Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ninette's Award-winning Chili

Even though I am Filipino and have never lived in Texas, I have the odd accomplishment of winning two chili cook-offs with two different chili recipes. I developed this chili recipe for my colleague Sam Gaudet, who entered a chili contest with it and took home first prize. Simpler than the smoked chili I did for SLS’ first “Go Hot or Go Home” Chili Cook Off in 2009, it still has some of my signature ingredients: bacon, beer, and chocolate, which add a deep, smoky flavor.

Ninette's Award-Winning Chili

7 slices bacon, chopped
2 ½ lbs – 3 lbs. ground beef
2 medium-large onions, minced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced

Spice mix:
--½ tsp. cinnamon
--4 tbs. chili powder
--2 tbs. cumin
--2 tsp. dried oregano

 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (NOT puree) or 2 14.5 oz. cans Hunts fire-roasted tomatoes (if you use the latter, take one of the smaller cans and puree the tomato chunks in a small food processor or blender; use the other can as is).

½ tsp. Sanka or ½ cup coffee
1 cup beef broth
1 Guinness beer
½ tsp. liquid smoke
2-3 tsp. kosher salt
½ square unsweetened chocolate

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add ground beef.  Saute until browned.  When the ground beef is cooked, drain oil from the beef in a colander placed in a plate or bowl large enough to hold the excess oil.  Leave there for the moment.

In the same Dutch oven you used to cook the ground beef, render bacon until crisp over medium-low heat.  Remove the cooked bacon from the Dutch oven with a slotted spoon and place on top of the cooked ground beef. Keep the equivalent of three tablespoons of bacon fat in the Dutch oven. Remove the rest and discard.

Add onions to the bacon fat you left in the Dutch oven, and sauté for 5 minutes over medium-low heat.  Add garlic and spice mix.  Turn heat to low and cook until onions are translucent, another couple minutes. 

Add reserved cooked beef and bacon to the onion-spice mixture in the Dutch oven.  Add 2 tsp. of kosher salt, the crushed tomatoes, beef broth, beer, Sanka or coffee, and liquid smoke to the Dutch oven and mix everything together.

Bring to a low simmer and cook for two hours to develop the chili’s flavor.  Check on the chili and stir occasionally, so that it stays at a low simmer. If toward the end of the cooking time, your chili is “soupy,” you can bring the chili to a medium simmer and simmer until it’s thicker.  Conversely, if the chili is getting too thick, add back some water, so that it’s the consistency that you like.

Mix in chocolate in at the end.  Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.

Enjoy with your favorite fixings.