Chili con Carne

Chili is one of those dishes that can incite some passionate arguments, because when it comes to opinions on what should/shouldn’t be in a chili recipe, like ass holes, everybody has one (as the saying goes). Should it include beans? Meat? Tomato? Pasta (the answer to that, of course, is no and I don’t care where you come from 😉 )? These are life or death decisions in the chili world. So given that, here’s my take on a good and hearty bowl of chili.

Chili con Carne

While this chili has a lot of familiar flavors, it does nonetheless include one very special ingredient. I’ve been hanging on to this item for a few weeks now, keeping it near and dear until the right dish came along and beckoned for it as I only had one handy. See, if I like anything in my chili, its some punch–chili is a dish that simply should (must!) have some heat to it. I’ve grown my own peppers for a while, and those were nice and all, but that’s just the everyday kind of heat. This is really special.

Naga Jolokia–the hottest known pepper in the world!

My special ingredient–one which I have simply been too afraid to even handle in the past few weeks I have had it in my possession–is not just any pepper, but the (drum roll, please) naga jolokia, also known as the hottest kind of pepper in the world. I received this as a home-grown and home-dried gift, both for consumption and for the seeds so I can get my own plant going (hence my reason for entering this post in this month’s Grow Your Own hosted by Andrea’s Recipes). Given the many uncomfortable slip-ups I’ve made with lesser peppers in the past (habanerno in the eye, etc), I was extra careful with this one…after I sampled one of the ribs, of course (hey, I had to know what I was working with, right?).

Just ate a small piece of the Naga Jolokia

I tried to get a picture for you, loyal reader, which I suppose we could call “the after shot” before I scrambled for a drink. If I had to describe the flavor of this pepper, it would be a slowly growing, building, full heat that takes about 30 seconds or so to reach its peak, and then get comfortable, because it will be awhile before it leaves. It was really nice, in a masochistic kind of way. Obviously, this is one of those ingredients that may not appeal to everybody, but I haven’t the faintest idea why. 😉

So anyways, on to the chili! The final result was delicious. Not screaming hot, but having sampled the naga before cooking, I could very clearly identify its heat and its contribution to the dish–ever present, ever building, and everywhere in your mouth. The beef was very juicy and tender, the beans firm, and the sauce very full bodied, sweet, dark, smoky, and really complex in a very seductive, chili sort of way. Everybody sat down, kind of so-so about having just a bowl of chili for dinner, but their faces lit right up on the first mouthful. This was really flavorful and my only regret was not making a bigger batch (why does good food always disappear the fastest? 😮 ).

  • 1/4 lb thick cut bacon (5 or so slices of thick cut bacon)
  • ~2.5 lb chuck roast (do not use ground beef)
  • 2 shallots
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 stalks celery
  • 28 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 bottle of dark/stout beer (I used a bottle of Guinness)
  • 2 Tbsp good bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 dried naga jolokia pepper (I was being cautious–next time, I’d use a whole pepper)
  • 3 dried red chilis (Indian, not sure of the proper name)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 3 jalapeño peppers
  • 1/4 tsp adobo sauce
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • can of kidney beans, drained
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp brown sugar

Bottle of Guinness

So in the name of safety, the first thing I wanted to do was to deal with that hot pepper so that I could focus and be sure not to slip up in some stupid way with it later. I was careful to never directly touch the pepper–if you have gloves, use them (or at least napkins/paper towels). I slit the pepper in half (saving the other half for a future dish) and then toasted it in a hot, dry pan for about 3-5 minutes or so (be sure you have a vent on–it will smell good but could be quite irritating to your eyes and nose). If you have any other dried peppers you plan on using in this as well (I also had a few Indian chilis, wish I had some other varieties handy as well), deal with them in the same fashion now as well. The more, the merrier! Chili is about chilis, right?

The next step is grind this thing down so you can incorporate it into the chili later. If you have a small spice grinder, you’d powder it using that, but I have a food processor so it won’t grind it quite as finely (not that it bothers me at all). Also, I wanted to avoid any dried hot pepper powder going airborne (as should you!), so I poured in some of the beer before I started pulsing the food processor. Keep this going a few times to try to chop it up to small flakes/powder form and slosh it out of the food processor and into a bowl using the beer, not your bare hands. This is also a good time to open a second beer for yourself. Try to remember which is which. 😉

Prep all of the fresh veggies

Prepare all of the fresh vegetables up front to make life easier. Finely dice the shallot, celery, and garlic. Also, dice the fresh peppers up finely.

