A Bowl of Red

By • April 25, 2011 • 132 Comments

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Author Notes: We entered our first chili cookoff years ago, and in our travels along the way we've not only tasted some amazing bowls of red, but met some amazing characters. Ormly Gumfudgin immediately comes to mind. Ormly was such a chili purist that he once physically attacked a Houston chef who put baked beans in his chili. The Texas Rangers came, and, according to reports, yelled at the chef.

I love everything about chili - its welcoming aroma, rich flavor, and soul-embracing warmth - but most of all, I love chili because it's meant to be shared with as many friends as possible!
wssmom

Food52 Review: Like barbecue or chocolate chip cookies, chili has inspired many a debate. Connoisseurs know that there are as many versions as there are cooks who make it, but not all chili is created equal. Wssmom's Bowl of Red gives other contenders a run for their money. It's rich and smooth, with a creeping heat from homemade chili paste -- by far the most labor intensive part of the recipe, and it's really not that much work. The addition of a little bittersweet chocolate evokes the suppleness of a good mole, and the delicate beef cubes virtually melt in your mouth. We love that you don't brown the onions or garlic, but just throw them in with the seared meat and the broth to mellow and soften. We highly recommend a spritz of lime juice and a dollop of sour cream to finish it off. - A&MA&M

Serves 6 hungry chiliheads

Chile Paste

  • 2 ounces dried chile pepper pods, mostly New Mexico with a couple Guajillos tossed in
  1. Wearing rubber gloves, stem and seed the chile pods and cover with near-boiling water. Let steep for 30 minutes, then pour off the water and puree the softened pods in a food processor until they form a paste. Pass through a sieve to remove skins and errant seeds. Set aside.

Chili

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons bacon fat
  • 3 pounds chuck (after trimming), neatly diced into 1/2 to 3/4-inch cubes (partially freeze the meat for easier dicing)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • lots of freshly-ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups homemade beef or chicken broth
  • 1 gigantic sweet onion (about one pound), diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8-10 tablespoons premium commerical chili powder, such as Whole Foods or Gebhardt's
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin, toasted briefly
  • healthy pinch oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2-ounce square bittersweet chocolate
  • Chili paste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • plenty of shredded cheddar, sour cream and lime wedges for serving
  1. First, pour yourself a shot of tequila and toast legendary chilihead Carroll Shelby, who founded the International Chili Society. Then, heat the bacon fat in a really big skillet, and working in batches, saute the beef and pork until no longer pink. Drain off the fat.
  2. Place the meat, along with several grinds of pepper, the onions and garlic, in your favorite chili pot and add 1 1/2 cups of the beef or chicken broth. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cover. Keep the lid on, and your hands off, for 90 minutes. In the meantime, read H. Allen Smith's brilliant article "Nobody Knows More About Chili Than I Do." (Here's a link: http://www.chilicookoff.com/history/history_started.asp)
  3. After 90 minutes, stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, tomato sauce, chocolate and half the chile paste. Cover and cook for another half-hour or so. Chase away your guests, who will no doubt be hovering around, demanding to know when it's going to be ready.
  4. At this point, check for consistency. If it's too thin, scoop out the meat and reduce the sauce by bringing to a boil, and when you're happy with it, return the meat to the pot. Stir in the brown sugar. (If it's too thick, add some more of the broth.) Smack any guest who gets too close with a wooden spoon.
  5. Cook, uncovered, for 10 more minutes, and check for seasoning. You can add more salt, chili powder and cumin if you like, or more chile paste if you want to amp it up, or more brown sugar if you like it sweet and hot.
  6. When it looks as good as it smells, summon the troops and serve with a squeeze of lime and a dollop of sour cream. (But have some cheese on hand anyway for the die-hard cheddar lovers!)
Jump to Comments (132)

Comments (132) Questions (2)

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10 months ago Roger Dube

Just made a batch of this for the first time. Couldn't find dried 'New Mexico' peppers, used dried California's and added a fresh red chili, minced with the garlic. Also toasted cumin seed then blitzed it in my grinder...kitchen smelled amazing. Used my own garden tomato sauce so didn't need to add the brown sugar (I put it in my sauce). After the 'recipe allotted time' I tasted it.....WOWWWWWWW!!!!!!

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about 1 year ago strozyk

Fantastic stuff. I made my own chile powder with freshly toasted chiles, because I don't have good access to any exceptional store bought stuff - that was so worth it. The chiles shine. Good lord this is tasty.

