Great chili has soul. You might come across chili recipes that boast extreme prep times, like some miracle 30-minute workout. These recipes are roll calls of cans and ready-made mixes: Goya, Ro-Tel, McCormick. The flavors are shallow, merely the sum of their parts and nothing more.
You can't get soul in 30 minutes. You can, however, get soul in an hour and a half and with two guest stars -- coffee and chocolate.
I've made the mistake of thinking that meat and beans were enough. They aren't. I've tried to compensate with corn and chorizo and sweet potatoes. Not quite. It's rather hard to make the leap from slurry to stew.
Coffee and cocoa powder are miracle workers. Call them the Instagram filter for your lackluster chili. They smooth out the edges, they boost the main players, they blur out the imperfections.
In a perfect world, you'd cook this low and slow. But this recipe is no floozy. She's got enough soul to last you bowl after bowl.
RECIPE: Boil 1 1/2 cups of dried beans and soak for 40 minutes. In a Dutch oven, sauté 1 onion, 2 large carrots, 4 celery stalks, 1 cup of bell peppers (I like a combo of red, yellow and green) and 5 cloves of garlic, all diced. Add 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, and 1 tablespoon of salt. When the onion is translucent, add 1 pound of ground turkey meat. Break up the chunks with a wooden spatula and cook for 5 minutes, until some of the turkey is browned. (If you're using a fattier meat, I would cook the meat first so you can cook the veggies in the fat. Ground turkey breast will just dry out if you sauté it too long and is better served by steam and stewing.)
Add one 20 oz can of pureed tomatoes, one 6 oz can of tomato paste, and one 32 oz carton of chicken broth. Add the par-cooked beans and 1 cup of the bean water.
Add one tablespoon of instant coffee (!!) and one tablespoon of unsweetened coca powder. Simmer, partially covered, for 90 minutes or more.