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Erik’s chili

Posted by Jeanne on September 27, 2009

Erik sent me this recipe.  I have reproduced it in all its glory – my changes are in parentheses and italics.

Pepperhead Chili: 10-14 servings (depending on hunger).

Cost: Not cheap, but less so if you have a well-stocked kitchen.

Prep Time: Saturday project

1 lb sirloin or flat iron steak (don’t be cheap…and don’t cheat with chuck or ground beef)
1/2 pound chicken tenderloins (Probably closer to a pound)
1 med. red onion
8-10 med-large tomatoes
3 oz black strap molasses (or 1/8th c.dark brown sugar)
1 12 oz bottle good dark beer (lagers work best…esp. St. Pauli Dark)
1 12 oz can cheap domestic malt liquor (Schlitz adds nice finish; can use Bud Light or similar)
1.5 c dark red kidney beans (2 cups of dried pinquito beans)
1/2 c sweet white corn (think Southeast varieties)
4 cloves garlic (in a pinch, substitute with 2 oz garlic powder or 4 tbsps chopped/minced garlic)
2 tbsp butter (not margarine, you communist)
2 tbsp hot chili powder (combination of chipotle powder, smoked paprika, ancho chile powder, and cumin; quantities unknown)
4 tbsp chili powder
1 stick celery (or 1 tsp celery seed)
1 tsp dry mustard (or 1 tbsp prepared ground mustard)
1/3 c habanero peppers (couldn’t find fresh, used jarred)
3-4 jalapeno peppers (recommended, but can substitute 1 tsp of chipotle pepper)
1 med red bell pepper
2 med green chiles (may substitute with small can of Rotel or similar in a pinch)
2 tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp white pepper (or cracked pink peppercorns) (had to use black pepper)
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1.5 cups broth
juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt (to taste)
1/4 tsp ground sage (important: do not overuse)
1 tsp ground cumin
2 pinches ground allspice
1 pinch *fresh* ground cinnamon (used jarred – but good jarred from Penzey’s…)
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley (or 2 tsp dried)
1 tsp oregano
Pitcher of filtered water
An iPod with a good Audible book or 3 hours worth of great tunes
The other 5 dark lagers
Food processor is highly recommended

1. Prefatory notes: This is my base recipe for a twist on an old favorite: It bursts with different pepper and chile tastes, and carries rich earthy undertones and aromas And, while it is hot and spicy, it is not purely heat devoid of flavor. Rather, it is a pepperhead’s version of a good chardonnay…complex, varietal and no two bites will stimulate the palate quite the same. Feel free to halve the peppers/chiles to start out on the mild side. Also, the sweet corn and molasses are recommended to add a hint of sweetness, body and robustness to some of the otherwise-obscured flavors (such as those found in white/pink peppercorns). Ditto for the cinnamon and allspice. As with most chili, depneding on taste, you can top with cubed/grated cheeses (pepper jack is personal favorite), fresh cilantro, crackers, tortilla chips, tomatoes, pico etc. Finally, this takes quite a while to prepare (on average 3-4 hours, with practice, before you get to the final simmer stage). Grab some adult beverages, a good audiobook, and be prepared to clean up one helluva’ mess.

2. Sort and soak the kidneys; optimally, the night before. However, there is a good cheater method if rushed: Sort and soak, boil for 1/2 hour; then simmer for 1-1/5 hours. NOTE: NEVER add salt to cooking beans, and do not do so until the beans are fully cooked and tender…the beans’ sodium-potassium channels at the celullular level will take in the salt and pump out water, making beans dry, hard and shriveled. Simmer until tender (dried kidneys may take 3-5 hours to reach this point). If you’re really pressed for time, you can use unseasoned canned/frozen beans…preferably canned. But, since beans are one of the the four integral ingredients, I don’t recommend this.


3. While the beans are simmering, cut the steak into 3-4 large pieces. Bring the broth, butter, and lemon juice to a low boil. Add the whole tenderloins (important later) and the steak). Med simmer for approximately 25-30 mins.

4. While beans and meats simmer, wash and quarter all but two of the tomatoes. Puree in a blender/food processor. Add 1 c. filtered water and tomotaes to a good non-stick pot dutch oven (6 qts or larger is recommended…it will eventually simmer down to 6 qts on the head). Bring to low boil, then reduce heat immediately to a low simmer.

5. Remove the beans from heat, strain well and add to to tomato base. Remove meats from heat, drain well. Let chicken cool to “eating temp” (about 112 degrees). Then take a large fork and separate/shred chicken (with the grain) until it is in tendrils or “strings”…this forms a nice meaty base and thickening agent for chili stock. Add to tomato (hereafter, chili). Allow steak to cool, then cube into approximately 1/2″ squares. The meat stage takes a while; the fastest way to do this is to shred the chicken in a food processor, and, for the beef, try to halve the peices, then do a complete horizontal crosscut. Thereafter slice into 1/2″ strips, and chop…this should make the cuts approx. 1/2″ by 1/2”. Add to chili.

