Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Best Chili Ever (Almost). Yep.

Remember last week when I said that I made a delicious thing for forgiveness purposes because I was all smashy and screaming swears due to Sewing Project Overload? Yes, you remember.

Well, it was chili. But really, it was The Best Chili Ever Almost. And I only say "Almost" because I thought of a few improvements I could make after the chili was halfway in my belly. But still, it was so excellent and is officially my favorite chili recipe. Which, if you're me, is a big thing because I do love my chili. (And Beano, but you know, we don't speak of such things as Ladies and all.)

And just to forewarn the meat fearful out there - this is not a vegetarian chili recipe. And that is because good chili, to me, means meat, and meat means two kinds of meat: beef and bacon. So if you're all "Ew! Meat is gross! And OMG bacon? ACK!" or whatever, go away so I can talk about the meat in my Best Ever Chili Almost. Later you can come back and we'll talk about tofu (which I also like) or something less freaky for you.

I've spoken of The Best Chili Ever Almost before, but back then it was just Good Chili and I wasn't getting all "The Best" about it or anything. That's because I had yet to include my secret weapon: a lot of canned homegrown tomatoes. And I can tell you, these babies made a big diff - taking Good Chili to The Best Chili Ever Almost in one fell swoop.

See, to use a term I've overused in the past, these tomatoes just make the whole flavor much lustier. And since the recipe calls for canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, I had the opportunity to bring the lustiness to new heights as I had on hand both the canned homegrown tomatoes and
the disaster sauce from my run-in with the food mill/grinder/whatTHE HELLever you want to call it, ok. All crafted (albeit not necessarily "expertly") from the two tons of tomatoes grown in the garden this year. It was like the perfect storm of chili, people, and I was very excited.

I also made a few other tweaks to the recipe (I still love you long time, Sunset Magazine!) to bring the fabulousness to greater heights even. I will admit that some of these tweaks are based on my laziness/inability to properly follow a recipe BUT WHATEVER it makes it good.

Now, for the improvements that would cause this to become The Best Chili Ever. Recall the Best Tomato Sauce Ever, if you would. Well, the crucial part of that recipe is the oven roasting of the tomatoes. The char (which I'm constantly reminded is bad for me and causes cancer and a lot of other health things that are not as important as fabulous tomato sauce so stop telling me) is what really brings this sauce around.

And as I sat there canoodling with my bowl of chili (and cheese and sour cream, I will not lie) asking myself and, indirectly Bubba since he was right there doing his own chili canoodling, WHAT could POSSIBLY make this chili any better because oh my gawd it is just so good, it occurred to me.

What if I roasted the tomatoes. WHAT THEN? Oh OH OH -- and what if I actually made The Best Tomato Sauce Ever and roasted the canned tomatoes and then made all my other recipe tweaks (mistakes)??


It would be The One of chili.

Sadly, this did not dawn on me until I was halfway through the bowl and beyond the point of being able to make any recipe adjustments but, dude, I will so be making The One of chili eventually. At which point, I will return to this blog with a post entitled The One of Chili and then you will know that the moment of great food is upon us (and also, get some Beano.)

Unfortunately, The One of Chili will require the conspiring of inharmonious events like summertime (when the tomatoes are ripe on the vine) and my desire to make chili (when it's cold out) - but the promise of The One of Chili might be enough for me to sweat out a hot evening over the stove. I mean it is The One after all. It doesn't get much better than that.

Until then, however, I'll leave you with the chronological photos I took during the making of The Best Chili Ever Almost (because I took them all and want to now post them, not because you couldn't follow this recipe without them) and the promise that this chili is very good and would be lovely with a frosty brew, a fire in the fireplace, football on the tube and an agreeable man across the coffee table. Or none of the above and just the chili - your choice.

The Best Chili Ever Almost (aka Smoky Beef and Bacon Chili from Sunset Magazine) with my personal adjustments:


2 slices thick-cut peppered bacon, finely chopped
large onion, finely chopped
large garlic clove, minced
1 1/2
pounds lean ground beef
tablespoon plus 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 1/2
teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2
teaspoons paprika
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
About 1 tsp. salt
can (14.5 oz.) homegrown tomatoes (or regular crushed tomatoes if that's what you have although I can not vouch for the Best-ness of it)
8 oz. of homemade tomato sauce (or regular tomato sauce with the same warnings as above)
bottle of India Pale Ale beer
teaspoon Worcestershire
can (14.5 oz.) pinto beans, drained
Sour cream and grated cheddar for topping


1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon, stirring until it just begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add onion, lower heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 4 to 7 minutes. Uncover pan, stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute.

