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Beef Chili with Kidney and Black Beans

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Recipe adapted from The New Best Recipe.  [Recipe serves 8 to 10].

Although I've made my fair share of chilies before, the number of disappointing dishes far exceeds the number of winners.  I remember back to a chili cook-off in college where I made the mistake of underestimating the importance of a good quality ground beef.  The result was essentially a bowl of ground beef with a pool of fat on top; lovely.  Other trials have included the classic modern "secret ingredients" of beer, chocolate, and/or coffee, but the results just didn't do it for me.  Last year I found a great recipe, but the flavors lacked in acidity, which is typically given by tomatoes.  I wanted to find that great tomato-based recipe and finally tackle the dish.

Paging through Cook's Illustrated's bible, I came across what looked to be what I've been waiting for.  The recipe is heavy on the tomatoes, but also has a great flavor profile due to a decent amount of spices and herbs.  Although the recipe calls for dark kidney beans, I decided to do a mix of kidney and black beans and it came out great.  I might even do all black beans next time.  The only other thing I would change for next time is to tone down the heat just a bit.  Right now it's tolerable with a dollop of sour cream, but 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne might be more to my liking.  Either as-is or with a few adjustments, the following recipe is a solid base for a great tomato and beef chili.


2 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil
2 medium onions, chopped fine
1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
(up to) 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef

2 (15-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans and/or black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree

2 limes, cut into wedges
Green onions, sliced on an angle
Sour cream


Heat a large Dutch oven or cast iron pot over medium heat.  Add the oil, followed by the onions, bell pepper, garlic, and spices and herbs.  Stir occasionally for 10 minutes.  [Side note:  If it seems like the spices are sticking to the bottom of the pot, add a few tablespoons of water and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pot].  Increase the heat to medium-high and add half of the beef.  Break apart with a wooden spoon and cook for 4 minutes.  Add the remaining beef and repeat for another 4 minutes.

Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Remove the cover and simmer for an additional 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  If desired, add up to 1/2 cup water to thin the chili out to your desired consistency.  Season to taste, adding up to an additional teaspoon of salt.

Serve with sour cream, green onions, cilantro, and lime wedges.

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