chili served over pasta and covered with cheddar
cheese, a combination known as a
is in my blood. It is part of who I am.
the dishes my mother made for our family, it is her chili
that I remember with the most fondness. Of all the dishes
served for lunch at my high school, it is the chili that I
remember as most edible.
for me, the ultimate comfort food.
first moved to Texas, a new colleague who soon became a fast
friend held a dinner party to welcome me. He served chili.
To be specific, he served hot chili. Volcanic chili. He
thought it would be entertaining to offer Yankee Boy a bowl
of tongue-searing spices.
gobbled it up and asked for more while the others were still
dripping sweat over their first bowls. I was sweating, too,
but not as profusely. I think. At any rate, I passed the
test. I was accepted.
has that kind of power, that kind of status. It is the type
of food you bond over; arguments can be placated with a good
bowl of chili. And in the days when roadside diners ruled
the landscape, the one dish you could be certain to find
everywhere was chili. And it would be good.
may be as many ways to make chili as there are people who
make it, but it is always good. Chili is impossible to make
for a watery bowl I had once, many years ago, at a little
restaurant in Ada, Mich. That stuff was awful.
own little chili fiesta, I started with a version of that
hair-blasting stuff I had way back in Texas. I’m not as
young as I once was, so I tempered it a bit and made it ever
so slightly less fiery. But it’s the kind of chili that
adapts easily to differing levels of heat by changing the
kind of peppers you use to make it.
ancho peppers — they’re poblano peppers that have been
roasted and dried — which have a bit of a bite to them but
are still fairly mild. They can be anywhere from about half
as hot as a jalapeño to almost as hot as one. Of course,
the recipe also calls for a cup of jalapeño slices from a
can or jar. These have been pickled, so they are not as hot
as they would be when fresh, but the chili is still going to
pack a fair amount of heat no matter which variety of dried
pepper you use.
recipe comes directly from Dan Puckett, the same friend who
initially served me the chili and who now lives back in his
hometown of San Antonio. He makes it the traditional Texas
way, with small cubes of beef (or venison when he can get
it), and then he mixes in an equal amount of hot sausage.
another Texas tradition, he adds a bottle of beer. Dan didn’t
specify this, but I will: Use a regular, mass-produced
American beer for this chili, or possibly a Mexican beer.
Those craft brews with overpowering hops or notes of
raspberry marmalade will only ruin it.
up on my tour de chili was what may be the most perfect,
non-Texan chili recipe I know. This is the one I make
whenever I want to make chili that tastes like chili, or at
least that tastes like the chili of my childhood, which
amounts to the same thing.
and Black Bean Chili is a vegetable-rich bowl that hits all
the right notes. It is warm and deeply satisfying, expertly
blending the heat and complexity of just the right amount of
chili powder with the sweet redemption of bell peppers and
not only does it taste the way chili is meant to taste, it
is good for you, too. The recipe comes from Weight Watchers,
though it does not have that low-cal, dieting feel at all. I
usually make it with ground turkey to get the calorie count
even lower, and vegetarians can easily adapt it for their
needs by leaving out the beef, adding more beans and using
water or vegetable stock.
way you make it, it’s great.
made a version of white chicken chili that I cook only once
in a very great while because it goes straight to your
arteries. You first make a roux, which is bad enough (and
also good enough, if we’re talking about flavor), but then
you mix in a lot of half-and-half, sour cream and shredded
Monterey jack cheese.
people dispute that white chicken chili even qualifies as
chili because it is not one of the two officially sanctioned
chili colors (reddish brown and brownish red). But I
disagree. It has chili powder in it, and it is a soupy
liquid. To me that means it is chili. Besides, it is
incredible, and this particular recipe is more incredible
brings us to Cincinnati chili. Certain people, perhaps even
most people, will deny that Cincinnati chili is chili at
all. But Cincinnatians will actually look at you squarely in
the face and insist that not only is it chili, it is the
finest version of chili known to man.
happen to be from Cincinnati, and I am here to tell you that
Cincinnati chili represents the pinnacle of all chili
varieties and is the ultimate expression of chili evolution.
don’t think of it as chili in the sense of any other chili
you have ever known. First of all, it is less a soup than a
sauce. It is spread on top of a bed of spaghetti and then
topped with a mound of shredded Cheddar cheese. A thin layer
of chopped sweet onions or kidney beans — or both — is
spooned out by request between the meat and the cheese.
chili, or what we Cincinnatians call chili, is seasoned with
cinnamon and cloves and, often, chocolate (you won’t
really taste it, but your mouth will be glad it’s there).
