I (like many others) have been a Pollan fan for years, and attending his talk was certainly an act of the converted heading out to be preached to. I am a very new fan, however, of Brene Brown, and I saw her TED talk shortly after I went to see Pollan. Based on her research, she talks about the power of vulnerability as a key ingredient to living a whole-hearted life with a “strong sense of love and belonging.” That connection, as she describes it, is what gives purpose to all our lives—it’s why we’re here.
This, I thought, is why I love food. And it’s not really food that I love, but that strong sense of connection that comes from sharing a part of myself with people I love, and connecting around something that has meaning for all of us. That’s what "In Pleasant Company" is about for me.
I closed out this week of food-and-connection talk with a Sunday afternoon of crafting with my friends, a big pot of chili to share as we prepared for the coming week, and an immense feeling of gratefulness.
The combination of gamey buffalo and flavorful pork was a nice change from the traditional beef. It was good chili, for sure, but it was better in pleasant company.
¼ cup canola oil
2 yellow onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 # ground buffalo
½ # ground pork
14 oz canned, diced tomatoes
6 oz canned tomato paste
½ # dried pinto beans, cooked until almost tender
6-8 cups water
4 large, dried Ancho chilies, rinsed and stems removed
1 T cumin seeds
2 t coriander seeds
1/4 t red pepper flakes
- Heat the oil in a large heavy pot. Add the onions and the garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent but not caramelized.
- Add the buffalo and pork, break apart the meat with a wooden spoon, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Chili should cook for a total of about an hour, adding the following ingredients as you go.
- In a separate, dry, sauté pan, heat the chilies until they become fragrant, turning occasionally, 3-4 minutes. Remove them from the pan, put them in a heatproof bowl, and cover them with boiling water. Let them sit for about 15 minutes until the chilies are tender, then puree them with an immersion blender (or in a traditional blender) to make a smooth chili paste. Add to the pot.
- Heat the sauté pan again and add the cumin and coriander. Heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes, tossing frequently to avoid burning. Transfer the toasted spices to a mortar and pestle, and grind until fine. Add to the pot.
- After the chili has been cooking for a total of about 45 minutes, add the cooked beans. Cook for about 15 minutes more until the beans are soft and the flavors have mixed. Add salt to taste, about 1 tablespoon.