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about 2 years ago ftm

Not that there's a shortage of good reviews, but... I just made this and, Sweet Mama Janisse it was good! So good I registered just to leave this note.

Made exactly as is except I subbed Sam Adams Octoberfest for the tequila and the article about chili.

Me

almost 2 years ago wssmom

Octoberfest is one of my favorite beers! Thanks for the kind words and sooo glad you liked it!

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about 2 years ago rochelle123

Followed the recipe and it turned out perfectly. I resisted putting beans in the chili even though I think it would taste great with beans. I love the directions but sadly I didn't start with the shot of tequila....maybe next time. There will definitely be a next time.

Me

almost 2 years ago wssmom

Delighted there will be a next time for you! Thanks!

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over 2 years ago jeanmarieok

This was delicious - we served it with tortillas and cornbread. I am not a sour cream fan, but a dab of sour cream and a squeeze of lime was really great on this. Great recipe, thanks for sharing!

Me

over 2 years ago wssmom

Thanks, Jeanmarie - the sour cream is a little citified, but it goes really well with the spices!

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over 2 years ago jeanmarieok

This was delicious - we served it with tortillas and cornbread. I am not a sour cream fan, but a dab of sour cream and a squeeze of lime was really great on this. Great recipe, thanks for sharing!

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over 2 years ago innoabrd

Weather is turning cold here in the Southern Hemisphere...time to make this again! Quite possibly my favorite recipe on food52...

Me

over 2 years ago wssmom

We indulge in it year round! Thanks!

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over 2 years ago innoabrd

How come when I logged on and saw there was a your best chili contest, this didn't win?! I'm so...disillusioned!

Me

over 2 years ago wssmom

Aw, thanks!

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over 2 years ago kwinke

I was just thinking the same thing. This one deserved it!

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over 2 years ago kwinke

I just made this...pretty much exactly as the recipe goes. I did sweat and soften the onions a bit on their own, but only because I really don't like crunchy onions. Maybe 2 hours in the pot wouldn't have mattered in the end.

End result was amazing. Probably one of the greatest chilies I've ever had. Beans don't belong anywhere near this chili.

Me

over 2 years ago wssmom

LOL the Spouse is such a chili purist you can't even say the word "beans" when he is cooking chili. And thanks so much for the compliment -- I am so glad you enjoyed it!

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over 2 years ago crystal heckel

cooked on crock pot for 24 hours and was absolutely delicious. reminded me of a restaurant in Albuquerque called Sadie's. I ate this there every week while I was pregnant. thanks for the post. I'm new on here but loving this site!

Me

over 2 years ago wssmom

I have never been to Albuquerque, but when I get there I am hoping Sadie's is still there!

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over 2 years ago crystal heckel

no offense about the beans to anyone...especially in NM this is served with tortillas and refriend beans and fried potatoes. the potatoes and sour relieve some of the heat because serve it really hot their. it is wonderful. now living in OH for 15 years I have so missed this. headed to the store for ingredients to make for dinner tomorrow!

Me

over 2 years ago wssmom

Mmmm tortillas and refried beans and fried potatoes sound yummy as accompaniments! Break out the beer!

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over 2 years ago ELCookie

My husband requested chili for his birthday dinner. So I made this with a couple changes. Did not have bacon fat, so I fried two pieces of bacon then used the fat and put the bacon pieces in with the meat when I began the cooking. Also could not find chile pepper pods here in CT but did find ground red chili pepper from New Mexico. So I measured 2 oz, added water and made a paste. Lastly, I added an extra can of tomato sauce. Served with cheese, sour cream, lime and guac. Delicious!

Me

over 2 years ago wssmom

I am so glad he liked it, EL! Great idea to make a paste with chili powder; living on Long Island, I know how hard it is to find chili pods!.

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almost 3 years ago connoisseur

Bowl of Red just shot me dead. And well-fed. Just incred.

Me

almost 3 years ago wssmom

And rhymes!!! Wow, thanks!

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almost 3 years ago EatArt

I followed most of the recipe exactly, including the tequila shot at the beginning. I added some chipotles, some black olives, and some red and black beans, and another tequila at the end. Really wonderful chili!

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almost 3 years ago innoabrd

Careful, I think in Texas they sometimes shoot people for adding beans to red.

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almost 3 years ago WileyP

So...what you ended up with was a bowl of seasoned beans, huh? innoabrd is right, EatArt - If you are going to put beans in your chili down here in New Mexico (unless you are in Santa Fake!), don't go buying any green bananas!

