I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Spicy Chorizo, Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili

I love a good pumpkin dish for Halloween, and this one hits all the right notes.  It’s easy to make, reheats well after a busy night trick-or-treating and is packed full of flavor.  It is also a Halloween appropriate blend of orange and black!  And chili is always a crowd pleaser, and extra fun for a gathering if you provide fun toppings to customize each bowl like sour cream, lime, diced avocado, or tortilla chips.  If you are industrious, save the seeds from the pumpkin and toast them with a little salt for a crunchy topper.  You could even serve this chili over rice.  And of course, a wedge of Pumpkin Cornbread would be the perfect accompainment.

Look for small “pie” pumpkins, sometimes labeled sugar pumpkins.  Sorry, but the flesh from your jack-o-lantern won’t work.  Those pumpkins are decorative and have tough flesh with little flavor.  If your market sells pre-cut pumpkin, feel free to use it, and yes, you could substitute pre-cut butternut squash, though that takes out some of the Halloween authenticity. The cinnamon in this chili adds real depth and brings out the flavor of the pumpkin.  It does not make it sweet or taste like cookies, I promise.

A word about chorizo.  For this dish you’ll use the more common Mexican chorizo, which is a soft uncooked sausage, not hard salami-like Spanish chorizo.  I have found that the flavors of readily available chorizo vary enormously.  I recommend a brand made in Mexico, which I find easily at my regular grocery store, or if you can, a freshly made variety from a Hispanic grocer.  Choose mild over spicy if there is an option – you can always add spice, but you can’t take it away. The brand I commonly find is packed with flavor and very spicy, so it requires little else to make this chili pack a punch.  That is why I recommend cooking small bit of the chorizo first and tasting it.  If you find it bland, add chili powder to taste, and even a little hot sauce if you feel the need.

Spicy Chorizo, Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili

2 pounds Mexican chorizo (please read above)

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

4 cups (32-ounce box) chicken broth

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Chili powder (optional)

3 – 4 pound pie pumpkin

2 (14-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Salt and pepper to taste

Topping Ideas:

Sour cream

Lime wedges

Diced avocado

Chopped cilantro

Crumbled cotija or queso fresco cheese

Tortilla chips

Oyster crackers

Toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Pinch off a small piece of the chorizo and sauté it in a small skillet until cooked through.  Taste the chorizo to determine its flavor and spice level.

Break the chorizo up into a 5-quart Dutch oven and sauté over medium heat, breaking up the meat into small pieces until the bright orange juices are running.  Add the chopped onion and continue cooking, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan until the onions are soft. Pour in the chicken broth, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Stir in the cinnamon.  Add chili powder to taste if you feel the chorizo doesn’t have enough flavor and spice.

While the chorizo is simmering, prepare the pumpkin.  Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and fibrous innards.  Cut the halves into quarters and cut away the orange rind and any green-tinged flesh.  Use a very sturdy and sharp knife and go slowly and carefully.  Cut the pumpkin flesh into bite size chunks.  Remember you’ll be eating this with a spoon, so size the pieces accordingly.  Add the pumpkin to the simmering chorizo. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add the drained black beans.  Continue to simmer the chili until the pumpkin is tender and the chili has thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm with sour cream and fresh limes to squeeze over the chili, and a selection of toppings.  The chili can be made up to 24 hours ahead and gently reheated.

Serves 6 – 8

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