Some versions add allspice, as does mine, and others go for
nutmeg. But that’s just weird.
story, possibly apocryphal, is that a hungry man stopped
into a Cincinnati restaurant more than 90 years ago and
asked for a bowl of chili. The owners, two brothers from
Greece, had never heard of the stuff and asked the man to
describe it. He explained it as well as he could, and then
they made what they thought that sounded like — but using
the spices common in Greek cooking that they were familiar
with, such as cinnamon and cloves.
result became instantly popular around the region, but
really nowhere else. Some people love it. Some people hate
it. I consider it the nectar of the gods.
tablespoons olive oil
sweet onion, chopped
cloves garlic, minced
pound lean beef or venison, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
pound hot sausage
tablespoon chili powder
canned or bottled jalapeño slices
cup chopped dried chili peppers, see note
This makes quite a hot chili. I used dried ancho chiles,
which are relatively mild; you can make it hotter by using
hotter dried chiles.
Heat oil in a large pot or skillet over medium-high heat.
Add onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is
translucent, about 5 minutes. Add meats and cook until
the chili powder, cumin, jalapeños and dried chiles, and
pour in the beer. Add just enough water to cover. Bring to a
slow simmer and cover. Simmer at least an hour. If chili is
too liquid, simmer awhile without the lid.
serving: 343 calories; 27 g fat; 9 g saturated fat; 61 mg
cholesterol; 15 g protein; 7 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; 2 g
fiber; 606 mg sodium; 34 mg calcium.
by Daniel Puckett, San Antonio, Texas
AND BLACK BEAN CHILI
4 servings (2 cups each)
pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
celery ribs, sliced
yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
(10-ounce) package sliced cremini (baby portobello) or white
cloves garlic, minced
1/2-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
(15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
water, or 1 cup water and 2 cups vegetable stock
tablespoons tomato paste
tablespoons chili powder
teaspoon ground cumin
teaspoon dried oregano or 2 sprigs fresh
Spray a large nonstick saucepan with nonstick cooking spray
and set over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook, breaking
it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
Drain any fat.
onions, celery, bell pepper, mushrooms and garlic. Cook,
stirring occasionally until vegetables are softened, about 8
tomatoes, beans, water, stock (if using), tomato paste, bay
leaf, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring
to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring
occasionally until the chili is thickened, about 45 minutes.
serving: 278 calories; 7 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 35 mg
cholesterol; 19 g protein; 39 g carbohydrate; 13 g sugar; 10
g fiber; 1,038 mg sodium; 132 mg calcium.
adapted from "Weight Watchers Take-Out Tonight! 150+
Restaurant Favorites to Make At Home"
8 to 10 servings
tablespoon vegetable oil
pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
stick butter, divided
large onions, chopped
cup all-purpose flour
cup chicken broth
teaspoon Tabasco sauce
teaspoons chili powder
(16-ounce) can white beans
(4-ounce) cans whole mild green chiles, drained and chopped
cups grated Monterey jack cheese
cup sour cream
Heat a large skillet over moderately high heat and add oil.
Meanwhile, season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook the
chicken until brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Turn and
cook — turning occasionally to keep from burning — until
done, 10 to 15 minutes more, depending on the thickness.
Remove chicken to a plate to cool. When cool enough to
handle, shred it with your fingers and set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat and cook
onions until softened, about 5 minutes.
a heavy pot large enough to hold all the ingredients, melt
remaining 6 tablespoons of butter over moderately low heat
and whisk in flour. Cook this roux, whisking constantly, for
3 minutes. Stir in the onion and gradually add the broth and
half-and-half, whisking all the time. Bring mixture to a
boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until
thickened. Stir in Tabasco, chili powder, cumin, salt and
pepper. Add beans, chiles, chicken and cheese; cook over
moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
Add sour cream. Serve immediately or refrigerate overnight
for better flavor.
serving (based on 10): 407 calories; 26 g fat; 14 g
saturated fat; 115 mg cholesterol; 28 g protein; 17 g
carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 586 mg sodium; 233 mg
adapted by Karen Celia Fox from The Kitchen for Exploring
Foods caterers in Pasadena, Calif.
pounds ground beef
quart beef broth
cup chili powder
teaspoon ground cinnamon
teaspoon ground cumin
cloves garlic, minced
teaspoon ground allspice
teaspoon ground cloves
(15-ounce) can tomato sauce
tablespoons cider vinegar or white vinegar
ounce unsweetened chocolate
Place beef in a large pot and add broth. Bring to a boil,
stirring occasionally with a fork to separate the meat into
a fine texture. Cover, lower temperature and simmer 30
onion, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, salt,
allspice, cloves, cayenne pepper, bay leaf, tomato sauce,
vinegar and chocolate, and mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce
heat, cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Refrigerate overnight. Skim off fat before heating and
Serve over a bed of spaghetti, then top with shredded mild
cheddar cheese. Serve oyster crackers on the side. If
desired, add a layer of kidney beans and/or chopped sweet
onion between the chili and the cheese.
serving: 346 calories; 19 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 93 mg
cholesterol; 33 g protein; 14 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 6 g
fiber; 1,199 mg sodium; 80 mg calcium.