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almost 3 years ago WileyP

So, EatArt, what you ended up with was a nice bowl of seasoned beans, huh? (LOL!) innoabrd is not far from right - Down here in New Mexico, if you put beans in your "chili", don't go buying any green bananas! In these parts, "bean is beans" (even if there is some chili in 'em), and chili is chili...is chili! Chile + meat + seasonings = chili.

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almost 3 years ago connoisseur

Perfect amalgam of meatiness, spice, sweetness, tang.
An instant favorite. Can't wait to cook with my daughter!

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almost 3 years ago connoisseur

Perfect amalgam of meatiness, spice, sweetness, tang.
An instant favorite. Can't wait to cook with my daughter!

Me

almost 3 years ago wssmom

It is so much more fun to cook chili with someone!!

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almost 3 years ago Minnesotapix

I am planning to win our annual chili cook-off in a couple of weeks using this recipe. I have always been a fan of a good bowl of red, and this looks like it has everything needed to win. Just hoping I can find the New Mexico pepper pods and guajillos here in Minnesota! If not, I'll have to improvise.

Nog

almost 3 years ago Niknud

I DID win my chili cook-off with this recipe this week (although I did confess that the recipe wasn't mine)! And I must caveat it by saying that I added some beans to the mix to stretch it a bit because it needed to feed a whole crowd... Thanks, wssmom!

Me

almost 3 years ago wssmom

LOL Niknud, I promise I won't tell the Chili Police you added beans!

Nog

almost 3 years ago Niknud

Whew. I think a person could get shot in Texas for adding beans to chili.....thanks! :)

Me

almost 3 years ago wssmom

lol

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almost 3 years ago lizb

I made this chili last night and received rave reviews. My husband declares it the best chili he's ever had - he ate the (few) leftovers for breakfast. This chili is going into regular rotation for winter at our house!

Me

almost 3 years ago wssmom

Thanks so much Lizb! It is definitely getting to be chili season!

Me

almost 3 years ago wssmom

Thanks so much Lizb! It is definitely getting to be chili season!

Sausage2

about 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Yes!!!! Such a great recipe!

Me

about 3 years ago wssmom

I am so glad you like it!

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about 3 years ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

Saved! Love my chili w/o beans!

Me

about 3 years ago wssmom

A true chili connoisseur!!

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about 3 years ago innoabrd

This is a fantastic recipe! Hope you win!

Me

about 3 years ago wssmom

I hope you try it soon, and thanks!

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about 3 years ago innoabrd

I speak from experience, I tried it a few months ago! In the US now and have loaded up on dry chillies. Looking forward to getting back to South Africa in a few weeks and warding off the winter chill with a bowl!

Me

about 3 years ago wssmom

I hope you get through customs OK with the chilies!

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about 3 years ago cookinginvictoria

I was hoping that you would enter this recipe in this week's contest!

Me

about 3 years ago wssmom

I was very happy to see the contest theme this week! Thanks!

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about 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

This recipe rocks!!

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over 3 years ago innoabrd

BTW, because I don't live in the US and it's not something I generally stock, I had to do a bit of research to see what is generally in store-bought Chili Powder. As food52 has a growing international audience, you might consider including a note of substitutions for the Chili Powders you recommend.

And, out of curiosity, why do you discard the water the dry chilies soak in? Other recipes I've seen call for the water just to be pureed with the chilies, which is actually what I did. Mind you, I also left the seeds, which presumably just added heat?

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Excellent suggestions! I will edit those in in the next few days. To answer your questions, the water in which the dried chilis soak tends to be bitter, which is why it is discarded. And the seeds are hot, you're right! ,

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over 3 years ago innoabrd

This was great, thanks!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Thank you!

Claire

over 3 years ago midnitechef

OK, yes, you got me with the bacon fat. I tried something inspired by your recipe. I used ground angus beef and chuck cubes, omitted the chocolate, and used a local chili spice mix - it was awesome. My husband could not believe what I had made! I also baked off some sharp white cheddar and jalapeno biscuits for dipping and cleaning the sauce out of the bowl. Everyone one was very happy :)

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

The combination of ground and cubed beef sounds divine (as do your biscuits, YUM!) Thanks!

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over 3 years ago ellenl

Of all the chili I've had in my life I have had 2 favorites--I have a feeling this will become the 3rd. It sounds so good. I printed it out when I first saw your posting. Thanks and congratulations!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Thanks, ellenl, I'd love to see your two favorite chilis!!

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Both dishes this week were winners in my book! This is definitely going to be my go to chili recipe from now on!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

That is such an honor, fiveandspice, thank you so much!

