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Chili for a Chilly Day

11/22/10 | by JAdP | Categories: Food and Drink

I haven't posted a recipe in a while, but as Friday swung our weather from bright blue, warm days into chilly, rainy winter in a quick snap of the fingers, I thought it was time to make the first chili of the year. I've been building this chili recipe since high school, when I first added a block of unsweetened chocolate to the mix, into college when I first added dark beer. Now, the recipe contains hints of a molé sauce as well, and I make my spice mix in advance, to allow the flavours to blend. Oh, and open a bottle of your favorite dark beer, or two if you want to start drinking B) Set the beer aside to become flat.


While adding beans are optional, I'm planning to do so, and since I'll be using dried beans. This step has the longest lead time. First, I buy my dried beans at Phipps Country Store and Farm in Pescadero, CA. They are about an half-hour drive from me, and I'll visit them several times a year to replenish my supply of dried beans. They have an huge selection of dried beans. For red chili, I use a combination of black beans and one or more dried beans from the kidney family: Big Mexican Red Kidney, Cranberry, Pinto or Red beans. Cranberry are my favorite; they're a big, meaty bean, with a nutty flavour that compliments the creamy black bean nicely. Phipps now has an online store, so you can buy their great beans even if they aren't a convenient drive from you.

I'll use about two pounds of beans, one pound of dried black beans, and the second pound made up of whatever kidney varietals I'm using. As I said, Cranberry beans are my favorite for chili, and that's while I'll be using with the black beans today. Put the dried beans in a strainer, and rinse under cold water. Carefully check the beans, removing any discolored, withered or soft beans, as well as any foreign material such as stems or stones. Place the beans in a kettle and cover with enough cold water to top the beans by two inches. Remove any "floaters". Add a bay leaf. Do not add any salt or acids [tomato, vinegar, etc] as these will wrinkle the beans. You can let the beans soak overnight, or bring the kettle to a boil, simmer the beans for five minutes, and then let the beans soak in the hot water, covered, for an hour. After the hour soak, remove the beans, retaining about a cup of the water and the bay leaf. All of this just prepares the beans. They're not cooked and ready to eat yet.

Prepared Beans in a Ceramic Bowl

Either in advance, or an hour before serving, put the prepared beans back into the kettle, add the reserved soaking liquor and bay leaf and a red [hot] or yellow [sweet] onion, peeled and studded with cloves. Do not add salt nor acids. Cover with enough cold water to just top the beans. Bring to a boil, place on simmering bricks, and simmer for 45 minutes or until the beans are tender.

Chili Base

This is the real "Chili" with Tex-Mex, "Texas Red", Chili con Carne, and Chili with Beans being stews based upon Chili. I start with about five pounds of tomatoes and five pounds of peppers. The tomatoes can be heirloom, cluster, or whatever you have in your garden or local store that are fresh, feel heavy for their size and are very ripe. If you use anything other than red tomatoes, your chili may have an odd colour, but the flavour will be great. I usually use an equal, by weight, combination of chili peppers and bell peppers. In California, at this time of year, there is a great selection of chilies: poblano, anaheim, astor, etc. I generally avoid green bell peppers, as I prefer the flavour of the red, orange and yellow ones. Today I'm using almost three pounds of poblano chilies and two pounds of red, orange and yellow bell peppers.

I start with the tomatoes, as they'll take awhile as well, and can also be prepared the day before, as the beans can. Bring a large pot or kettle of cold, salted water to a boil. While it's coming to a boil, using a very sharp knife, I use a "bird's beak" hooked knife, remove the stem end from each tomato, and score an "X" in the skin at the opposite end from the stem. Place the tomatoes into the boiling water. Once the pot has returned to a boil, after two minutes or so, the skin will begin to peel back from the scored end of the tomatoes. Remove the tomatoes, and place in a bowl to cool. As soon as you can handle them, remove the skin from the tomatoes. Cut each tomato in half, cross-wise, and remove the seeds with a small spoon. Place the peeled, cored tomatoes, cut-side down, into a colander, and allow to drain for at least an hour, but overnight in the refrigerator [over a bowl] is fine too. You'll be amazed how much water you'll collect. You can save this tomato juice, to use in place of water in stock or stews, or to thin this chili, if needed.

Peeled Tomatoes
Tomatoes Cut Along the Cross Section
Tomatoes With Seeds Removed

Next, rinse the peppers and fire-roast them, either over the flames on a gas-stove, under a broiler, or over a grill. Leave the peppers whole, and flame them until the skin is blackened all over each pepper. Place the peppers into a paper bag, or wrap in parchment paper - this traps enough steam to help loosen the skins, and allow them to cool. If the peppers are hot to the taste [such as an jalapeño chili], wear rubber gloves and a mask to avoid capsicum burns. Scrape as much skin as possible off of the peppers with a knife, core them, cut in half, lengthwise, and remove the white veins. Cut the peppers into strips, lengthwise.

