Chili Red

Oh there are soooo many kinds of chili.  My first chili recipe was based on a dish in a novel.  Later, I got to sample chili that other people made, many of which were much better than my first attempt.  There was a guy who worked in the meat department at Savenor’s Market in Cambridge, MA who gave me a great lecture one day on chili-making and it is from the notes I took that day that the current version of this recipe was born.  It has changed and mutated over the years as I have learned more about chili and chiles.

This is a great recipe to make a lot of, then freeze it in quantities for one meal and just warm it in a pot when you want to eat it (no need to defrost first).

You may notice that there are no beans in this recipe, and no tomato.  Both of these can be controversial amongst chili makers, one of those endless debates like Eastern NC barbeque.  I consider it to be a mark of purity (nods self-righteously).  The best hot dog chili I know of also doesn’t have any tomato in it.  It’s perfectly fine to cook a pot of beans, and then ladle chili over beans on a plate, but don’t cook beans into perfectly good chili.  Tomato in chili can give people heartburn, and I was told (apocryphally, perhaps) that chili with no tomato doesn’t cause heartburn.  I can however, quote good authority that there are no beans in chili, just check out the International Chili Society.


4 pounds of chuck roast, cut into 1/2  inch cubes.  If you really don’t like chuck roast, use what they call a “flat iron steak”, or some other cut you prefer, but don’t use a very lean cut.  Also, no need to be anal about the 1/2 inch cubes.  Less than 1/4 inch is too small.  One inch is too large.  Aim for in the middle.

Dried chilis: 6 anchos, 2 pasilla, 4 guajillos, 4 chiles de arbol.  More variety makes better chili, but you can use whatever is available locally, and feel free to use additional chiles, including hotter ones.  None of the chiles here are remotely close to being as hot as a scotch bonnet or habanero.

2 chipotles in adobo (from a jar)
6 ounces of raw bacon, mostly for the bacon grease.  Chop the bacon fine, then cook it down.
1 large onion, diced fine

6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 cup of strong coffee
1 bottle of dark ale, beer, etc.  (I prefer dark, like Dixie Voodoo Blackened Lager, or Dos Equis)
2 cups of water

1 tbl hot paprika
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground clove
1 tsp allspice
1 tbl ground coriander
1 tbl cayenne
2 tbls cumin

Salt to taste

4 tlbs Black pepper (estimated, at least this much)

1/2 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
¼ cup masa harina or finely ground white corn meal

1 ounce dark cooking chocolate (don’t use unsweetened)

1 green pepper, 1 onion, Extra grated cheese


Roast the dried chiles (anchos, pasillas, guajillos and chiles de arbol) in a dry skillet on medium for 3-4 minutes on each side.  Remove from heat and then add them to a bowl of boiling water:  let rest 30 minutes.

Cubed Beef

Cook the bacon in the skillet.  Remove the bacon, leave the grease.  Sear one quarter of the beef in a flat layer in the bacon grease on high heat in the skillet.  Remove and set aside.  If you don’t have enough bacon grease, add some lard.  Do not brown the rest of the meat.  You only need some of it to give you the flavor you want, and the rest is tenderer if you don’t brown it.  This may also be debatable, but two of the people who have made the best chili I’ve ever had recommend that you do not brown chili meat, and my father reminded me of this on the phone yesterday when we were talking.

Saute onions and garlic until translucent and caramelizing, still in the skillet.

Add the beef, onions & garlic and any leftover grease, bacon, ale, coffee, and the spices to a large heavy pot.  Turn the heat up to high.
Pour the water off the chiles and save it.  I tend to add this in place of water when the chili needs more moisture.  This is controversial.  The best middling recommendation I’ve seen on this says to taste the chile water and if it isn’t too bitter for you, use it as a substitution in stuff you are cooking.  I do the same thing in my adobo sauce.

Peppers soaking

Side dishes

Add the drained chiles to the blender, and then add broth until it purees nice and smooth.  Add to pot, stir.  Add 2 cups water.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for three to five hours, stirring occasionally. Add more spices to taste, and add more plain water as necessary to maintain a thick consistency (don’t let it dry out).

When finished, add the grated hot chocolate to the chili, and stir.  Then mix 1 cup of chicken broth with the masa harina, and stir into pot.  Let thicken, then remove from heat to rest.

Serve in bowls with sides of sautéed onions, sautéed green peppers, and grated cheese as condiments, along with corn chips, rice, or beans as sides (or just ladle it on top).

Bowl o' Chili

Chili over Corn Chips


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3 Responses to “Chili Red”

  1. kitsapFG Says:

    That looks down right delicious! I have heard many times that “real chili” does not have beans or tomatoes.

  2. spamwise Says:

    Thanks for the linky love.

    Chili is what you make of it. The best cooks are the ones who truly own it in every sense of the word.

    So if beans or tomato give you agita, don’t! After all, if you don’t love it, who else will?

  3. foodgardenkitchen Says:

    Oscar Wilde or Robert Heinlein said something about “Taste is the only thing worth arguing about”. In the case of cooking, it may be literally true.

    I get a kick out of picking hardline positions about some foods, and will occasionally make statements like “There is no barbeque west of Durham, NC”, and my extreme positions about things like “real chili” fortunately don’t interfere with my enjoyment of dishes that have chili made with tomato paste and beans…

    I can talk all day about traditional corn pudding, but then I do something like make the one you posted, Spamwise, and in such cases of deliciousness the proof is in the pudding (sorry, couldn’t resist working that in).

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