July 27, 2009


The power of suggestion is exponentially so for me when it comes to food. Sometimes it's that Sonic commercial with the chili cheese tater tots that just sound like a really good idea at 2 in the morning. For me, it's usually something I've read - the stews and breads in the accursed Wheel of Time Series, butter or candy making from Little House or the Thai food and such from every damn chapter of Time Traveler's Wife. The point to this, is that I never really cared for or really wanted to make chili until I read this:

Laura made a great chili. She used lean meat, dark kidney beans, carrots cut small, a bottle or so of dark beer, and freshly sliced hot peppers. She would let the chili cook for a while, then add red wine, lemon juice and a pinch of fresh dill, and finally, measure out and add her chili powders."
- American Gods, Neil Gaiman

It goes on, but I think that's about the limits of fair use. And it's basically a passage that is burned into my mind and my ideas of making chili all derive from that one paragraph.

So here's the gist of my chili. I'm a spice wimp, but I love the flavors of different peppers. I refuse to thicken with anything but tomato paste and ground meat. I prefer a deep and smokey but slightly sweet chili. I prefer beans, but I make them separately and add them in to my own dish since there's the GREAT CHILI DEBATE and I'm motherflippin Roger Sherman.

Both ground meat and cubed meat. I used lamb and ground beef and some leftover pot roast chuck cut into quarter inch pieces. The cubed meat is for chewing and the ground meat is to add texture and thickness. Yes, you're thickening the tomato meat stew with more meat. Brown the cubed meat first, remove it, and then cook the ground meat in the released fat. Drain ground meat and set aside with the cubed.

Peppers. I used poblanos and fresnos. I seed these and put the seeds aside for those who can eat a much spicier chili than I can.

The poblanos and one of the bell peppers get roasted at 450 degrees while the meat cooks, or about 20 minutes. They should look like this when done

Back to the meat pot. Mirepoix time!

Have you had enough pictures of mirepoix to get the point? I used two onions, three stalks of celery and two large carrots. Sweat for about 10 minutes. To this you add the seeded and diced fresnos (or whatever you want to use), the poblanos and bell peppers.

And then this.

No. This ALL goes in the chili. Don't balk, it's delicious. Chop roughly and add to the sweating mess. Salt a little here to help release moisture.

Add the meat back to the vegetable mixture. Add two 14 oz cans of tomatoes, juice and all, and a beer. I use Shiner Bock, but use any beer you like to drink. Because I add a beer and a splash and proceed to drink the rest.

Then the seasonings. Teaspoon of cumin, coriander, hot paprika, oregano, touch of dill, chipotle and red chili, salt and pepper and a little bay. Let this simmer for a bit, the peppers in the chili will start integrating and the liquids will keep releasing and it will get very meaty. Taste again after half an hour and adjust your spices accordingly.

At this point, I thicken with tomato paste. And then taste again. And again. And again. Right before serving, I add the juice of a small lemon to brighten the flavor.

As with all things, use the peppers you like the flavors of. I'm not a huge fan of jalapenos, so I tend to avoid them and my wimpy spice tolerance prevents me from using more robust peppers. Same with chili powders. I obviously trend towards the smoky and the sweet, but there's a whole wide world of tasty out there.


  1. Photos and chili look awesome. Hooray post-processing!

  2. I don't know which is more amazing. This chili recipe that is near perfection or the fact that "meat" is a label in your blog.

  3. Chili with beer? I'm gonna have to try this.