Author Notes: Is it any wonder chili cook-offs and contest abound? And doesn’t everyone have a treasured family recipe or special secret ingredient for this all-American favorite stew? A good chili is a culinary art, and like a salsa dance, there's no one-way or wrong way to do it. It's all a matter of cultural preference, personality, taste and style, not to mention the quality of ingredients and what's handy in the spice cabinet.
Some like it mild and sweet. Some like it incendiary. Personally, I like my chili lean and meaty, a balance of just enough spice and heat to make the flavor dark and complex.
My recipe? A fusion of Cincinnati and Texas, based on “Hell’s Kitchen Chili” out of The New Basics Cookbook, by Silver Palate authors, Julee Ross & Sheila Lukins. Kick it up a notch and start with a sirloin steak seared on the grill in a dry rub of spiced cocoa and expresso.
Did you know? The hot in hot peppers all comes down to a chemical called capsaicin. Capsaicin is produced by chili peppers as an irritant to mammals. In humans, the response causes a release of endorphins, which might explain why we find pleasure, or even crave, that nose-clearing burning sensation of food that warms the insides all the way down.
Believe it or not, chili can also be good for the heart. The beans make it a good source of fiber, and the tomatoes are rich in antioxidant, inflammatory-fighting lycopene. Keep it lean and low-sodium, skip the taco chips and toppings, and you have a yourself a healthy, guilt-free cup of pure goodness. —Vivian Henoch
Serves 8 - 12
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 - 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 shallots
- 2 slices Canadian bacon
- 2 to 3 pounds sirloin, seared on the grill, then thinly sliced
- 1 pound sweet Italian bulk sausage
- 1 1/2 cups tomato paste
- 3 1/2 cups crushed or diced fresh (or canned) tomatoes
- 2 cups black beans (or 14-ounce can) Tip: puree half the quantity in a food processor to add as thickener.
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 to 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes, chipotle or anaheim
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon oregano (preferably spicy Mexican oregano)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 bottle of beer (preferably dark ale)
- 3 tablespoons corn meal (to thicken)
- Rub sirloin steak with spiced-chocolate mixture, and sear on grill. Slice steak into thin 1/4-inch strips.
- Heat oil in dutch oven. Add garlic, onion, shallots and "first hit" of spices: cumen, oregano and red pepper flakes. Saute for 3 minutes until onions are softened and flavors are released into the oil
- Add chopped bacon and sausage, and brown the meat over high heat.
- Add sliced grilled steak. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste and beans. Add beer and "second hit" of spices: chocolate, cinnamon, sugar, salt, pepper (more chili powder or pepper flakes, according to taste) and corn meal.
- Simmer, uncovered, until beef is tender and mixture is thick - at least two hours. The slower the simmer, the better.
- Serving suggestions: Chili & Cornbread Chili Over Beans & Rice (Moon Over Miami Style) Chili over pasta (Cincinnati-style) Chili over Dogs (Coney Style)
- Garnishes: Grated Cheddar or Pepper Jack Cheese Diced Scallions Fresh Cilantro Guacamole Sour Cream
Spiced Chocolate Steak Rub
- 3 tablespoons finely ground expresso beans
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and stir.
- Store in an air-tight container; will keep in fridge for up to 2 months. Can be used on steaks, burgers, pork or chicken. (Option: for sweet and spicy ribs, add 3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar to the rub.)
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Chocolate & Spice