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over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

You're my #1, tequila starter or no!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Awww, thanks! Speaking of No. 1, cappuccino cheesecake on the menu this weekend! Woohoo!

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over 3 years ago lapadia

This is an Excellent Chili recipe, wssmom, and one that will remind me of you (in fact chili and cook-offs will remind me of you)...runner-up is a good thing. Congratulations, I look forward to more of your recipes and their stories :)

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Thanks Lapadia! I was thrilled to just be in the finals!

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about 3 years ago lapadia

Right on, wssmom! Perfect entry for this contest :)

Me

about 3 years ago wssmom

Love the new avatar ...

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over 3 years ago NM Expats

Living in Texas after more than a third-century in New Mexico has is drawbacks but, all things considered, we truly love it here in Dallas. We just miss our chile … as opposed to "chili." When we saw this recipe title, we thought we might actually see a recipe for "a bowl of red." Sorry, to those who have lived & loved in The Land of Enchantment, the Red in "A Bowl of Red" is simply red chili: water (or broth) garlic (maybe) and a touch of salt. And it's served over meat, beans, both, or any number of other palate-palpitating dishes. What you have described here sounds more like Carne Adovada; beef or pork cubes marinated in red chile & various other seasonings then cooked slowly until absolutely heaven on a plate (or maybe even Nirvana).

That said, a hearty "Thank You" for sharing your recipe! Made our mouths water. We can hardly wait the two weeks we must until we return to "O Fair New Mexico" for a visit and dig into some beef enchiladas with red, or a huge carne adovada burrito.

Thanks!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

A huge carne adovada burrito would go great right about now! Thanks for the great post!

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over 3 years ago cookinginvictoria

Mmmm . . . love carne adovada. NM Expats, your post is making me hungry!

Claire

over 3 years ago midnitechef

Anything that starts with bacon fat must be delicious!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

I could not agree more, midnitechef!

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over 3 years ago Bevi

This looks amazing. I watched a chili cook-off on FoodTV a year ago and was mesmerized by the different philosophies on chili!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Bevi, you simply must attend one yourself! They are indeed amazing!

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over 3 years ago Waverly

This sounds fantastic, plus, I love your story about the Texas Rangers.

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over 3 years ago Waverly

And...I love that you participate in chili cook-offs.

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over 3 years ago Hugetracts

LOL thanks, Waverly! Cook-offs are a lot of fun!

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over 3 years ago edamame2003

congrats wssmom! i'm drooling just reading this recipe. i can't wait to try this!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Thanks edamame2003! I'm kinda hoping the kids make it for me for mother's day dinner!

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over 3 years ago cookinginvictoria

I was just reading your recipe again, and I hope to try it this weekend. It is a cool, drizzly day in Victoria, perfect chili weather! Anyway, I was wondering if you have a favorite brand of tomato sauce that you like to use in this chili. Do you recommend using a sauce as opposed to diced tomatoes?

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Good question! I have gotten good results with Muir Glen organic tomato sauce as well as with Hunt's; both are thick and tomato-y, not too sweet. I like using a sauce as opposed to diced tomatoes because it results in a smoother product and lets the meat be the star, if that makes sense.

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over 3 years ago TiggyBee

Congrats wssmom on your amazing chili!! Can't wait to try soon! : )

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over 3 years ago wssmom

Oh, TiggyBee, thanks so much! I hope you love it!!

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over 3 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Yum - this would be great on Frito Chili Pie! On the to do list!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

That sounds amazing -- do you happen to have a recipe for that?

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over 3 years ago gingerroot

WOW! I could not wait and made this for dinner tonight - it was amazing. Dark, rich, flavorful with a subtle whisper of heat that lingers from the chile paste; although I only had dried arbols and California chiles on hand, that is what I used, but will try with New Mexico and Guajillos next time. I love the smokiness the chile paste imparts. We enjoyed our bowls of red with a squeeze of lime, a dollop of sour cream and corn tortillas to sop up every last bit. Thank you!!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

I am so delighted you enjoyed it, especially with the lime and sour cream (and tortillas, yes!!!)

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Congrats! And 'oh for yum!' And, it has no beans so I can eat it!!! Now, that's real chili. :)

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Chili with beans is ... beans!! Thanks!

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over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I'm eating a bowl of vegetarian chili as we so to speak, speak. The chili paste looks very intriguing, and I love the sweet-hot combination. But I especially love the tequila starter. This will be great for when the kids are visiting. Thank you!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Amazingly, we just finished a pot of vegetarian chili in my office!! Sadly, without the tequila starter .... thanks!

