What to CookWeeknight Cooking

Just Good Chili

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- Jenny

Jenny eat. Jenny blog. Jenny no write recipes.

I like to leave the recipe writing to the great cooks on food52 who actually know how to do that, and then have my fun ferreting out the ones that are great for week night cooking.

But just this once –- and really it will only be once -– I am posting one of the recipes I put together when the site was first starting and Amanda said we all had to contribute. (Well, I can’t really define “we,” actually, but have you ever tried to resist the will of a Virgo? It’s not really advisable.)

Largely this is because I am in relocation right now and have no kitchen in which to test recipes. But it is also because I think it is time to start thinking about squirreling away food for the fall. While a long hot summer may not have left you in the mood for some nice chili, I’d like you to reconsider.

The first night of fall will have to hit sometime, and wouldn’t it be great to have a delicious and complete meal waiting for you in the freezer?

Further, there is just something so incredibly painless and forgiving in chili –- you throw stuff in, you stir it now and then, and if it doesn’t taste to your liking you just dig around your spice closet, become distracted by the wine stoppers or headbands that for some reason you suddenly discover there, then grab something else and dump it in, too.

In essence, chili is the teenager on your stove, who mumbles “whatever” and goes back to Lady Gaga. It’s fine. Just shake something at it and walk away.

This was more or less how Just Good Chili got invented. I started with the Joy of Cooking’s Cincinnati Cockaigne chili, then started poking around on various websites for variations, and finally came up with an amalgam that I find tasty.

I like to make chili with ground dark turkey meat, but I often make it with buffalo. I think you should steer clear of anything too lean, as it won’t throw off enough fat, but do whatever turns you on. I don’t like it too spicy, but you can add more chili peppers if that’s how you roll.

If you’re from Texas, you will scoff at the beans. That’s your business. I’m not going to try and turn you into someone you’re not. Some may hate carrots –- I use them because my husband loves them. The only thing I am going to insist on here is the chili sauce –- which gives it depth -– and the beer, which enhances the bite.

I am sure there are far more sophisticated chili recipes on this site, and no doubt ones I would even like better than my own. But I sure wish I could arrive in my new home with this waiting for me.

Just Good Chili

Serves many

  • 1 to 2 tablespoon oil (I prefer olive but veg is fine)
  • 1 pound ground meat (I prefer buffalo; turkey or beef fine)
  • 1 pound sirloin, cubed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Bottle of beer (my choice is Fat Tire)
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup coffee (strong is best)
  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili sauce
  • 1/2 finely chopped chili of choice (i use seeded serrano)
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon heaping of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon heaping of coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 15 ounce cans kidney beans
  • 1 15 ounce cans white beans
  • 5 large carrots, chopped into discs

1. In large stock pot or dutch oven, heat oil over med. flame and brown meat, sirloin chunks first then ground.

2. When meat is lightly browned, throw on the onions.

3. Take two large sips from the beer.

4. Add remaining beer plus, tomatoes, beef stock, coffee and tomato paste.

5. Add the sugar, spices and kidney beans. Reduce flame to low and let simmer for an hour.

6. Add white beans and carrots simmer for another hour or two; longer will be better. Season as needed.


By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.

Jennifer Steinhauer

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Dinner, Faster, Everyday Cooking