Cook bacon in Dutch Oven

Now, for the item that sprinkles magical fairy dust on any dish: bacon. In a large dutch oven (this is where the chili will be cooked), get it to medium-high heat and cook the strips of bacon until done (depends on thickness, figure somewhere in the very rough neighborhood of no more than 10 minutes). Once the bacon is done, remove it with a slotted spoon and set it aside (later, when it has cooled off and you get a chance, dice it up into small bits). All of that wonderful grease it left behind is what we’ll be using for oil, so don’t you dare dump it down the drain!

Cube and season the beef

While you’re waiting for the bacon to finish cooking, cube the slab of beef into roughly 1/2 inch chunks. Season the pieces a bit with salt, pepper, and cumin, rubbing it well onto all sides. Once the bacon is out and the grease is still hot, brown the beef.

Brown the beef in bacon grease

You want to brown the beef in batches. The idea is to get some color on it and some flavor on the outside without cooking it all the way through–crowding will only result in steaming the beef, which is not what you want. So figure three or four batches will do. If the bacon grease runs out, add in a dab of canola oil as necessary–I never needed to, but not all pieces of bacon are created equal.

As you finish with the beef, set it aside for later.

Sauté the shallot, celery, garlic, and peppers

Now, we need to sauté the vegetables. Ideally, you still have hot bacon grease, but if not, add some oil. Sauté the shallot for about 3 minutes, then add the celery for about 4 minutes, the garlic for about a minute, and finally, all of the remaining fresh peppers for about for 5 minutes or so. Do your best not to crowd and work in batches if you see fit.

Add the beer, deglaze, and then melt in the chocolate

Now, go for the pepper-spiked beer and pour it in, deglazing all of the browned bits off of the bottom of the pot. Let this warm up for a few minutes before you stir in the chocolate, keeping it moving as it melts down so it doesn’t just burn on the bottom.

Add the tomatoes and dry spices and then simmer

Now, add in all the remaining dry spices (oregano, cumin, Bay leaves, chili powders, etc), adobo, beef, chopped bacon from earlier, and tomatoes (crush them in your hands as you add them in). Let this simmer uncovered for about 15-20 minutes so everybody can introduce themselves.

Once time is up, drop the heat to low, cover, and let this simmer gently for an hour.

Simmer, taste, and adjust as necessary

Once time is up, pop off the cover and sample your creation. Tweak the spices as you see fit–want more heat? Add more chili powder. I found my chili was a bit too acidic, so I added brown sugar (maple syrup would also work as a complex sweetener). Stir it in, commit to your changes, and cover again, leaving this to continue simmering on low for yet another hour. Good things come to those who wait.

Bowl of Chili, topped with cheddar and sour cream

About 10 minutes before you expect the chili to be done, gently mix in the beans (either soaked from the night before or fresh out of the can, I won’t tell). This way, they get to simmer, heat up, and catch some of the flavor without becoming mush.

Bowl of Chili, topped with cheddar and sour cream and a side of cheddar corn bread

Finally, the moment is here: the beef is tender, the flavors united as one, and your stomach rumbling–yes, the chili is done. So bring a bowl and your appetite, shred some cheddar on top, and finish it off with dollop of sour cream. About an hour before this while I waited for the chili to finish simmering, I baked some cornbread muffins to serve on the side.

Chili con Carne


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37 Responses to “Chili con Carne”

  1. Lydia Says:

    This sounds delicious, especially as I sit here in 5-degree-F weather reading your post! Another way to deal with the super-hot chilies is to toast them whole, let them cool slightly, put them in a ziploc bag, and whack them with a rolling pin to crush them (in the bag). Then just pour into the pot, and you don’t have to touch the inside seeds at all.

  2. Bellini Valli Says:

    Now that’s cooking 😀

  3. Nora Says:

    Hey Mike,
    Your first naga jolokia pepper experience reminded me of the dinner I had last sat. We went to a new Mexican joint and they had a whole wall of hot sauce. of course, as a proud chilli addict, I went straight to the bottle labeled “Instant Death”. Boy, what happened in my mouth is something I’ve never experienced before (i can chew eat hot bird’s eye chilies without any problems). I started to cry spontaneously and grabbed the jug of sangria. I don’t know what helped – the liquid or the alcohol! My partner laughed non-stop when I told him the story later, he even said that my lips looked swollen. whoaaa… never be too proud, I’ve learned my lesson.

    Back to your homemade Chili con Carne, it certainly looks and sounds more delicious than any I’ve seen at restaurants. Good for freezing too, which is a bonus for busy week days.


  4. Pam Says:

    Mike, this sounds (and looks) great. I absolutely love the picture of you! I’ll have to show this to my husband, he loves hot peppers. Keep us posted on how growing them works for you.

