The Best Chile Con Carne

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By Susan Benton

Just like good gumbo, everyone has their favorite chili recipe. Texas beef with no beans, white chicken chili, even vegetarian, but I make my flavor packed version with black beans for added fiber, and to create texture.

Since our kids were little and heading out to trick or treat with my husband pulling them along in their red radio flyer wagon, chili has been on our menu Halloween night. All of the parents would end up at our house for a bowl of warm chili and a cold beer, while costumed little ones ran through the yard gripping a chili dog in one hand and swinging their loot of sweets in the other.

Over the winter, it’s hard to beat a bowl of comforting chili topped with freshly grated cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, that’s easily cooked in a heavy bottom cast iron pot!

Chili Con Carne

(Feeds 6 to 8. Double the recipe for a crowd.)

Like all great stews, the flavors develop as this dish sits, so go ahead and make a pot of chili up a day or two ahead of time and rewarm it to serve, a well thought out game plan!

Ingredients

4 tablespoons good olive oil

2 full pounds ground beef ( chuck optional stew meat)

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

6 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons chile powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon oregano powder

1 (12-ounce) bottle favorite beer (darker gives stronger flavor. I used Yuengling.)

1 (15-ounce) can black or kidney beans rinsed and drained

1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes, crushed by hand

1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth, plus more if needed

1 1⁄4 ounces dark chocolate

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional, but highly recommended)

1 tablespoon favorite hot sauce (Crystal, Frank’s, or Tobasco)

2 tablespoons Heinz Ketchup

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Serve with the optional toppings of shredded cheddar cheese, sliced scallions and sour cream. Cornbread or your favorite corn chips on the side.

Preparation

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the olive oil, onion, and bell pepper stirring for 3-4 minutes, and then add the garlic, jalapeño, chile, oregano and cumin powder, stirring another 3-4 minutes.

While veggies are sizzling, in a large skillet on a different burner cook 2 pounds of ground beef over medium-high heat until the meat is no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Drain and add to the Dutch Oven.

Add the tomatoes (grip in clean hand and squish) with juices, beer, one-cup beef broth, beans, dark chocolate, ketchup, salt, pepper and reduce the heat to medium. Let simmer stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Add more beef broth and season with freshly ground black pepper and more salt as needed.

Note: If needed, to thicken the chili before serving, place 1/4 cup masa harina (corn flour that’s found in the Mexican food section of  the supermarket), or regular flour in a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup warm water and stir together with a fork. Dump the masa mixture into the chili. Stir together well, and then taste and adjust the seasonings. Simmer for 10 more minutes.

Tip: Make this recipe on a busy week night by using a slow cooker. Cook on the LOW setting for 7  hours, stirring occasionally, and test-tasting often. I’m also a fan of pickled jalapenos that I serve in a bowl on the side.