2. Increase heat to medium-high and add ground beef; break it up with a wooden spoon and stir gently until it loses its raw color, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in spices and 1 tsp. salt and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, beer, and Worcestershire and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover partially, and cook 30 minutes.

3. Add beans and cook 10 minutes, uncovered. Season to taste with additional salt. Serve warm, with toppings on the side.
Makes 6 servings


  1. Wow! That bowl of chili looks like it's right off the pages of a cooking magazine. There is no better way to welcome in some cool weather than with a great bowl of chili. Seeing that it is 78 degrees in North Florida right now though, I may have to wait a while.

  2. Oh I am so mad at you. You just made me SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO hungry! Looks fantastic!

  3. Yum. I love my chili with sour cream and cheese too. That looks fantastic!

    So funny that you posted this because I've been thinking about doing one titled 'Best Chili Ever.' My recipe comes from the Cooks Illustrated 30 minute cookbook.

    And one little note- Muir Glen Organic tomatoes make a fantastic alternative if you can't get your hands on the home-canned ones. They are so tomatoey.

  4. This is so weird because although I like chili, it's not like I'm ever really craving it or think to make it or anything. But the other night when Ale was out of town (read: I am forced to cook or eat a bowl of cereal for dinner), I got this weird urge to make chili. I've never made it before, and that's when I discovered that the truckers were on a national strike anyways so there was no ground beef in my supermarket (lame). Which all leads me to believe that it was destined for you to come to Italy and make chili for us. I've heard if you freeze cheddar it lasts until you arrive. Oh God, now I'm sounding like a desperate expat. But seriously. See what you can do about this.

  5. I'm going to be the lone dissenting voice, no beans or ground meat ev-ar!

    I mean I will eat whatever is put in front of me and the bacon will appease my righteous indignation, but in the perfect world, ruled by me chili is made with small chunks of beef and no beans.

    I propose a Chili Cook-Off in a remote Tuscan villa with good access to Florence and Siena sometime after Ferrogosto.(and the homeward migration of the crocs and socks crowd)

  6. yum that looks delicious. I really love chili, and I've been cooking it in my crockpot so that the small child does not pull over the christmas tree while I'm cooking.

    I've been adding chipotle in adobo sauce to my chili and it's sooo tasty! Thanks for the recipe!

  7. Great macro work photog, love the chili texture.
    Looks Yummy!
    Interested in the IPA usage...
    5 for me 1 for the chili?

  8. that sounds/looks so good. even if it is 6am.

  9. Joe and I love chili. My kids mostly hate it (I think ONE likes it, but I can't remember who). I have never even thought about adding bacon. I'll have to try that.

  10. Jan - I swore I'd make this in summer when all the tomatoes are ripe, so I'll let you know how chili making goes during a heatwave. A new extreme sport?

    Adrienne - Don't worry, it's worth it. It's really *that* good. Promise.

    Wendy - I will try those canned tomatoes when we run out of my own (sad day for sure). I'll also have to try that CI recipe. My Cook's Illustrated issues are very well loved.

    Shelley - Cheddar cheese is on my list of items to pack. We will make chili in Rome. See what you can do about getting food back in the stores. Please see ingredient list in post...

    Steven - That is blasphemous. How can you have chili without beans? Ground beef I might understand, but no beans? We will have to do a taste test, in Tuscany of course.

    katie jean - Chili in the crock pot. This would totally work with this recipe. I will try it - thank you!

    Alex - I say you're right! Get a six pack of IPA - one for the chili, five for you!

    Elizabeth - You know, chili's not just for dinner anymore...

    Lera - Everything's better with bacon. Which is why Bubba and I will be having heart attacks in 3, 2, 1...

  11. that looks amazing! thanks for the recipe. your blog is a riot! i found it via see katie sew.

  12. FN -

    I just did a Google search for "best chili ever" and you were near the top... after reading some of your blog, I can't wait to try it. And it's swearin' cold here in Cheeseland...

    Great blog; I'll be back!

  13. Katie - You're welcome. But now I'm curious...is there some sort of Katie Klub (ha!) going on at SKS? That's a lot of Katies. Cheers.

    MrQ - Gotta love Google. Anyway - hope the recipe works out for you. It's one of our winter staples now and it never disappoints. I already have a can of homegrown tomatoes earmarked for chili.


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