  5. Foodie Froggy Says:

    I had never heard of that naga jolokia pepper. Actually the picture of you is quite scarry, not sure I will try this pepper 😉
    I have to confess that I do use ground beef when I make Chili Con Carne (booh ! bad cook!).

  6. mike Says:

    Lydia — definitely winter food! The bag/rolling pin method sounds like a pretty safe way of handling these guys and something I’ll keep in mind in the future.

    Bellini — thanks! :)

    Nora — haha, that sounds like quite a sauce! I know just what you mean. I love my hot sauces and peppers, and will gladly sample whatever I can get my hands on, whether its for better or worse. I’ve also had some of the swelling experiences, but I’d gladly do it again…just more cautiously. 😉 And thanks about the chili :)

    Pam — thanks! Haha, Glad the photo was well received. 😉 Hopefully growing them works out–I’ve had mixed results with other peppers before (e.g. habaneros always are tricky for me, go figure), so here’s hoping luck is on my side…

    Foodie — I’d only heard of it recently myself and it was pure luck that I happened to get one. Haha, but yea, if hot peppers aren’t your thing, this might not be your pepper. 😉 And boo ground beef! 😉 j/k

  7. Pixie Says:

    Mike- I think this chilli sounds absolutely AMAZING! I had a good laugh reading through this entry- no ground beef? I’m so accostumed to using it whenever I make chilli! But I much more prefer the meats you added to your chilli. Thanks for sharing such a great recipe.

    And great up close and personal photo! Damn that pepper must have been HOT!

  8. mike Says:

    Pixie — thanks! Yeah, not a ground beef person. I prefer the tougher cuts just so that the end result has more beefy flavor and more distinctly formed pieces of meat remaining, but it may not be for everyone. Definitely worth a try–since chili takes a while to cook anyways, nothing lost in braising some tough beef while you’re at it!
    And haha, glad you liked the photo. Now I need to find a dish for the remaining half of the pepper…

  9. kittie Says:

    Wow – reading this has made me want to go and get the ingredients to make it – NOW! I confess I’m used to using ground beef – but I do have a kilo of skirt in my freezer – something tells me that would work well 😀

    I love, love, love chillies – and I’m love enough to have an amazing chilli grower living locally – apparently he has just got Naga-Bih Jolokia for the first time!
    See his stuff here – how lucky am I?? :)

  10. kittie Says:

    Ooops – I got a bit ‘love’ happy – I meant ‘lucky enough to have’!

    To think I actually did proofread it too… :-S

  11. mike Says:

    kittie — that’s pretty good hook-up! I’m jealous. You should give this a try–definitely a good dish for experimenting with chilis in!

  12. beatle Says:

    Pretty good looking. Although I didn’t see any cilantro. :(

    I’ve eaten part of one of those peppers without water as a bet. I think my sense of heat is fucked becasue I eat habaneros all the time raw.

  13. mike Says:

    beatle — I hadn’t thought of cilantro but the flavors would certainly go. I suppose I would add it in the last 5-10 minutes or perhaps use it as an additional garnish. And, haha, no water on a bet? That’s a pretty raw deal, but it certainly sounds like you have quite a heat tolerance!

  14. Andrea Says:

    Oh my. My husband will want to grow those peppers now! We have a habanero plant in the kitchen already, and now that he knows the nagas are the hottest peppers on the planet we’ll have to go find some! Great entry for Grow Your Own!

  15. mike Says:

    Andrea — I’m not sure whether to say good luck or I’m sorry. 😉 Thanks again for hosting!

  16. Val Says:

    YUM!!! This looks great. Being Texan, we have definite ideas about what goes in chili 😉 and it is definitely one of our favorite foods. We eat it year round, but at least weekly in winter!
    I really like your recipe. No ground beef! Yay! I haven’t tried chocolate yet, but I think I will; you’ve inspired me 😉
    Oh, and “Now, for the item that sprinkles magical fairy dust on any dish: bacon” Too funny!! LOL

  17. Nana Says:

    Hi Mike
    I just stumbled on your web. I have to say, all of your recipes I really want to try them, they look so yummy!! but your mexican food section really got my attention, and this chili recipe too.

    I’m from México, and in my life I’ve tasted chili, I don’t know where it might be from. Here in my city we do have a similar recipe, we call it “patoles” (a type of beans, only bigger, with bacon, chorizo and tornachiles, which can only be found here in my city, tornachiles are chiles güeros [] with a 3 months preparation), maybe the chili recipe it’s a variation of this one?

    You really need to try mexican cuisine and forget about mexican fast food, we’re not only burritos and quesadillas ;), try some of this recipes

    and enjoy !

