Make Ahead

"4 Fresh Chiles and a Ghost" PepperĀ Chili

July 28, 2011
3 Ratings
  • Serves 10-12
Author Notes

The peculiarity of this chili is to use a combination of large quantities of four fresh peppers (poblanos, serranos, jalapenos, habaneros), which develop a wonderful flavor, especially if the chili is prepared one day in advance and left in the fridge overnight. I also recommend to use a dry ghost chili, if possible: this is a very hot pepper, with a wonderful smoky flavor: it not only adds heat, but also a subtle smoke different from what you can obtain with chipotles. If you are afraid of heat, you should de-vein and seed all peppers prior to using them.

I am using a combination of ground pork and beef: the pork being slightly sweet, it gives a very complex flavor to the dish. But you can make this with 100% beef as well.

This will not qualify as a Texas chili, since I also use both black and kidney beans. I opted for canned beans for convenience, but by all means, feel free to use dry or fresh beans, if available.

A word to the wise: I have made chili con carne from this recipe at least 20 times, and It comes out slightly differently every time. This is because of the fresh chiles I use: their heat varies enormously, depending on the soil they were grown on, and the time of the year. Sometimes a jalapeno will be so hot that it will be impossible to eat. Some other times, I can eat it raw, no issue. But this is my final recipe for the moment, which gave me a lot of satisfaction also in chili cook-offs. —tuscanfoodie

What You'll Need
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 4 thick slices of bacon, - preferably smoked - chopped (optional but strongly recommended)
  • 3 poblano peppers, chopped
  • 4 jalapenos peppers, chopped
  • 4 serrano peppers, chopped
  • 1 habanero peppers, chopped
  • 1 dried ghost chile, chopped (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (medium hot or hot)
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork (optional: you may also make this recipe with 2 pounds of ground beef only)
  • 1 can (14oz) black beans, washed and rinsed
  • 1 can (14oz) kidney beans, washed and rinsed
  • 1 large can (28oz) of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes (for a chunkier chili)
  • 1 can of beer (optional, highly recommended)
  • salt and pepper
  • sour cream, for garnish (optional)
  • shredded monterey or cheddar cheese, for garnish (optional)
  • cilantro, chopped, for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon masa harina
  1. In a large pan (I use a Dutch oven), cook the bacon until it becomes crisp, stirring. You do not have to add any vegetable oil or butter, because the bacon will release a lot of grease. However, if (for whatever reason) you decide NOT to use bacon, you need to melt 2 tbsp of butter.
  2. Add all the chopped vegetables and the spices: the garlic, the onions, all the peppers, the chili powder, the cumin, the paprika and stir so that everything gets coated in the fat of the bacon (or the butter). Add a couple pinches of salt and pepper: don't worry at this stage, you can always add salt and pepper also at a later stage in the process. (Have a look at the photo above to have an idea of the various steps and of the texture required).
  3. Let the vegetables and the spices cook for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables and chilis are softer, stirring every now and then. Then stir in the meat, small batches at a time. You need to break the meat up with a wooden spoon, so that there are no large patches. It is a tedious process, but it will go relatively quickly. Cook the beef and the pork, stirring it, for another 10-15 minutes after that you have added it all, so that it is all broken up and it is not pink anymore.
  4. Add the beer, if you are using it, and let it reduce (5 minutes), while stirring. Add the tomato sauce and the beans, and stir. If you think the concoction is too dry, add some water, one table spoon at the time. Lower the heat so that the chili is simmering, and cook for 2-2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  5. Half an hour before the end, add the masa harina, and stir the chili so as to make sure it dissolves. This will thicken the chili. You may omit this step if you like you chili very soupy.
  6. To serve, transfer chili to bowls and garnish with cilantro, sour cream and the cheddar, if you want. Or you can serve it on rice, or on tortilla chips. Whatever you do, remember one thing: the chili con carne will get better (and hotter) the next day, and the day after next...and so on. So you should plan to cook it at least one day in advance.
  7. A word of caution about the chiles I use in this recipe: remember that by taking out the seeds and the veins of the chiles, you are reducing their heat by 70%... it is up to you: if you want your chili to be VERY hot, leave the veins and the seeds. If not, you can take them all out or do a mix of both. And be PARTICULARLY careful when handling habaneros and the optional ghost chile: you really need to protect your hands, or else you WILL regret it.

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