Monday, October 31, 2011

Award-Winning Strike Force Chili

My husband works. A lot.  Like left for work at 2am on Friday and didn't get home until 4pm kind of work.  Like my husband calls me on his way home to greatly increase the amount we talk in a day kind of work.  So when they announced that the winner of the Fall Festival's Chili Cook-off would win a three day DONSA (that's Day Of No Scheduled Activities for all you non-military friends), I said to my FRG leader "sign me up for the company."  Sure, there can only be two entries for the entire company, and I'd be up against eleven other entries.  Sure, I've never actually made chili.  This did not deter me... I was going to win.

After hours searching the internet, videos of chili cooking watched, at least 50 recipes considered from everywhere from America's Test Kitchen to Food Network to googling "award winning chili" and seeing what I could find, I decided on a one-two hook of combining the best from four separate recipes and hoping for the best.  I decided on a Texas-style no beans chili.  And it turned out awesomely.

Thanks to America's Test Kitchen, The Barefoot Contessa, some random website that told me to cook it the night before and (reputable, no?) for the resources.  I totally won.  Extra day off for my husband and all of the Headquarters Company.  I know I need it.  I'm sure my husband does, too.  And all the rest of the people?  You're welcome.

I didn't take pictures of every step of the way, so below you will find the "long version" of the recipe.  Sorry.

Award-Winning Strike Force Chili
Serves: 30 testers or 6-8 regular people

1 lb bacon, cut into small pieces (1 inch?)
5 lbs chuck roast trimmed and cut into small cubes (1 inch?)
1 white onion, diced fine
1/4 cup chili powder
1 heaping tbs minced fresh garlic
1 heaping tbs Ancho Chile Pepper
1 tbs cumin (I used roasted cumin)
1 tbs oregano
1tbs smoked paprika
1 tbs kosher salt
1 tbs pepper
(3) 4 oz cans diced green chilis
2.5 cups apple cider (originally called for Corona Beer, although apparently tastes very similar)
(1) 28oz can diced tomato
(1) 6oz can tomato paste
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped finely
*optional, and added later* 2 tbs Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (yup, the stuff that's $.79).
  • In a dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pan cook bacon until bacon is slightly crispy (about 8 minutes)
  • Set bacon on paper towels and reserve for later
  • Drain all but 3 tbs bacon fat, then add half of reserved fat back into pan to heat
  • Pat beef cubes with paper towels to dry meat (which is very Julia Childs), and season with additional salt and pepper
  • Add 1/2 (ish) of the beef to the same pan (medium heat) and sear meat on every side (about 8 minutes) NOTE: some people might think "this is ridiculous, I'm just going to add it all."  The reason you don't do this is that the beef on the top gets smoked instead of seared.  That makes it gray, and just not have the right texture.
  • Repeat (without crowding) until all beef is cooked, and set aside
  • Use the SAME PAN without washing or anything, and add onion to pan and cook until soft - making sure to scrape all that "fond" off the bottom, which is seasoning gold
  • Add garlic and spices and cook for 30 seconds (until spices are fragrant)
  • Stir in the rest of the ingredients and bring mixture to a boil
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for an hour
  • Skim the fat off the top and continue to simmer, uncovered for 45 minutes, until meat is tender
  • If, at this point, you think the chili is too thin (I thought so), take a ladle of chili out and place it in a bowl.  Add 2 tbs Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix to bowl of chili and stir.  Microwave bowl for about a minute, and add the thickened chili back to the pot. Stir again.
  • Simmer another 10 minutes.  Serve and be happy.
NOTE: I took a break after the initial hour of simmering and refrigerated.  This could be done at any time (it really does blend the flavors well) or, obviously, if you don't have time for this step, you don't have time for this step. :)

Hooray for days off work!


  1. Good job! You guys certainly deserve a day off. Yay!

  2. I'm making my grandma's chili today, but I'm totally going to try your recipe sometime soon. No beans? Baking chocolate? I'm curious! Congratulations, Ginger!