Lamb and Black Bean Chili
Serves 8

Excerpted from
FRANK STITT'S SOUTHERN TABLE: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill

by Frank Stitt (Artisan Books).
Copyright 2004 Christopher Hirsheimer.

This isn’t your usual three-alarm chili; instead, it is a one-pot meal that is all about the slow development of flavors. The beans get a long simmer with lamb bones, extracting their very essence. Saffron, ginger, allspice, and red wine work in unison with the lamb. We like to serve this chili with fragrant saffron rice and garnish it with avocado, scallions, and sour cream.

For the Beans
1-3⁄4 cups black beans, rinsed, picked over, and soaked overnight in water to cover
2 pounds lamb bones (see Note)
4 thyme sprigs, 4 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, and 1 bay leaf,
tied together to make a bouquet garni
1 garlic clove, crushed

For the Chili
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
11⁄2 pounds ground lamb shoulder
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced thyme
1 tablespoon minced hot red chile
2 to 3 canned chipotle chiles, chopped
11⁄4 teaspoons dried marjoram
1 scant tablespoon cumin
3⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
3⁄4 teaspoon each freshly ground white and black pepper
3⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Two 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, drained,
juices reserved, and coarsely chopped
3⁄4 cup red wine
Kosher salt

For the Rice
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander
1⁄2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed in a mortar or crumbled
2 cups basmati rice
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut into thin slices
1⁄4 cup sour cream
Minced greens from 2 scallions

Drain the beans, transfer them to a large heavy saucepan, and add fresh water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and add the lamb bones, bouquet garni, and garlic. Reduce the heat and simmer, skimming off the foam occasionally and adding more water as necessary to keep the beans covered, until they are tender but not mushy, about 1 hour. Drain, reserving the liquid.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a bowl. Pour off the oil and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the lamb, and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until it is no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Return the onions to the pan, add the chili powder, ginger, thyme, red chile, chipotles, marjoram, cumin, allspice, and peppers, and stir well. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and half of their reserved juices and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add 1⁄2 cup of the wine and simmer, skimming and stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
Add the beans, bones, bouquet garni, remaining 1⁄4 cup wine, and salt to taste to the chili. Taste and adjust the
seasoning. Simmer for 30 minutes, skimming and stirring occasionally and adding enough of the reserved bean cooking liquid and tomato juices to keep the chili moist.
While the chili is cooking, prepare the rice: Combine
4 cups of water, the cumin, coriander, and saffron in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the rice and return to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 16 to 18 minutes.
Remove the bones and bouquet garni from the chili. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon the rice into bowls and spoon the chili over it. Garnish with the avocado, sour cream, and greens, and serve.

note: Reserve the bones from lamb whenever possible and freeze to use here or to make Lamb Jus (page 341). Or ask your butcher for any lamb bones that would otherwise be discarded.

to drink: Ice-cold beer