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Spicy pork and black bean chili, made from leftovers

Guest Clacker Kelly Estes shares a not-too-spicy leftover story with us, using pork, black beans, chipotle and creamed corn.


If you enjoy finding new recipes, trying them, and tweaking them, you’ve got something in common with today’s Guest Clacker, Kelly Estes. She loves the aromas and unbeatable taste of homemade food, (as does her family). A former newspaper journalist, she’s now a freelancer who writes about food and politics, although not together! (Twitter: kellyestes)

Making tasty leftovers is one of my regular challenges. With a 3-year-old boy who frowns on anything remotely spicy, and a 7-year-old girl who has an adult’s palate, except when it comes to beans, the chef part of my job is always interesting.

Last week, after sauteing four pork rib chops for dinner, I had two left over for another meal. The next day, around 5:00 pm, I realized creative cooking was called for to avoid having tough, leftover pork chops. I quickly decided on a pork chili. Setting my pot on low heat, I diced about ¼ of a large onion and half a green bell pepper, and threw the diced vegetables in after pouring in about 1 tablespoon of EVOO. Looking in my pantry, I took out a 10 oz. can of mild Rotel and a 15.5 oz. can of black beans. After the onion and bell peppers had sauteed for about 10 minutes, I poured in the Rotel and rinsed black beans. Since the mixture looked a little thick, I also added about ¼ cup of water.

A perusal of my spice cabinet turned up one problem: I had run out of regular chile powder. I did have chipotle chili powder, which I had bought before I realized how spicy it was, and how much my son disliked it (way too spicy for him). Another check in my refrigerator uncovered leftover chicken from a roasted chicken, enough for my two children to eat. Whew! That meant that even if the pork chili was a little spicy, I still had (non-spicy) chicken for my kids to eat.

I added 1/8 teaspoon of the chipotle chili powder (my major error), ¼ tsp. of cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. of allspice, and 3/4 tsp. of cumin. I then let the chili simmer on low while I chopped up the two leftover pork chops into bite-size pieces. Once the chili had simmered about 10 minutes, I threw in the chopped pork and stirred the mixture together. I set the timer for 10 minutes, and took out the leftover rice, putting it in a bowl with a lid, along with a little water. It would take about 2 ½ minutes to microwave the rice, so I just needed to remember to do that at the last minute. While waiting for the chili to come together, I put the roasted chicken on a platter with a little water at the bottom of the platter. I’ve found the water helps the meat not get tough when it is microwaved. I chopped up a zucchini and microwaved it.

Bzzzzz. As the timer buzzed, I hurried over to taste the concoction. Whew! The spiciness rocked my taste buds. It was waaaay too spicy. Trying not to panic, I looked around for something to cool the chili down a little. Spying a 15.25 oz. can of creamed corn, I opened it and threw that in the pot, and let it simmer for about 5 more minutes.

Another taste test of the chili, and I declared it spicy and good. The creamed corn blunted the overwhelming heat from the chipotle chili powder in the pork chili. What a relief, considering that my husband and I had nothing else to eat if the chili was not edible.

I served the chili in a bowl, with white rice on the bottom, and a dollop of fat-free sour cream to my husband and myself. My kids enjoyed leftover roast chicken with rice and zucchini. I silently declared dinner another success.

Though the chili was still quite spicy, I found it to be very addictive, and ate the entire bowlful in front of me. The spicy pork chili certainly cleared out my sinuses and left my mouth tingling a bit. One thing is for sure: I need to purchase regular chili powder for my pantry!

I know that I am not the only one with a leftover story to tell. What is yours?

Photo Credit: Kelly Estes

5 Responses to “Spicy pork and black bean chili, made from leftovers”

November 29, 2009 at 10:22 AM

This sounds great! One of the biggest challenges many of us face today is trying to make “something” out of leftovers. Food is just way too expensive to throw away, and certainly is not getting any cheaper. Your ideas inspire me. Please share more, there are many of us (including me) who have lost the “inspiration” to re-engineer food.

Thank you for sharing!

November 29, 2009 at 4:23 PM

I loved her what to do with leftover meals idea… chili is just one of our favorites. I am always looking for ways to improve mine, never added cinnamon, I will have to try it myself!. Many of us deal with so many palettes to satisfy… but she sure got everyone fed, the fridge clean and I got to say that she sure left me with my mouth watering for some CHILI!!!

November 29, 2009 at 8:23 PM

All that effort to make something the munchkins could eat, then they don’t?

Anyhoo… The recipe seems to work. But is chipotle really that hot to you? But I assume it is.

If it is, the rice wouldn’t help, because rice does weird things with spices. True, it absorbs them, and seems to temper them, but this makes the rice spicy. The spicy rice also intensifies the heat of the rest of the food.

Rice does that. If you want it to cool the palate, it needs to be separate.

November 29, 2009 at 10:34 PM

It’s so nice when a leftovers meal is kicked up a notch instead of being humdrum. There are times when it’s all I can do to microwave the leftover pork and rice. But it’s when I do try something different to give our dinners some variety that there’s a different atmosphere at the table. And it’s always nice to hear, ‘This is delicious!’ I’d like to think with minced garlic and/or onion, I have a base for some yummy leftovers. Here’s to giving leftovers a makeover!

I’m so glad you enjoyed my post. Hopefully ‘must-go’ nights will get easier to do. Chili is one of my favorite cold weather meals!

Well, the trick is I had to use the food I had in the fridge without going to the grocery store. I would rather cook just one meal for my family, but sometimes we have to finish what’s in the refrigerator. My husband calls that ‘must-go’ night! As far as my spice tolerance, I’m afraid it’s rather mediocre. I can handle some heat, but not a ton. And you’re correct about the rice needing to be separate in order to cool the palate. That was another mistake of mine. I should have kept the rice separate from the chili, since it was a little too spicy for me. However, I will say that it wasn’t too spicy for me to eat. I did eat all of my chili!

November 30, 2009 at 11:00 AM

This looks like a winner of a recipe and I look forward to making it with my family soon.