    Perdón si me equivoqué en la ortografía, pero sinceramente tengo algo de prisa :)

  18. Chili Molé from Mike's Table Says:

    […] to please anyone. Winter brings out the chili cravings in me, but I’ve already shown you a fiery chili once before, so I thought I’d try to mix things up a bit and bring you a new twist on this favorite meal […]

  19. Lamb Goulash from Mike's Table Says:

    […] researching goulash, I came to appreciate that this dish is like chili–not in terms of flavors, but in terms of the heated arguments about how no matter what […]

  20. ossi Says:

    What can I say Mike. You have a great post here.

  21. Hashi Says:

    When do you add the beef back in? I can’t see that instruction …. am I missing something?

  22. Angela Says:

    Love this recipe, I’ve not made chili before, a place down the street makes it from scratch so I’ve not felt the need to make it myself, till now. Thanks Lydia for the tip.

  23. Chris Says:

    Definitely plan on trying this. I admit, I do make chili with ground beef, but it is based on my Mom’s recipe (with a few of my own changes) and is a reminder of growing up. But I’ll eat chili just about any way it’s cooked!

  24. Benjamin Says:

    I am purely jealous. I want a jolokia for my chili! I have jolokia sauce.. and boy does that help, but there is no substitute for a pure product.

    Your recipe sounds awesome! I’ll certainly have it in mind when I make a giant batch of chili this week; though I refuse to follow any set recipe for chili, so far that has turned out very well for me. And you will never convince me to not use ground beef. Don’t get me wrong I use the cubed chuck as well but in a house of 4 guys more beef is only better.

  25. Kevin Says:

    That chili looks good!

  26. Seco de Carne con Tamarindo (South American Tamarind Beef Stew) from Mike's Table Says:

    […] initial concern was that this would just greatly resemble chili and be nothing super exciting (and don’t me wrong–I am nuts about chili…its just […]

  27. Mark Kerslake Says:

    Hi Mike,

    I have now cooked this chilli twice, it is quite frankly the best chilli I have ever tasted, I did swear by a recipe from the Lucky Seven restaurant in Kensington London. Not any more this is the real deal!!! I advise anyone that is passionate about chilli to cook this as soon as possible.

  28. William Bushell Says:

    This looks delicious and a lot more authentic to my bastardised version. I admit to using ground beef and wine, but I promise to try some chuck/shin/blade and stout. The Cumin is a MUST and the amount specified is about right too.

    One thing I would suggest is to add brown sugar with the tomatoes and perhaps a beef stock cube?? Also a small amount of cinnoman and nutmeg. Just a small amount mind!

    I’ve been considering adding smoked chipotle Tabasco to add to the smokey finish….

    anyway, enough jabbering, have added you to my google homepage. Keep up the good work fella!!

  29. LD Says:

    Fantastic!!! So much flavour, just delicious, I licked the plate, pot and all kitchen utensils that I used to make :)

  30. MrCoola Says:

    I will be trying this this weekend with a couple of adisions/changes. I.e. Cinnamon stick, sundried tomatoes and as I have a wheat allergy no stout

    It looks great can’t wait

  31. MrCoola Says:

    Made it, it wasn’t as hot as I hoped but was so full of flavour, I would highl recommend the cinnamon stick

  32. CamelDog chilli recipes - Cameldog Mixed Martial Arts Forums Says:

    […] some beers.. ended up being pretty damn good. i got the chocolate and beer idea from this guy. Chili con Carne from Mike's Table shit was bawm. the fam demolished it instantly. i only got like a bowl and a […]

  33. Deep-N-Thought » Blog Archive » Winter time is here, time for joy and chili! (Sang to the tune of A Charlie Brown Christmas) Says:

    […] The funny thing about that experience was I wasn’t even making my recipe. I was following some other guy’s recipe .Not to hurt the guys feelings but it wasn’t a TRUE chili. It had more of a goulash taste which […]

  34. Andrew Says:

    looks legendary big Mike….will defo be back to try it…

    Cannot wait. Repeat. Cannot wait to get into this..

  35. Andrew Says:

    It’s immense. Love it. Slow cooked it for 6 hours and then left it overnight for the flavours to develop – amazing how that happens.

  36. Nachrichten aus der Vault Says:

    Texas Chili…

    Obwohl ich am Wochenende das beste Chili meiner noch jungen Kochkarriere zubereitet habe (frei nach Mike’s Table), geht die Suche nach anderen, vielleicht sogar noch besseren, Rezepten kontinuierlich weiter. Ein einfacheres Rezept, dafür Lagerfeuer ta…

  37. Slaf Says:

    Just curious…is there no water or beef stock/broth added to this?

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