Secret Family Recipe: Chili

I apologize now. I do. Because of the length of this introduction. But listen….it’s necessary. When you taste your chili, you’ll understand why. If you scroll by my feelings will not be hurt LOL.)

Okay….Technically this isn’t a family recipe. This is a recipe you lie and claim to be a secret family recipe. Then you proceed to stunt and accept all of the praise.

I don’t know about y’all but I have two versions of most of my favorite recipes. I have my weeknight version where we show Sandra Lee how to cut corners on a recipe. (Bless that lady’s heart. Have y’all seen that Kwanzaa cake??) My weeknight versions are way less labor intensive than the original versions. My weeknight chili is light-years easier than this recipe. The thing is, though it’s still delicious, you’re sacrificing the layers of flavor that tell your taste buds that this was made with love and intention.

Some people like ground beef and others like whole chunks of beef. Do what you want. I prefer ground beef so I bought a whole chuck roast and pulled out my food grinder. It was cheaper than buying a huge thing of ground chuck. We are frugal around these parts.

Notice I have not mentioned anything about authenticity. My folk are from the south and I’m from Long Island, New York. So, yes, I put beans in my damn chili.

This recipe has so many different flavor profiles. Smokey, sweet, umami! Oh, the umami! I’m sure some ingredients might give you pause but listen, Linda.  There is such depth of flavor and color. It’s a beautiful dish in both preparation and presentation.

There are many steps to this recipe but once you get a groove going you’ll see it come together quite quickly. The key is to stay organized! It may look like a lot but trust me, you will taste every single step. It is worth it.

Believe me.


Ingredients:

Chile Paste:

4 dried New Mexico chiles

4 dried ancho chiles

3 chipotle chiles (in adobo)

2 anchovies (alternatively, you can use 1/2 tsp fish sauce per filet)

4 cups low sodium chicken broth,

2 tbsp of tomato paste

1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

1 1/2 tbsp light brown sugar

4+ garlic cloves (I used like 6. It’s garlic, bro.)

2 tbsp smoked paprika

4 tsp dried coriander*

4 tsp dried cumin*

2 tsp black pepper

2-3 fresh cayenne peppers, optional

(*I have yet to commit to using whole spices. If that’s your preference, the dried conversion comes to roughly 1 1/2 tbsp of whole spices, each.)

Chili:

2 to 3 lbs beef (ground or cubed)

1 large onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

3 clove garlic, minced or grated (did you buy a microplane yet?)

1-2 fresh jalepeno or serrano chiles

1 can of pinto (or whatever you like, rinsed and drained)

3 bay leaves

1 (14oz) can of fire roasted diced/chopped tomatoes

1 (14oz) can of diced/chopped tomatoes

1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4-1/3 chopped cilantro, optional (if you’re one of those soapy people)


Chile Paste:

(*signifies that it applies to the whole spices too, if used)

  1. Heat up a dry skillet
  2. Remove the core, seeds and stems of your dried peppers
  3. Cut or tear the chiles and toast them (and whole spices* if you’re using them) for about a minute or two in the hot skill
    • They will be warm and fragrant
    • Shake the pan or stir frequently, we don’t want to burn them.
    • Fill a bowl with hot water and add your toasted chiles
    • Allow them to steep for at least ten minutes in order to reconstitute them
    • 4a. Grind your whole spices at this point*
  4. Put the reconstituted chiles* in a blender or food processor
    • Add anchovies or fish sauce, tomato paste, cocoa powder, chipotles, garlic cloves, black pepper and brown sugar
    • Add your other spices*
    • Add 2-3 cups of chicken broth
    • Puree until smooth

Note: This can be made ahead of time. It can also be frozen and used at a later date.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. In a large heavy bottomed or Dutch Oven, brown your beef and season with s&p
  3. When the meat is almost cooked through, add your jalapeno or serrano chile, chopped garlic, bell pepper and onions, cook until softened.
  4. To this mixture, add your chile paste
    • Be sure to stir for a few minutes to help eliminate some of the raw tomato paste flavor and basically kick start the spices that we added!
  5. Using the remaining chicken stock and a spatula to clean out your food processor or blender. Waste not want not.
  6. Pour this into you pan or dutch oven
  7. Using your spoon or spatula stir while scraping the bottom of the pan
    • this step is called deglazing. This allows us to clean the bottom of the pan. All those brown bits are flavor and ain’t that what we here for?
  8. Add your two cans of tomato, beans and bay leaves
  9. Bring your pot to a boil, stir and then lower to a simmer
    • Do not worry if your chili seems too loose, it will reduce and thicken.
  10. Taste and gently season with salt if you need to.
    • Do not over do it, because the chili is going to reduce and the flavor will concentrate.
  11. Add bay leaves
  12. Cover and place in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours
  13. Stir Occasionally
    • Taste so that you can see how the flavors continue to develop!
  14. The chili will darken, thicken and reduce, which is indicated on the walls of my pot (as pictured)
  15. Add apple cider vinegar and stir in cilantro
    • I saw this on some random cooking show and tried it one night. Such a complex acidic flavor. Again, trust me. If you’re that afraid, try a generous splash.
  16. Taste and adjust as necessary
    • Personal note: This is where we clean it all up. At this point, I’m tasting and adjusting. I’m correcting my seasoning. I’m adding additional things that might help it along depending on what my palate is saying. I might need more sugar, more pepper, more garlic, more acid. This is where personal preference comes into play as well.
    • Greedy note: THIS IS AMAZING THE NEXT DAY OMGOMGOMGOINK

Serve this up with your favorite fix-ins. We rolled with sour cream and shredded sharp cheddar with a side of homemade cornbread. If you’re feeling yourself because you made some bomb ass chili? Next time, walk with me, try this…. Pumpkin. Cornbread. You’re welcome.

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© 2016 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

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