Tomatoes, 28 oz.
- 1 large Onion, White or Yellow, Diced
- 1 can Pineapple Chunks in Juice, 20 oz.
- 1 can Diced Tomatoes with Chilis, 10-12 oz.
- 4-6 cloves Garlic, Minced
- 1/4 cup Coconut Rum
- 1/4 cup Soy Sauce, Low Sodium
- 1 can Diced Green Chilis, 4 oz.
- 4 tbsp. Molasses
- 2 tbsp. Coconut Oil
- 4 tsp. Chili Powder
- 4 tsp. Red Curry Paste, Thai Kitchen brand
- 1 tsp. Cumin
- 1 tsp. Paprika
- 1 tsp. Smoked Chipotle Chili Pepper, Powdered
- 1 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
- Set crock pot to high and 1 tbsp. of coconut oil, allowing it to melt. Add tomatoes, green chiles, soy sauce, and rum. Cover.
- Drain pineapple chunks and reserve juice. Lightly puree pineapple with food processor and add to crock pot. Refrigerate pineapple juice.
- Heat 1 tbsp. of coconut oil oil in pan, add minced garlic and diced onion and saute approximately 10 minutes. Add to crock pot, stir, and cover.
- Using kitchen shears, cut bacon into 1 inch strips, and use processor to shred as finely as possible.
- Saute bacon in pan, adding the ground pork once bacon grease has thoroughly coated the pan. Cook pork with bacon until meat is white, and add both to the crock pot. Stir and cover.
- Dice the ham steak into quarter inch cubes and stir into crock pot. (Optional: lightly pan sear if you want the ham to have a jerky texture at the end).
- Measure out and add chili powder, molasses, curry paste, cumin, paprika, chipotle powder, crushed red pepper, and black pepper to the crock pot. Stir thoroughly and cover.
- Cook on high for 5 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Remove cover and turn down heat to low for the final hour of cooking, allowing the chili to begin to thicken.
- Optional: For a sweeter chili, stir in reserved pineapple juice as desired before serving.
- Serve and enjoy!
Refrigerated to Perfection...
I think it's fair to say that we have all had leftovers at some point in our lives. Typically, it's not always an enjoyable experience. The word itself - "leftover" - is unappealing, with connotations that imply it was unwanted the first time around.
But have you ever noticed that some dishes actually get better with age?
It's true. In fact, it's science! But since anecdotal evidence is rarely enough to prove a scientific point, and I am not a chemist, I had to turn to Dr. Google for a satisfactory answer. Check out this explanation from Dr. Kantha Shelke, the Founder of Corvus Blue LLC, a Chicago-based food science and research firm...
When you consume something straight from the stove, chances are your taste buds can pick up on all of the distinct reaction products or flavor and aroma compounds that have been produced and can differentiate between them. So while you’re tasting the flavor profile of the curry in its entirety, you’re also tasting the individual flavor notes in isolation – a characteristic that's usually regarded as being harsh. So if you have good taste buds, you’ll detect the cinnamon, the chili, the nutmeg, the coriander etc. As the dish cools and sits over time, the different flavor and aroma compounds mingle together and develop more seasoned notes. The individual flavors are still there, but much less pronounced and the dish is therefore more mellow or rounded in flavor.
Her complete interview and full explanation is available in Forbes magazine.
This recipe, and I would argue ANY chili, is definitely something that benefits from a night spent chillin' in the 'fridge. Think of it this way, the 6 hour cook time above is the BARE MINIMUM for cooking. If you really want to enjoy the true potential and flavor of this chili, add these extra steps:
- After Step 9, cover pot and remove from cooker to place in refrigerator overnight.
- For dinner the following evening, remove chili from refrigerator and warm with your crock pot on low for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Remove lid for 30 minutes prior to serving to cool and thicken.
This is how I make it every time. Typically, it's something I'll put together on a Sunday afternoon. And then when I get home from work on Monday, dinner is as easy as hitting a button. I know it's a long time to wait, but trust me when I say that it's completely worth it!