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over 3 years ago thirschfeld

I have eaten a lot of chili in my day and not until I lived in Austin did I really understand what it was. A legendary pit man by the name of CB Stubblefield served my first bowl. This recipe reminds me of what and how chili is supposed to be made. Great looking recipe wssmom thanks for sharing.

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Wow, thanks, thirschfield! Stubbs was an amazing place ....

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over 3 years ago nonsous

I'm drooling!

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over 3 years ago wssmom

LOL, thanks!

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over 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Congrats, wssmom! This version of chili sounds ridonkulously good!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Thanks, HLA!

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over 3 years ago cookinginvictoria

Congrats wssmom on being named a finalist! In our house, we are also big chili eaters. Your version sounds fantastic -- love the fact that you put in guajillos (my favorite chili). I can't wait to try it. Your wonderful recipe language, complete with reading tips for the cook and what to do with impatient dinner guests, made me laugh out loud. I feel very honored to be here as a finalist with you. Good luck!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

And you, too, cookinginvictoria -- the Sunday Pork Ragu sounds divine and I am looking forward to next Sunday to make it!!

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over 3 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Big congrats to you wssmom! This sounds great and I can't wait to try it!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

:) Thanks so much mrslarkin! I hope you enjoy it!

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over 3 years ago gingerroot

Love chili, love your story (especially requested chili on Easter!), can't believe I missed this somehow until now. Congratulations, wssmom! Looking forward to trying your delicious bowl of red!

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over 3 years ago wssmom

Thanks gingerroot! Did I mention that if there is any leftover chili, it only gets better and better with each passing day?

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over 3 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

wssmom. Up my street. Chilli lover, chilli friend - congratulations!!!!

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over 3 years ago wssmom

Thanks, Kitchen Butterfly!

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over 3 years ago Midge

Yes! So glad this made the finals. Congrats wssmom.

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over 3 years ago wssmom

Thank you Midge -- my first final!

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over 3 years ago lorigoldsby

congrats! Looks like we might still have some cool weather (at least in the midwest) to give this a try! and as far as elegance--which i know i struggle with as well, I think your head note where you describe what you like about chili--that it is welcoming, soul embracing and warmth...those ARE elegant qualities!

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over 3 years ago wssmom

Aww, thanks lori! Please let me know how you like it!

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over 3 years ago lapadia

I'm hungry for chili, now! A cook-off sounds like fun, love your version and hope to try it while the weather is still on the cool side!

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over 3 years ago wssmom

We once judged a chili cookoff when it was 94 degrees out ... it was hard to tell whether the beads of sweat on our foreheads came from the chili or the weather!

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over 3 years ago lapadia

Woo-hoo, woomom!! Congrats...

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over 3 years ago wssmom

Thanks lapadia!! So excited .....

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over 3 years ago lapadia

Well...I was so excited for you that I spelled your name funny (above) :)

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over 3 years ago Hugetracts

woomom works for me!!

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over 3 years ago wssmom

Haha!

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over 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

This is fabulous! Love the idea of a chili cookoff! When I went to school in Texas, we went to cookoffs regularly---one of my professors had won Terlingua!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

That's amazing! What is her/his name?

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over 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Oh! I just saw this! First, big congratulations on being a finalist!! And my professor's name is Jon Watson. It was around 1975 or 76 I think.

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over 3 years ago Hugetracts

Susie Watson won Terlingua in 1975, right after my friend Jane Schofield!!!

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over 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

What a tiny little foodie world this is! Susie was Jon's wife.

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Haha amazing!

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over 3 years ago healthierkitchen

What a great chili recipe! And I love your colorful instructions!

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over 3 years ago wssmom

It's classic chili, no beans about it! Thanks!

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over 3 years ago Sagegreen

Chili is very warming. Great choice, great recipe!

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Thanks Sagegreen! I've always loved it.

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over 3 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Excellent! Great chili - there's nothing like it. Also like the toasting and smacking of wandering hands !! I thing Food52 might need to have a chili cookoff!

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over 3 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

think, not thing. Der.

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

A Food52 chili cookoff!! What a great idea!!!

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over 3 years ago kmartinelli

I love chili and I love your stories about it. It really is so warm and comforting! Can't wait to try this version, looks great!

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over 3 years ago wssmom

Thanks kmartinelli! We all really enjoy it!

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over 3 years ago Midge

Yum! This looks like the real deal!

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over 3 years ago wssmom

I do hope you get a chance to try it!