And the winner is…


My office is moving. The “last party in our building” consisted of a chili cook-off. I have never done a cook off of any kind before, but I was the designated chili cooker for my small office. There were six entries in this “competition” and mine tied for first place!The judges were serious about this and the scoring criteria fairly loose, consisting of one factor- do you like it? They did.

In all fairness, my chili is, well, my husband’s chili. And it isn’t even his since he inspired himself for years from a recipe he found in the Wall Street Journal. I would happily credit the original source except I have no idea what that is since we manage to lose the recipe. The loss of the recipe occurred about a month ago when we made the chili for our annual Super Bowl party. So, I considered the cook off at work a great opportunity to make the chili while the recipe was still somewhat fresh in our minds and the blog a nice excuse to write it all out for next year!

Ingredients: 5 lbs beef shoulder, 6 onions (peeled and chopped), 40 large cloves of garlic (about 3 heads, peeled and chopped), 10 large red bell peppers, 4 Poblano peppers, 4 Anaheim chilies,2 guajillo peppers (if you find them), 4 jalapenos, 2 cans stewed whole tomatoes (28 oz each), 12 oz bacon, salt, pepper, olive oil, and a bunch of spices (see below).

Spice Mix Ingredients: 1-2 dried pasilla chilis (stems and seeds removed ), 3 dried ancho chile peppers (stems and seeds removed) [pictured below], 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 teaspoon coriander seed, 2 teaspoons cumin seed, half a stick cinnamon.

Serving Ingredients: 1 cup sour cream, zest of one orange (zested on microplane grater), 1 teaspoon fresh ground coriander, corn tortilla chips.

Here it goes…

The Peppers!

Preheat your over at 350 degrees. [Please please please use an oven thermometer.]

You have 2 colors of peppers- red and green. The main difference is that the red ones get their skins peeled after roasting. The green ones do not. But, before and after that step, the preparation is nearly identical.

[A cautionary note-some of the green peppers are hot, some very hot. If your skin is sensitive to hot peppers (mine, for example, is ultra-sensitive to that), use gloves or a significant other with less sensitive skin to handle these. They are dangerous and if you get a hot pepper skin burn there is NO CURE except waiting it out while possibly being in major pain. Trust me on the “no cure” thing- I tried every conceivable remedy. Don’t test your luck. ]

[this little sucker was hot!]

Wash and dry your peppers. Cut the cap/top of the pepper including the stem in a straight line. Get the seeds and remainder of the core out with your knife or your hand. Cut each pepper in half lengthwise. Clean out any remaining seeds and trim the white ribs out.

Lay a baking/cookie sheet with aluminum foil and put your pepper halves cut side own. Brush the outside skin of the peppers with olive oil. Put the peppers in the oven for about 25-30 minutes- the red ones take a little longer than the green.

The red peppers need to be peeled. Put them in a bowl and cover them with aluminum foil. Let them cool off all the way- I actually like to put them in the fridge and wait until they are cold to peel. It makes peeling much easier. So, peel the skins.

The green peppers stay as they are- skin on.

Cut both the red and green peppers into about ¾ -1 inch bits. Set aside.

The Bacon!

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cut the bacon into ½ inch (or so) little bits. Put the bacon in a shallow baking pan. Put it in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove the pan and drain some of the bacon fat into a separate dish. Save this for later. Return the pan to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. You want the fat to have melted off and to have brown bacon bits remaining.

Don’t burn it! Remove the pan and drain the rest of the bacon fat into the same dish. Again- this is precious cargo- save it!

Spice Mix!

Grind each of the unground ingredients separately in a spice grinder- no magic here, justa coffee grinder you use for spices. Combine the ingredients along with the paprika in a small pan and toast over medium heat for about a minute. This brings the flavors out.

The Meat!

Remove excess fat from the meat and cut it up into ½ cubes. [this is how I prefer the meat to be cut- you may like bigger chunks]. Season it with salt and pepper then cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours, ideally overnight. The meat will be more tender.

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. Working in small batches, brown the meat.

We actually did this in 2 pots because of the large quantity of meat. If you do that, it will likely yield better faster results. Remove the pot from heat and take the meat out- drain the extra fat on paper towels. Set aside.

Onions and Garlic.

In the same pot (or pots) where you browned the meat, add about ¾ of the bacon fat you saved earlier and heat up on medium low. Add the chopped onions and cook for about 5 minutes or until soft. In a separate pan, add the remaining bacon fat and heat over medium heat. If there isn’t enough bacon fat, supplement with a little olive oil. Add the chopped garlic and cook for 2- minutes stirring constantly. Combine the onions and garlic and cook together for 5 minutes medium low stirring occasionally.

Bring it together!

To the onions and garlic, add spice mix and turn up heat to med/high for 90 seconds. Add peppers.

Add the bacon and beef. Reduce the heat to medium.

Open the tomato cans and squeeze each tomato into the pot with your hand. Add the remaining tomato juice from the cans. Reduce to a low simmer and cover. Cook for 3 hours stirring every 30-45 minutes and be sure that chili does not cook to the bottom of the pot.

Serving Add-ins- to your bowl of chili you want to add:

-Coriander Spiked Sour Cream –in one cup sour cream, mix 1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander, the zest of one orange (zested on a microplane grater), and salt to taste. Add a tablespoon or two to your bowl of chili.

-Corn tortilla chips bits- break a few corn tortilla chips with your hand and sprinkle over the sour cream and chili.

This will be better the next day. It ages well! And it might win you a chili cook off! Enjoy.

P.S. I knowyou might be all excited for spring, the time change, and sunny warmer weather, but (1) it is not actually going to be warm more than occasionally for a while and (2) I LOVE stews. So, in the next couple of weeks expect to see the Thomas Keller Beef Bourguignon and the Alice Waters Lamb Stew with Homemade Noodles. These two dishes were outstanding and they are worth sharing!

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  • Danielle

    Wow, that is a lot of work! Congrats on first place.

  • Andra

    Thanks Danielle! It did take work, but it was totally worth it.

  • Aztechan Pettus

    I cannot wait to try your magic-in-a-pot!
    Mmmmmm, delicious!

  • Magic of Spice

    Wow, from memory? Great job there…and wonderful recipe…love chili to be hearty like this :)