Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Chili Today

We play with our chili recipe, when we have new ideas, or when we're missing an ingredient. 

This is a full-bodied chili, thickened with tortillas. It also has: chili powders, beef, bacon, tomatoes, beans, and a few surprise ingredients that you probably won't guess. We love it with Fritos, cheese, and sour cream. Tastes even better the next day, after the ingredients have time to blend.


4 slices raw bacon, chopped
2 (15 oz) or 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
½ cup chili sauce
chili blend:
2 ½ tsp ground cumin, very fresh*
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
¼ cup chili powder
1 Tbsp ancho powder
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 - 2 1/2 lb ground beef
2 tsp salt
1 (12 oz) bottle beer (Corona is good)
1 (10.5 oz) can beef broth
8 soft corn tortillas, chopped or crumbled
1 (15 /4 oz) can sweet corn
3 (15.8 oz) cans beans; I like one each of red, black, and great northern**
1 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
balsamic vinegar
1 lemon
maple syrup
salt to taste

Things to serve under or on top of chili:

  • lettuce or steamed rice
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • sour cream
  • chopped onions or scallions
  • Fritos


  1. Brown the bacon in a large pot. In a bowl, combine canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and ketchup. Save a can to put the beef fat in. Combine the “chili blend” spices in a small bowl.
  2. Saute onions in the bacon and bacon fat. If you have time, caramelize the onions (cook slowly until they turn caramel-colored).  Add the garlic, cook another minute or two, then empty the pot into the tomato bowl and set aside.
  3. Get the pot hot again, and put in chunks of ground beef (don't crumble it yet), so that they sizzle and sear on the bottom, turning brown. If they stick some, that's good. Sprinkle the top with salt and pepper. A few minutes later, flip the beef to sear on the other side, salting and peppering again. Remove pan juices as necessary (use a baster to suck it up, and empty it into your tomato can) to keep the beef sizzling. Once the beef is browned on the sides, crumble it with your spatula and cook until pink is gone. Remove any unwanted fat now, before adding the spices.
  4. Sprinkle the “chili blend” spices onto the hot beef. Stir and cook until the pot is dry and the meat is coated. Pour in the beer, deglazing the pot (the beer should sizzle, foam, and un-stick everything from the pan). Stir until reduced. Add the can of beef broth, stir, and return to a simmer. Mix in the bowl of tomatoes, bacon, and onion.
  5. Using the baster, collect any non-fat juices from the bottom of the tomato can and return them to the pot.
  6. Bring the pot to a simmer, then stir in the crumbled corn tortillas. Simmer briskly about 20 minutes, until tortillas disappear, and the pot thickens. Use more or less tortillas to thicken to taste.
  7. Stir in beans and corn, along with all the liquid in the cans. Return to a simmer. Add the juice of the lemon, and stir in the chocolate. Taste the chili. Add salt as desired. Add maple syrup to sweeten, and balsamic vinegar to "brighten", around two teaspoons of each, as desired. Adjusting the salt, balsamic (sour), and maple (sweet) is the key to a good balanced flavor, and takes multiple tasting and adjustment cycles.
  8. Serve over torn lettuce or steamed rice. Top with shredded cheddar, sour cream, onions and Fritos.
  9. *Fresh cumin makes a huge difference; add another ½ teaspoon if it is old/weak. It's worth the trouble to toast seed in a dry skillet and grind it yourself, or to buy some at a specialty store (like Fresh Market) every few months. When fresh, it has a very strong, wild sort of a smell, which I've never gotten from a bottle at the grocery store.

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