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The best part about writing a food blog is talking with folks about their favorite recipes. Last week, I was frustrated by a meal plan that looked similar to what I had been buying, cooking and eating for weeks. A quick poll on Facebook was enough to remind me about a great pumpkin soup I like to make this time of year, comforting cabbage rolls, and chili. Chili! I hadn’t made one for ages, and there’s no good reason– I have a great recipe, it is easy as anything, and it always tastes so good, especially when you stash it away for a few days. My recipe uses ground beef, kidney beans, medium heat from jalapenos and deep, dark stout. It’s crock pot friendly, but easy enough to do on the stovetop.

We have been buying ground beef from Crowd Cow; I am consistently impressed by the quality and flavor of our purchases. If you are in the western US, I can’t recommend them enough. I find the ground beef they sell is just fatty enough to work very well here– you don’t have to drain off extra grease– and stays tender and flavorful. For kidney beans, I use a can, though you could cook them up yourself. Pinto and cannelini make fine substitutes for kidney beans, if needed. When available, I use jalapenos I pickle myself to provide a little heat. The pickling mellows them some, and I don’t mind the fire to begin with. You can use canned jalapenos or a few diced fresh, with or without seeds. I wouldn’t leave them out altogether, but feel free to dial it down if you are concerned about heat. And now for the stout. It just seems to make this chili, adding depth and flavor I can’t replicate without it. The chili does not taste “beery” at all. Look for an imperial stout without vanilla notes, which can make it too sweet, but a coffee or chocolate note won’t hurt your chili a bit. Guinness is an easy-to-find classic in most areas.

My strategy with chili is to make it Saturday and put it in the refrigerator until at least Sunday night, usually mid-week. It heats up quickly and easily, and you can freeze a portion for up to 3 months if you want. When you are ready to serve, a garnish of shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, scallions– or all of the above– makes for a hearty, delicious dinner. I am so glad I asked my Facebook group about meal planning– thanks again, Julie, for reminding me how fantastic it is to have a pot of chili bubbling away on the stove.

stout chili

Stout Chili (serves 6-10)

  • 1 T. canola oil
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 T. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 oz. pickled jalapenos, diced
  • 12 oz. stout (I use Narwhal Imperial, Lagunitas Imperial or Guinness)
  • 6 – 7 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 28 oz. can of fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, scallions to garnish

Heat a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the canola oil, then the ground beef. Use a wooden spoon to break the meat up. Cook for a few minutes, then add the onions, stir, and cook for 5-10 mins, until the beef is brown. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt and cook for another 1-2 mins. Stir in the jalapenos, then the stout. The beer will foam up at first; stir until it settles down, then add the tomato paste and fire-roasted tomatoes, with all the juices from the canned tomatoes, and the kidney beans. Stir to combine and wait for the chili to start bubbling. When it does, lower the heat to medium, cover the pot, leaving a steam vent on one side, and simmer for 30 mins. At that point, you can taste and adjust seasoning to serve immediately… but it really is better to cool completely, allow the chili to meld in the refrigerator for a day or three, and reheat and serve then. Whatever you decide, this is a mighty fine bowl.