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Jacy's Chili con Carne Recipe

March 15, 2021

A wedge of corn bread and a bowl of chili with cheese and cilantro on top, sitting on a white plate.

This chili con carne recipe is crafted by Bytable cofounder Jacy and is meant to be highly customizable! She uses both bacon and ground beef in this chili, but includes tips for a variety of meats, options for using either wine or beer, as well as tips on how to personalize the spicing so the flavor of your chili is exactly how you love it.

Chili Spice Customization:

Chili is an extremely personal dish, and rightfully so! Whether you like spicy chili, a bright Mexican chili, or chili with a curry twist, this is a recipe you can easily customize by adjusting the spice mixture to your own tastes. See the chili spice section below!

Chili Meat Substitutions:

This is a very flexible chili recipe that can flex to using many different types of meat. Instead of ground beef, you could use ground pork, chicken, or turkey, or a mixture of any kind of ground meat you’d like. If you do decide to use ground meat other than beef, you likely would want to use beer instead of wine in the chili.

If you can grind your own meat at home, you could grind a chuck roast or brisket to use in this recipe. Or instead of ground beef in the chili, you could simply take whatever beef you have on hand, cut into small strips, cubes, or chunks, then salt and sear them at high heat before adding it in step 2 instead of the ground beef.

Should I Use Beer or Wine in Chili?

Personally, Jacy prefers to break from tradition and use red wine in her chili… and pretty much everything else if we’re being honest. In this chili, she uses a good quality red blend - one you'd want to drink on it's own. She prefers the pairing of bright fruitiness of wine with the deep beef flavor of Callicrate Wagyu/Angus beef. By adding wine and beef broth instead of a bottle of beer, you keep the proper amount of liquid in the chili while still getting the deep flavor profile of beef and wine.

If you don’t want to break from the tradition of beer in chili, we recommend using any beer you really like! This chili is for you, so you should use a beer that has flavors you like tasting. If you love bitter hops, use a hoppy IPA. If you love deep dark flavor, try a stout! If you do use a dark stout, you may want to exclude or reduce the cocoa powder. When in doubt (or if you just want to keep your chili more standard) use a nice balanced amber ale - Colorado Springs’ own Laughing Lab, anyone?!

P.S. If you’re looking for some cornbread to go with it, we highly recommend Iron Chef Alex Guarneschelli’s Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread.

Chili in a white bowl, topped with cheddar cheese and cilantro, garnished with a wedge of lime.

Chili Ingredients:

  • ~8 oz bacon (3-4 large thick strips or 6-8 small strips), cut into 1 inch sections
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, deseeded and diced
  • 1 bell pepper, deseeded and sliced into 1-1.5 inch long strips
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • Chili spice mix (recipe below)
  • Kosher salt
  • Alcohol liquid mixture: 1/2c beef broth + 1/3c red wine + a splash of white wine vinegar OR 12 oz beer (see beer or wine section above for details)
  • Juice of 1 lime (can squeeze directly into the chili)
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls of tomato paste
  • 1 ½ c beef broth (or water + beef bouillon cube) plus more as needed for consistency adjustments
  • 2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder (we use Dagoba)
  • 1 28oz can whole plum tomatoes, hand crushed (we prefer to use Italian imported San Marzanos, if you can find them!)
  • 2 15oz cans of beans (we use 1 can black beans and 1 can kidney beans, but use whatever beans you like)

Chili Spice Mix (starting point)

  • 2 tbs chili powder and/or cayenne pepper (use only cayenne for more spiciness, or only chili powder for a more rounded seasoning, or a combination of both to get it spiced to your preference)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbs smoked paprika or regular paprika
  • 1-2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1-2 tbs smoked salt or kosher salt

A lot of people think of spices as mystical things you keep in the pantry and add when a recipe calls for it. Change that mindset! Spice mixes are your chance to make a dish seasoned to your personal preference, or add a new twist. Mix all your spice mix ingredients in a separate bowl and then TASTE IT before adding it to the chili. Take a pinch of your mix and sprinkle it on your tongue. Keep in mind that the intensity will be more muted once it’s mixed in, but the mix should still taste good to you! Just like your food, your spice mix's flavor should be balanced.

If it's flavorless and uninteresting, add more salt first before you do anything else. If it’s too spicy, add more of the other spices or some sugar to cut the spice. If it’s too bitter, add more brown sugar and salt. If you like your chili smokey, add more smoked ingredients. If you like a standard Mexican spice mix, use that and some kosher salt and call it a day.

When you go to add the spice mix to your recipe, don’t add it all at once. Add what you think is a good amount of it. Even if you can’t taste test quite yet because of meat not being cooked enough, trust your senses to know when you’ve got it right. Your vegetables (particularly onions) should take on a bit of the color of the spices, and it should start to smell fragrant but not overpowering. Keep the remainder of the spice mix to add in later if it needs adjustments after you’re able to taste it.

Chili cooking in a pan on the stove.

Chili Cooking Instructions

  1. In a large pot over medium to medium-high heat, add bacon pieces. Cook until bacon is about â…” of the way cooked and lightly browned (8-10 minutes).
  2. Add in ground beef. Lightly sprinkle beef with about 1tbs kosher salt. Cook beef over medium-high heat until browned. Break it up and shift the beef around with a wood spoon as needed to cook the ground beef evenly (6-8 minutes). While the beef and bacon cook during steps 1 and 2, prep your vegetables.
  3. Once the beef has browned, reduce heat to medium and add the diced onion, peppers, and garlic. Add the spice mix, using your senses to add a good amount of it (see spice mix instructions for details), stirring to incorporate the spices. Then make a well in the middle of your meat and vegetables that goes all the way to the bottom of the pan. Spoon the tomato paste into the well so it is sitting directly on the bottom of the pan (on top of some beef + bacon fat is fine).
  4. Let the tomato paste sit in the center of the pan for 4-5 minutes until it turns a brick red color. This will allow the tomato paste to “toast” a bit, introducing some deep caramelization flavor to your chili. If needed, you can stir the meat and vegetables around the outside of the pot while the tomato paste toasts.
  5. Add the wine and broth mixture OR bottle of beer, squeeze the lime over the chili, and mix. Simmer for a few minutes to allow the alcohol and acid to cook down.
  6. While the tomato paste caramelizes and the alcohol is cooking off, prepare your tomatoes and beans. Empty the can of plum tomatoes into a small bowl. Dunk your hand in and crush each tomato underneath the sauces so it doesn’t squirt everywhere. Squeeze them in the palm of your hand until it squishes out of between your fingers (it is super satisfying). Strain and rinse your 2 cans of beans.
  7. Add the 1 1/2 c beef broth, tomatoes, beans, and cocoa and stir. Over low heat, bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 1.5 hours. If the chili becomes too thick, add more beef broth as needed. About halfway through simmering, do a taste test to make sure your seasoning is where you want it to be. If it isn’t, add more of the spice mixture, individual spices and/or more salt to your taste.
  8. Serve with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro or green onion, a slice of lime, and some Maldon’s flaky salt!

Jacy Rittmer

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