6. So, you’ve got the beans, tomatoes and meats on a low simmer; they’re not going anywhere for a while. This is where timing is critical. Those ingredients should simmer until there is a dark red foam on top of the base…this is the sugar cooking out of the tomatoes and meat; it is akin to a liquid version of carmelization, and is normal. As the “foam” becomes more pronounced, start slowly adding 4-6 oz of cheap beer (room temp). Allow the ingredients to simmer until it carmelizes, and add 3-4 ozs of good dark beer (I call this process a “beer bath”).

7.. Add the chili powders, cinnamon, allspice and one bay leaf (don’t crumble or lose the latter…they can be posionous if ingested in large doses), and bring to simmer. Once it begins to simmer…

Chili powder, various dried chiles, cumin, cinnamon, allspice

Chili powder, various dried chiles, cumin, cinnamon, allspice

8. Do another beer bath, and allow to simmer. (You will ultimately repeat this process 2-3 more times over the next hour). Remember, keep the heat moderately low, stir gently (so as not to mash up the beans/bay leaf), and stir well/pay attention to the sides and bottom of the pot, where natural sugars tend to coagulate. The liquids will evaporate/simmer down over the course of the next hour or so, losing approximately 8 oz of fluid, and much of the sugar and residual water in the meat.


9. While your chili base is simmering down and cooking out the alcohol, begin to finely dice your chiles, onion and peppers, and mince the garlic. (it is important to deseed and devein the peppers). Add ingredients to a skillet with 2 tsp butter and lightly carmelize. Add the reduced mixture of fresh peppers, onions and chiles to the chili base…do not drain, the butter smoothes out the flavor. When these ingredients are at a nice simmer (and there is a pinkish/yellowish “foam”) give the chili another beer bath. A note on chiles: fresh is better, but are sometimes hard to find, rememder to wash the cutting board down after each variety, thoroughly deseed and devein the peppers, and wash your hands thoroughly and often with an oil-based soap (GoJo, etc)…habaneros and jalapenos have oils which bind to human secretions. These oils in turn leach into mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth, genitals), and your fine weekend is ruined.

Red & yellow bell peppers, green & red jalapenos, two Italian green chiles, and five habaneros.

Red & yellow bell peppers, green & red jalapenos, two Italian green chiles, and five habaneros.

10. Slowly, and patiently, stir in dry ingredients (except for salt and, if using brown sugar, that), ensuring that there is no clumping, and when these ingredients have reached a simmer, give the chili one final beer bath. Bring to a medium simmer for 15-20 mins

11. Chop the parsely (Note: don’t overdo the parsely; it’s an abortifacient in large doses)(optional: can add 1 tsp of fresh chopped cilantro) and dice the remaining two tomatoes and stick of celery (the latter should be finely diced). At this point, your chili should been simmering for about 2 hours. Add these ingedients and allow to medium simmer for another 1/2 hour, make sure to stir gently and stir often. Then, add 2 ozs of filtered water, reduce to low simmer.

12. Add blackstrap molasses (or dark brown sugar), corn and salt to taste (sea salt works best, and I’d start out with 1 tbsp and go from there).

13. Reduce heat to low for 1/2 hour, stirring often, and making sure that the beans (and especially the corn and tomatoes) aren’t getting smashed/stuck on the bottom.

14. Remove from heat, and allow to stand one hour before serving. Be sure to continue gently stirring in the cooling phase. Serve with optional ingredients, a cold beer, and enjoy! Also, the longer you can wait until serving, the better…let the flavors coalesce and the spices “breathe out”.


I really kind of wanted to not like this chili.  The recipe is long and obtuse and it takes forever to make.

But it’s REALLY good.


We served it with chopped scallions, some shredded cheese, cubed avocado and cilantro.  And cornbread and a cocktail on the side, for good measure.



5 Responses to “Erik’s chili”

  1. Naomi said

    FedEx me some??? We did 4 strata and cuban black bean soup today! (Now we are going out for Indian…)

  2. […] Erik’s chili […]

  3. Devin said

    I was one of the lucky few that got the chili, it was amazing. Would have had a second bowl, but I couldn’t stop eating the wonderful appetizers earlier. You’ll never leave hungry from their kitchen. Thanks for doggy bag.

  4. der schatten said

    I’m glad you liked it…my digicam was out of batteries, or I would have shown you the gumbo I made yesterday. The Tortilla soup was PHENOMENAL!

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