Catalan Chili Recipe
This is a dish I made up — a version of chili incorporating many elements of classic Catalan cuisine: The combination of lard and olive oil as cooking fat; the use of pork instead of beef or other meats; the addition of cinnamon to a savory sauce; and the use of two basics of Catalan cooking, the sofregit (long cooked onions) and the picada (a paste of nuts, fried bread, garlic, and chocolate). I made a big batch of this at the Scottsdale Culinary Festival some years back, and Jacques Pépin came up to taste it after the demonstration. He thought it was pretty good.
- 1 tablespoon lard or bacon fat
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds lean pork, finely chopped or coarsely ground
- 1 pounds mild pork sausage (Spanish-style botifarra or Italian sausage without fennel seeds)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon mild paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne or hot paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4-5 cups rich beef stock
- 2 onions, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1-2 teaspoons dried red chile flakes
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 10-15 almonds or hazelnuts or a combination of both, lightly toasted
- 1 small slice sourdough bread, crusts trimmed, lightly fried on both sides in olive oil
- 2 ounces cooking chocolate, grated
- 2 sprigs parsley, minced
In a large heavy skillet, melt the lard. Add about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Brown pork and sausage in the fat over medium-high heat. Transfer meat to a Dutch oven or stewpot and add cumin, paprika, cayenne, turmeric, cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well.
Deglaze the skillet with 3 cups of the stock and add the liquid to Dutch oven. Simmer, partially covered, for about 3 hours, or until meat has almost disintegrated. (Add more stock as necessary; the chili should be thick and moist but not soupy.)
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, made the sofregit by cooking onions over lowest possible heat in about ½ inch of olive oil, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour. Add oregano and chile flakes and salt to taste, stir well, then continue cooking for 1–1 ½ hours more, or until onions are very soft and dark golden brown.
While onions are cooking, make a picada by crushing garlic with a mortar and pestle with a bit of salt, then pound in the nuts, fried bread, and chocolate until very well mixed and paste-like in consistency. Add parsley and barely enough olive oil to cover the picada, then work in oil to form a thick paste. (Nuts should be thoroughly crushed and all ingredients completely amalgamated.)
About 30 minutes before chili is done, stir in the sofregit and adjust seasoning. Remove cover from Dutch oven and continue cooking, skimming any excess fat off surface occasionally. About 5 minutes before chili is finished, stir in picada.