Rob’s Super-Secret Chili Recipe

16 03 2009

Mine is not a cooking blog, but I’m deviating from the norm to bring you my personal recipe for chili with beans. I call it Rob’s Super-Secret Chili Recipe, though it’s obviously not so secret if I’m posting it on my blog. Still, I guarantee that when you take this to your next family gathering or work potluck, you won’t need to bring leftovers home.

It has taken a substantial amount of trial and error to get this right. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, not so much “error” as it was thinking, “This could be better,” and then figuring out how to make it so. Each time, it has been better than the time before. I am finally ready to present it as a final version suitable for sharing.

A word of caution – this recipe has some ingredients not too often found in chili. You might be tempted to pass them over, but they really do work together quite harmoniously for a final product that is quite delicious. Resist the temptation to omit, or to substitute (unless a suitable substitution is indicated).

And finally, this chili will be good enough to eat just after it’s been prepared, but to truly reach its full potential, it needs to be prepared, refrigerated overnight, and then heated again (the best way is in a crockpot; a microwave is suitable; if you reheat it on the stove, don’t heat too quickly so as to prevent scorching to the bottom of the pot). The wonderfulness is dramatically increased when it’s eaten on the second day.

Rob’s Super-Secret Chili Recipe

1 lb beef chuck, sirloin or stew beef, cut into 1/2″ pieces (keep these bits small)
1 lb lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks, thoroughly washed and chopped *
6 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 C water
1/4 C brown sugar, packed
1 bottle Guinness beer **
2 cans (6 oz each) tomato paste
1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 can (8 oz) diced green chiles
4 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp Better-Than-Bouillon, beef flavor ***
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp ground cumin seed
2 tsp instant coffee ****
2 tsp monosodium glutamate *****
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp dry ground mustard
1 can each (about 15 oz each) dark red kidney, light red kidney, pinto, and black beans ******

1. In large frying pan, cook beef chunks, ground beef, onions, leeks and garlic in oil for about 12 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring often.

2. In large stock pot, combine all remaining ingredients except beans. Mix well. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.

3. Add beef mixture to stock pot mixture. Cover. Adjust temperature to maintain a low simmer. Simmer 60 minutes.

4. Add beans. Cover and simmer 60 minutes.

5. Uncover and simmer about 15 minutes to thicken.

Tips for serving: Refrigerate overnight, then reheat prior to serving. Serve with grated cheddar and a small dollop of sour cream on each bowl. Excellent stir-ins are torn flour tortilla or Fritos.

* If you’re unfamiliar with leeks, here are some tips: Take apart each layer and rinse away any dirt or debris. It’s like celery; it accumulates near the base between layers. Use the bottom, white half of the leek and discard the green top half. If leeks prove too daunting for you, substitute another onion. Green onion is okay, too.

** Guinness works best. Acceptable substitutions are other dark, stout beers, or a red beer (such as Killian’s). Don’t use a light beer unless it’s the only alternative to no beer. Using bottled instead of canned beer will prevent a metallic taste in the chili. Canned beer is an abomination unto the Lord. And don’t skip the beer. Relax; the alcohol evaporates while cooking. The flavor it imparts is essential.

*** Better Than Bouillon is usually available alongside powdered stock in the grocery store, and it makes a notable difference over the powdered. If you use powdered stock, use the amount that would make six cups. Don’t add extra water. If your only option is liquid beef stock, eliminate the 2 C of water from the recipe and remove the cover for a longer portion of the simmering to allow some evaporation. The chili shouldn’t be watery.

**** Yes, coffee. I promise, it tastes delicious in the chili whether you like coffee or not. I recommend instant coffee because it keeps the chili from becoming too watery, but you can use brewed coffee instead. If you do this, eliminate the 2 C of water from the recipe. Feel free to use decaffeinated if you prefer, as caffeine (unlike the alcohol in the beer) does NOT cook its way out of the chili. It’s a small enough quantity that I haven’t noticed caffeine reactions when serving this, but use your best judgment.

***** I realize that the old stigma about MSG still persists. I have never seen a reaction to MSG unless the person knew they were eating it and consequently got mentally worked up over it because they believe they had a sensitivity. Magically, when I “forget” to mention the MSG, everyone goes about their business eating happily and feeling wonderfully. I recommend that you don’t omit this step because it dramatically enhances the flavor. If you can’t bring yourself to use it, though, substitute an additional teaspoon of kosher salt instead. Having trouble finding MSG? Look in the spice aisle for a product called “Accent” Flavor Enhancer. The only ingredient is MSG. Still can’t find it? Ask at an Asian grocery.

****** I find myself in a perpetual dilemma over whether or not to drain the beans, which are usually canned in corn syrup. Adding the entire contents of the can makes for a sweeter chili, which is not necessarily bad, but sometimes it becomes TOO sweet and that’s hard to reverse. I usually find myself draining the beans and then adding a little more brown sugar to the chili until it’s just the right sweetness.

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22 responses

16 03 2009
Janna

I’m going to have to give this one a try, brother mine. Maybe make it for my man sometime… (hee hee, isn’t that fun) or just for home group… anyway – sounds like a good recipe to me!

19 03 2009
Rob in Gallup

I would say make it for your home group and let your man eat it there… this makes a large amount.

19 03 2009
Janna

Sounds like a good plan… ;o)

16 03 2009
Cilla

Okay. I’ll give it a shot. My family isn’t crazy about chili, but mom and I love it. Maybe they will eat THIS one.

17 03 2009
Rob in Gallup

Let me know how it turns out, Cilla!

16 03 2009
Danica

wow, sounds yummy… But now that you’ve posted it on the Internet for everyone to see, is it still super-secret?

17 03 2009
Rob in Gallup

Secrets were made to be told, right?

