- Jenny

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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

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Matt W. October 10, 2011
I just found your blog after searching the web, I actually went to a chili cook-off this weekend and that prompted me to start searching for more recipes. I like the fact that you have recipes as well. The lines were long and I wrote about them on my blog here:

Overall it was a blast. Keep up the great work on your chili, and your blog!
Loves F. September 1, 2010
I love making veggie chilis with everything in my fridge (summer or winter squash, bell peppers, all kinds of beans, carrots, etc) but I've never put beer or coffee! And... I'm sure if I told my BF that I added Sriracha, he would stop turning his nose up at the word 'veggie'!
jglace August 30, 2010
5 large carrots, chopped into discs? Carrots are not allowed in chili. And I don't think white beans are either.
drbabs August 30, 2010
Maybe not traditionally, but I made this last week and it is SO good with both.
Jestei September 1, 2010
what babs said..........
Kelsey B. August 25, 2010
You are so funny, hang in there with the move. And the heat!
Jestei September 1, 2010
it's insane. INSANE i say.
AntoniaJames August 24, 2010
Okay, so I'm getting down to business here, running out during my lunch break to pick up what I need to make this tonight, for tomorrow's dinner (and to freeze some, too!) Do you use whole cumin seeds or ground? So looking forward to trying this, even though the weather turned and for the first time this summer, it's actually warm out there . . . . . By the way, any recipe -- I don't care what it calls for or what it produces -- that instructs you to take two large sips of beer while cooking is a keeper! ;o)
drbabs August 24, 2010
It was 10:00 in the morning when I made this so I only took one. :)
dymnyno August 24, 2010
AJ I know that this chili sounds absolutely it still cold in Oakland today!! is 107 up here!!! maybe cold chili?
Jestei September 1, 2010
i usually use ground cumin seed but either will work i believe.
drbabs August 24, 2010
I spent today making this chili--it is delicious. (Don't hate me, but I left out the chili sauce. My grocery store didn't have sriracha, and what they did have was loaded with high fructose corn syrup. I subbed a very spicy barbecue sauce.) I now have several containers in my freezer labeled "jestei's chili." I'm almost looking forward to cold weather. (not really....but at least I will have something great to eat!)
Jestei August 24, 2010
I feel honored to be in your frozen zone. Next time you hit an asian market you can grab sauce there. I bet the sauce you chose is amazing.
lastnightsdinner August 24, 2010
You inspired me to make an impromptu chili last night - most of the ingredients were things I had put up in the fridge, freezer, or pantry. I had pre-cooked black beans in their liquid, cooked cubed chicken and homemade stock, mwolson's Mesquite smoked tomatoes from food52 plus my own smoked poblano chiles and homemade chile powder, so all I needed to do was a little thawing, chopping, and stirring to get dinner on the table. Here's hoping the relocation goes as smoothly as possible, and thanks for the inspiration and recipe!
Jestei August 24, 2010
Cubed chicken great alternative to the sirloin, which can be tough. Thanks for posting!
mrslarkin August 23, 2010
Well, lo and behold, chili weather has rolled in. It's freezing here! Thanks, Jenny. Sconeman will be trying this one soon - he's the official maker of the chili.
Jestei August 24, 2010
here in DC, where i am sweating all over the sidewalk at drop off, i long for some of your freezing. also let me mention to sconeman -- and anyone else -- that sirloin can be tough and you might consider other cuts of meat sometimes
City S. August 23, 2010
Mmm, that chili sounds delicious. I have made it with beer, and I have made it with coffee, but never both. Thanks for the idea. I will have to give it a try.
Jestei August 23, 2010
if you skip one it will still be good
mariaraynal August 23, 2010
Jennie, you make me laugh week after week. And, nice recipe, too!
Jestei August 23, 2010
xx oo mariaraynal
AntoniaJames August 23, 2010
What a fabulous recipe, and just in time, too. I was planning to make chili this week so of course, I'll be trying this. (As ChezSuzanne mentioned, it's been soup/stew weather here all summer.) Love the addition of carrots!! Thanks for posting this and I hope the transition is well behind you, soon. ;o)
Jestei August 23, 2010
please enjoy and thank you!!
TheWimpyVegetarian August 23, 2010
It has been a very cold summer here in the SF area and this looks like just the ticket to make this week. I've never thought of putting coffee in chili and want to try it to see what it does to the flavors! I've moved my life to new cities for work reasons so many times in my career - have fun getting to know a new city and making it home with new friends and connections! And thanks for posting this!
Jestei August 23, 2010
yes cali had the weirdest summer ever. i will file reports from my new food discoveries! thanks for reading!!
dymnyno August 24, 2010
I love adding coffee to a lot of them an interesting red wine friendly flavor.
drbabs August 23, 2010
How nice of you to continue to blog while you're unpacking. It's cool, cloudy and rainy here on Long Island--I may have to stop at the grocery store on my way home to get the fixins for your chili! Thanks--I hope you're move is going well.
Jestei August 23, 2010
next week, cocktails. no cooking for any of us!
drbabs August 23, 2010
I'll drink to that!
Lizthechef August 23, 2010
Hope you are settling into your new digs...Meanwhile, dreaming of making your chili when it cools down in SoCA.
Jestei August 23, 2010
thanks liz and let us know when it cools down!
HungryChic August 23, 2010
Texture is very important to me in chili. I often have some type of sausage (chorizo or andouille) ground meat, cubed sirloin or chuck and something to "pull" maybe a short rib or a chunk of pork. Can you clarify what type of chili sauce you are referring to? Something tangy like Heinz chili sauce or spicy like Sriracha?
Jestei August 23, 2010
You can use whatever. I have done Srircha, I've done Thai chili sauce and just something labeled "chili sauce" in the condiment section. I think buffalo gives nice consistency here.
Rhonda35 August 23, 2010
Let me know when you arrive and where and I will happily bring you this upon your arrival! My favorite part of this recipe? "Take two large sips from the beer!"
Jestei August 23, 2010
You may take three if you'd like!
Sagegreen August 23, 2010
I sure wish somebody in your new DC orbit will invite you over and make this to welcome you! Thanks for another great contribution.
Jestei August 23, 2010
Well @mrswheelbarrow brought me a tomato plant so I am on my way!!