Peppers Being Fire Roasted over a Gas Stove Top

Make a soffritto of one sliced large red onion, two crushed cloves of garlic, the peppers, your favorite chili powder and cilantro leaves that have been rinsed, dried and chopped. A soffritto is just a slowly cooked medley of vegetables, spices and herbs in olive oil. After an hour or two or three, chop those tomatoes that have been draining and add those and that bottle of beer that you were leaving to become flat, a block of very good dark, unsweetened chocolate, and two tablespoons of freshly ground, roasted, unsalted valencia [sweet, and what I prefer] or virginia [meatier tasting] peanuts. Stir it around, add a teaspoon each of coarse sea salt, Mexican oregano and cayenne pepper, and cook on the simmering bricks or in an oven on low, for about an hour. Add salt and seasonings to taste.

Drained Tomatoes on the Soffritto
Block of Dark Chocolate on a Plate
Chocolate Added to the Soffritto
Ground Peanuts added to the Soffritto
Chili Simmering in the Pot

Chili con Carne

If you're going to make a chili con carne, take two pounds of cubed beef, and brown the cubes in bacon fat. Add the chili over the meat to cover, and let simmer another hour. Shred the meat cubes apart using two forks and return to the stew, or slice thinly. Add the cooked beans and serve.

Chili Con Carne
Chili Con Carne with Beans in the Pan

Vegetarian Chili Frijole

Add the cooked beans to about a quart of the chili and serve.

Serving Suggestions

  1. Put a cooked, hot tamale, of your favorite variation into a bowl and cover with the chili. I like pork tamale with the chili con carne, and chilies & cheese tamale with the vegetarian chili
  2. Put cooked, brown, short-grain rice into a bowl, top with chili.
  3. Fill a bowl with chili and serve with hot cornbread. I especially like the recipe from Recipes for Living in Big Sur. This corn bread is stuffed with chilies and corn, and layered with cheese.
  4. Enjoy it diner style, served in a bowl with oyster or soda crackers.
  5. Forget the beans, don't shred the beef, and enjoy a bowl of Texas Red.
  6. Put out various condiments: chopped onions, chopped, fire-roasted jalapeños or hotter chilies, hot pepper sauces [there are many on the market, try something new], shredded cheese - especially Mexican cheeses.
  7. Serve over a bowl of different grains, rather than rice: quinoa is a great choice, especially for the vegetarian version, soft polenta is another good choice, and you can check out many more suitable grains at Bob's Read Mill.

  8. Take a crunchy deli roll, hollow it out, fill with thinly sliced beef and top with the chili and cheese. Or forget the beef, and use a kielbasa sausage.
ttp://press.teleinteractive.net/media/blogs/cynasuralog/ChiliOverCornMuffin85.JPG">Chili Served over a Corn Muffin in flat Bowl


First and foremost, recipes are guidelines, not exact instructions that you must follow. Add more or less of anything. Consider every recipe a starting point for your own imagination and taste.

We already talked about the various beans you can use, as well as the variety of chilies. There are many more types, of course. Be adventurous.

Instead of beef, try other red or dark meats: venison, buffalo or beefalo, elk, duck, turkey thighs - especially from a wild turkey, or other game meat. Go wild.

Rather than cayenne pepper, use ground ancho [sweet and fruity] or chipotle [smoky] chilies.

Try chili verde. Use tomatillos rather than tomatoes, forget the chocolate and peanut butter. Use white beans rather than red, and white meats rather than red.

Chili Powder

I make my own chili powder. I start by filling an old spice jar, 50/50 with cumin seeds and coriander, and shoving in a cinnamon stick. When I need chili powder, I take a teaspoon of the mixture, and toast the seeds. Allow the cumin and coriander to cool, then grind in a mortar and pestle, add a 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice.


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I'm Joseph A. di Paolantonio and this blog has two main foci: my interest in food, and my interest in the future. This provides a look into my personal life, and is separate from my consulting work…though there will be overlap. I am an independent researcher, working as a strategic consultant and I'm an executive with over 20 years of commercial experience with a technical interest in the intersection of Internet of Things, with advanced data management and analysis methods. I view data science as a team activity, and I feel that the IoT must be viewed as a system. I am leveraging my past activities to understand the adoption and impact of the IoT; first, as a system engineer in aerospace, where I developed Bayesian risk assessment methods for systems within the Space Transportation System (including the Space Shuttle), Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer, Gravity Probe B, and many more, and second, as a enterprise data warehousing, business intelligence and analytics professional. Between my aerospace and IT careers, I indulged my hobby of cooking by starting a food company, Montara Magic, centered around my chocolate sauces. My education combined chemistry, mathematics and philosophy. I performed research into molten salt fuel cells in graduate school, and in photovoltaic materials for a short time in industry. The lure of bringing the human race into space was strong, and when I was offered the chance to combine my chemistry and mathematics skills to develop new risk assessment and system engineering methods for space launch and propulsion systems – I couldn't resist. I perform independent research and strategic consulting to bring value from the Internet of Things, Sensor Analytics Ecosystems and data science teams.I am a caregiver, a lover of science fiction and speculative fantasy, and my passion to learn has led me to a pilot's license, an assistant instructor in SCUBA, nordic and alpine skiing, sea kayaking, and reading everything I can, in as many topics as I can.

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