Sunday, November 3, 2013

Chili Cook-Off Winning Recipe

Some friends held their annual chili cook-off recently and I know the heat would be on!  There is some fierce competition in our hood for the yearly bragging rights and highly-coveted trophy.  I was fraught with questions about what type of chili to bring?  Turkey and black bean chili?  Perhaps too healthy a choice for the male voters.  Pork chili verde possibly? Hmm….not sure how many foodies will be there….White Chicken chili?  Is that even chili, really?  Plus, I already made that last week.  I decided to go with a traditional beef and bean chili, kicked up a couple of notches with some bold spices, complex heat, and a few surprise ingredients.  I wanted to be sure it wasn’t wimpy, girly chili – I did want some heat!  But, I also wanted a really rich and complex flavor profile that was not just about making people sweat when they ate it. A few purists may question some of my ingredient choices, I know.  Cinnamon?  Cocoa?  Ketchup, come on?  Trust me that they’re all there for a reason and really give a nice well-rounded flavor and amazing balance to the end product.

I have to admit that I so did not use a recipe, so any amounts here are really more of a guess, but in my humble opinion, chili should not be about carefully-measured teaspoons and cup measures anyway.  It should be about passion, heat, and the fun of adding a pinch of this and a handful of that while you sip on an adult beverage.  So, here goes.  Grab a couple of beers and put on a football game, or in my case, a Project Runway marathon, because this dish is best simmered for a long while.  Serve with some sour cream, grated cheese and cornbread for a great cold day meal!  Enjoy the leftovers on a dog, with pasta or over a baked potato – go crazy with it!  It makes a big batch and freezes pretty well!

While this looks like a LONG list of ingredients, relax!  You probably already have most of it in your pantry and if not, leaving out a thing or town will just make it your own.


1 lb. ground chuck or other high quality ground beef
1 lb. mild Italian sausage, removed from casing
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded, de-ribbed and chopped
1 poblano pepper, roasted and seeded and chopped* (I use frozen pre-cut)
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 chipotle pepper, chopped with 1 Tbsp of the adobe sauce it comes in** (canned)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp Ancho Chili powder (or New Mexican style if you can’t find Ancho variety)
3 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 Tbsp Paprika
2 tsp Cinnamon
¼ tsp Cayenne pepper
1 ½ Tbsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp ground Coriander
2 tsp dried Oregano
1 tsp dried Dill
1 Tbsp Cocoa powder
1 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp tomato paste (I like the kind in the tube)
1 bottle of beer (preferably lager or pilsner) 
3 shakes Worcestershire
5 shakes Tabasco
1 can reduced sodium beef broth
¼ cup ketchup (trust me on this!)
1 can plain diced tomatoes
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic
1 can of reduced sodium chicken broth
1 can of kidney beans, drained
1 can of black beans, drained
1 can of pinto beans
1 handful of chopped cilantro (optional)


Use a large stockpot or dutch oven and first, brown the ground beef and sausage together on medium high heat.   Don’t stir it too much – you really want it to get good and browned and if it sticks to the bottom a bit, so be it!  Use this time to chop up your onion, garlic and jalapeno.  When the meat is well browned and cooked through, spoon off a bit of the excess fat and discard.  You do want to keep some fat in the pan however.  Add the chopped veggies now and stir occasionally until they’re softened.  Next, add the chopped roasted poblano pepper (you can buy these frozen, already chopped or pick one up and roast it yourself on the grill or over a gas burner).  Now, add ALL the spices and the brown sugar.  You want to be sure to do it now, so they have the chance to toast in the pan with the meat and aromatics before you add the liquid.  Now, you want to start adding liquids.  First, add the tomato paste and the Worcestershire sauce, stirring as you go.  Next, add the beer and stir, scraping off any browned bits from the bottom.     Add the beef broth, ketchup, hot sauce, and the can of plain diced tomatoes, along with any juices in the can.  Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low and cover.  Simmer for about 25 minutes.  Remove the lid and allow to continue simmering for at least 10 minutes without the lid.  This will evaporate some of the liquid and thicken the chili.  In a blender or food processor, puree the can of roasted tomatoes and chicken broth until well blended.  Add this to the chili and continue simmering, adding all the beans, rinsed and drained.  If your chili is a little thick now, simmer with the lid on for the next 15-20 minutes.  If it is too thin, simmer without the lid.  Check for seasoning and add additional salt, hot sauce or other spices as needed.  Chop a handful of fresh cilantro and add that a few minutes before serving.

This is a great bowl of red with cornbread and its also good ladled over a baked potato or spaghetti.  My hubby says it would make a mean chili pie, so we may have that in our future!

It’s even better the second day so try not to over-indulge on your first pass!  Enjoy!  

* Wegman's and Harris Teeter both sell frozen chopped fire-roasted poblano peppers.  They are a great freezer staple to have on hand.  In the early fall, you will often find fresh roasted hatch peppers which are a wonderful sub-on for the poblanos.  Otherwise, buy a fresh poblano pepper or two and quick fire-roast in on the grill or using a gas burner or in the oven.  Remove the blistered skin and the seeds and chop to use.  In a pinch, a small can of mild green chiles will do, but it will not have the same heat or deep smoky flavor.

** Chipotle in Adobo sauce is found in the Latin section of most supermarkets and is a pantry must-have.  They pack a punch so use sparingly!  I typically use one pepper, diced fine with a bit of the sauce and freeze the rest.  Pureed, it makes a terrific marinade component for steak or for use in future chili dishes or salsas.


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