Dawn’s NOT Award-Winning Spicy Chili

Ed convinced me to enter my chili in a chili cook-off, and I immediately got to work on concocting a recipe. After much tweaking and experimentation and a little heartburn, I came up with what I believed to be a very strong contender: chili with a decent thickness, sufficiently spicy but not make-you-cry-spicy, and layered southwestern flavors, both subtle and complex. I tried to incorporate the best elements of my favorite chili recipes, and I felt good about my entry.

But I didn’t win. I can be a gracious loser if I believe my opponent is truly better than me in the arena. Totally fixed but whatever. I was not a gracious loser. My family, however, gave me their own made up out of pity very sweet People’s Choice Award, since my pot of chili was the most empty out of 20+ pots. That has to count for something, right?

For the big competition, I used dried beans because the texture is just immeasurably better than canned. However, for a normal Wednesday night, I have no problem using canned beans. Just be sure to rinse and drain really well. Grated cheese, sour cream, and cornbread are essential partners here. Beer won’t hurt, either.

Like most of my recipes, this one isn’t so much of an exact science — more like some loose guidelines. Try it, and who knows? Maybe yours will actually win a real award.

1 lb. ground beef

1 onion, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

1 large can pureed tomatoes

1/2 can or bottle of lager or light beer

1/2 cup brewed coffee

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1/4 to 1/2 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (see picture above)

2 cans dark red kidney beans

1 can corn

In a large dutch oven, brown the ground beef. Do not drain fat. Add chopped onion and yellow pepper and cook about five minutes. Add tomatoes, beer, coffee and all seasonings. Simmer another five minutes. Coarsely chop about 1/4 of the chipotles and add them to the mixture, including the adobo sauce and the chopped jalapeno. Add kidney beans and corn, and cook over very low heat (or in a crockpot) for at least one hour. Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, and cornbread.


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