Ratatouille-Inspired Chili

I didn't realize the Super Bowl was this weekend until my Dad reminded me. I know, I know. Still, the fact that I just made my first chili of the season must be a sign that I was at least aware of it on some subconscious level. Is there a food that screams "Super Bowl" more than chili? Maybe nachos, but don't worry, I'm making those later this weekend. To my surprise, I managed to find tortilla chips and something called "Mexican Sauce." The sauce aisle here is a real thing. Maybe I'm losing it, but I don't remember a whole aisle dedicated to sauces back home. Even the quality of packaged, ready-to-eat food here seems to be better.

But back to chili. Usually at this point in the year, I'm on my fourth or fifth batch of the season. More satisfying than soup, just as cozy AND the leftovers are arguably better than the original meal. Plus, I love how it turns out a little different each time, depending on what's on hand. What more could you want in a dinner?

Apparently being in France threw me off my chili game. Maybe it's because "winter" in Lyon is about 30 degrees warmer than it is in Minnesota, or maybe it's due to the simple fact that I couldn't find chili powder anywhere. For the most part, I've gotten the hang of improvising with my favorite recipes here, using the closest equivalent I can find, converting cups into grams. Still, how do you make chili without chili powder? 

Where there's a will, there's a way. All of a sudden my craving for a hearty bowl of chili got so strong that I was determined to find what I needed on my last (traumatizing) run to Carrefour. No matter what time or day I go, everyone and their mother seems to be there. Also, the place is massive, a hypermarché in every sense of the word. Nevertheless, I managed to battle my way to the spice aisle and there it was, the missing ingredient: piment doux. Buoyed by my spice aisle victory and feeling extra creative, I decided to change it up from the standard ground beef base. Besides, viande hachée is more expensive here. So pork it is! 

For the veggies, I figured eggplant and zucchini would be delicious in a tomato-based sauce, along with the more traditional green bell pepper and onion.

Ingredients

2 cans diced tomatoes (pulpe de tomates pelées en dés au jus)

1 can kidney beans

2 pork chops (côtes de porc), diced

1 eggplant

2 medium zucchini

1 green bell pepper

1 medium onion

Garlic

1 Tbsp. chili powder (piment doux)

Method

First, brown the pork and set aside. Chop veggies and sauté, using the same pan. I actually did this using the same giant pot just to cut down on dishes. In French, it's a fait-tout, or a "do everything." How perfect is that?

Add the cans of tomatoes to the cooked veggies. For more liquid, fill the cans with water, and incorporate. Add the meat back in. Let the mixture simmer for 30-45 minutes, with the lid on. Stir occasionally. Rinse beans before adding them in at the very end, just before serving (otherwise they will be mush). 

Top with shredded cheese and dig in! Pro tip: swap the bread for a bowl of popcorn (not pictured here because I always devour it before snapping a photo). That's right, you heard me. Chili + spicy Sriracha popcorn = best combo ever. Try it.

Either way, you can't go wrong with this veggie-packed, ratatouille-inspired chili. Delish!

-Stephanie