17 03 2009
Leah

Hey Rob! Sounds a wee bit more complicated than mine, but also sounds delectable! Quick question – how many does the recipe serve – have you ever halved it? (and drank the other 1/2 of the beer?, lol)

17 03 2009
Rob in Gallup

It makes a huge pot. I have no idea what it is in cups because I’ve never measured it, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s about six quarts.

Theoretically, you should be able to halve it, although you’d either have to use half-cans of beans or drop it to two varieties (in which case, I’d probably use either dark red kidney and black for better taste, or dark red kidney and light red kidney for better appearance).

Incidentally, if halving is too daunting, you can also freeze it, then thaw in fridge and reheat.

17 03 2009
applek

It has a lot of ingredients….some the same as mine, and some different; I’m not saying which ones. I’d like to taste yours sometime. It’s been so mild and dry here this winter, we’ve hardly had the chance for a good chili day!

17 03 2009
Rob in Gallup

I’ll make it for you next time you’re here, unless the weather is all wrong.

18 03 2009
onemom

goodness that sounds yummy!!! I’ve added semi-sweet chocolate chips to my chili before, but your recipe is begging to be tried! Thanks for spilling the secret!

19 03 2009
Rob in Gallup

Mmm… semi-sweet chocolate chips sounds like an excellent idea. I may have to play with this recipe some more.

19 03 2009
Wesley

Hey Rob,

Would this Chili work out if I omitted the beef stuff? I want to try it!

Thanks homie.

19 03 2009
Rob in Gallup

For a meatless version, I would say the biggest key to success would be to use Better Than Bouillon vegetable base instead of beef stock. Regular vegetable stock has pretty pathetic vegetable content and weak flavor, and the dry cubes are mostly salt, artificial flavors and food coloring. Better Than Bouillon primarily contains condensed vegetables, and I don’t see any meat or meat derivative on the label. It’s very flavorful.

The lack of meat could potentially lead to a thinner chili (the ground beef in particular thickens it up) so I would suggest trying one of these potential remedies: 1) Reduce the amount of water; 2) Replace the ground beef with a meatless alternative; 3) This sounds gross, but I have heard of it working correctly – add an extra can of beans that have been pureed in a blender or food processor.

Also, skipping the meat reduces your cooking time. I would still saute the onions, leeks and garlic, but you can skip the third step altogether (and eliminate the 60 minutes of simmering found in that step). That extra hour of cook time is mostly to soften the stew beef.

If you try this, please let me know how it turns out. I’m very curious.

20 03 2009
Wesley

Awesome! Thanks and yes, I’ll let you know!

24 03 2009
pennepasta

Oh, my gosh, Rob. Before I even read the recipe (which I love doing!), I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume. But, until I actually try it, I feel compelled to say I’m put off by the idea of “sweet” chile. It’s like sweet cornbread, to me: unthinkable. But I’m not unwilling to try. I’m just such a NM die-hard chile eater–basically, red chiles with pinto or anasazi beans, cumin, lots of garlic, salt and some oregano. Amen. Just chile, man. But yours intrigues me…..like a sci-fi movie.

31 03 2009
Rob in Gallup

Well… “sweet” is relative. Here’s my take: If you notice upon tasting it that it’s sweet, then it’s too sweet. Sweet should not be the first impression upon tasting. But without the sweetness, it generally tastes… lacking. Most people wouldn’t identify a little bit of sweetness as the piece that’s lacking, but when you add it, they don’t identify what’s different, they just think it tastes better.

I’m all about simplicity in recipes in certain situations, but I really like exploring flavors that complement and enhance the natural flavors already present. For example, the very odd but strangely satisfying way that red chiles and cocoa complement each other. It works the other way around, too — just the tiniest pinch of chile powder in a cup of hot cocoa takes it from good to excellent.

Anyway, I’ll get my chance to try this out on New Mexicans this week. I started working at a new cyber-cafe in town, and I talked the owner into letting me try out a “soup of the day.” I plan to make this one and see how it goes over. Should be okay, because he wants soups that are different from other places in town — he doesn’t want the standard green chile stew that everyone else has. We’ll see what the customers have to say, though. That’s where the rubber meets the road.

31 03 2009
pennepasta

I haven’t read this in so long–how did it go? I’d really like to know…..and I really WOULD like to try it!

16 04 2009
patty

Hey Rob!

I always make our chili here. It’s simpler – fewer ingredients – than yours, but does use Better Than Bouillon. We don’t eat meat, so it’s meatless, and still quite thick. I never use canned beans, though. I prefer to do it all from scratch. (I’ve just used kidney up until now … guess I’ll have to add the others!) I use unsweetened cocoa, rather than chocolate chips, btw. The tomatoes I use are the canned, roasted tomatoes. I don’t like tomatoes … but those ones work for me as long as everything cooks together. I’m going to try adding some of your ingredients to mine; sounds awfully yummy, aside from the meat. (And yeah, I’ll skip the MSG too. Just because.)

2 05 2009
Rebecca

Rob— I love chili; this sounds deeeeelicious. Yum!

Chili in hot chocolate? Wow. Gonna try this too.

18 05 2009
Midwest Admirer

Hi Rob,

This has nothing to do with chili, LOL…

You don’t know us but my husband and I found your blog shortly after you started it on wordpress. We googled for information about “life in Gallup NM” and your site came up on a search engine.

It’s been awhile since you posted, so I just wanted to say that we pray you and your family are well… and we miss reading what you write! I imagine there are others “out there” in cyber-world who feel the same but just haven’t logged on to tell you so. : )

We hope you’ll publish again when you are able but, until then, I am enjoying re-reading a few of our favorite entries today. You are a terrific writer.

In Him,

Midwest Admirer

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