Ancho Chile Chili - Up your chili game with this easy recipe (it's a favorite in our college cooking class)

Ancho Chile Chili
Serves 8 (can be doubled)

To stretch the chili to feed even more people, serve it over white or brown rice.

3 ounces (6 large) dried ancho chiles, opened and seeded
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/4 pounds ground pork, beef, or meatloaf mix (beef, veal, pork)
1 (28 ounce) can Italian tomatoes in juice
(not puree)
2 cups water or as needed

1 chipotle chile from a can of chipotles en adobo (omit if you want a milder chile)
3 (14 ounce) cans beans; black, pinto, or kidney, or a mixture, drained and rinsed
1 ounce Mexican chocolate (Ibarra or Abuelita) or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Garnishes:
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Special equipment: a blender

Heat a skillet over medium-low heat and toast the chiles a couple at a time, pressing down and turning with tongs, until fragrant and changed in color. Transfer to a bowl of cold water to soak for 20 minutes. Drain.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, add the onions and garlic, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until golden. Add the spices and salt and cook 1 minute more.

Increase the heat to medium-high, add the meat and cook, stirring, until it is no longer pink.

In a blender, puree the drained chiles with the tomatoes (including juice) and chipotle, if using, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add to the pot along with the water and simmer over medium-low heat until well seasoned, about 30 minutes. Add the beans and chocolate, stirring until the beans are hot and the chocolate is melted, and re-season to taste.

Serve with the garnishes. - SW