Closely based on Deborah Madison’s black bean chili, which, she notes, has been served at Greens, the great vegetarian restaurant overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, every day since they opened in 1979. Deborah’s use of seasonings is masterful; particularly so is her use of a small amount of chipotle chilies (smoked jalapeños, available dried and canned and jarred in adobo sauce or without the sauce), a touch that has been widely copied across the country.
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
4garlic cloves, peeled and chopped coarse
½teaspooncoarse (kosher) salt or sea salt, or to taste
4teaspoonsdried oregano leaves
4teaspoonspaprika, preferably Hungarian
¼ to ½teaspooncayenne, or to taste
¼cup best-quality chili powder, or more or less to taste
1 can (28ounces) whole tomatoes, chopped, with juices
2teaspoons chopped chipotle chilies, or to taste
1½poundsbeef shin or chuck, cut in ¾-inch cubes
2cupsdried black beans, sorted and soaked overnight, then drained (Dried Bean Basics)
1½tablespoonsrice wine vinegar or cider vinegar, or to taste
¼cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions; toss to coat and sauté, tossing, until they soften, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, cumin seeds, oregano, paprika, cayenne, and chili powder and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes longer to cook the chili and spices. Add the tomatoes with their juices plus about 1 teaspoon of the chipotle chilies. Simmer everything together for 10 minutes.
In a large casserole or Dutch oven and working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan, brown the beef in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with salt and turn the beef cubes frequently until they are well browned on all sides, usually about 15 minutes.
When the beans are cooked, degrease the chili, removing all the fat from the surface with a large metal spoon or skimmer. The chili can be made ahead to this point.
Taste the chili and stir in another teaspoon of chopped chipotles, if you like. Season with the vinegar, more salt if needed, and the chopped cilantro. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Serve with bowls of the garnishes.