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Playing Ted Allen’s Killer Chili

(NOTE: I don’t use a recipe when I make chili. This is ballparked, and I taste as I go.)

I don’t care what Texas says about chili (and a few other things)—I use both beans and meat. Also, I make it differently every time, so just use this “recipe” as a template, and taste as you go. There’s no way of promising that one or another batch of beans or beef will be tender in XX number of minutes, or that the heat and salt will be exactly where you want them. As we’re always saying on “Chopped,” taste, taste, taste as you go, and adjust to your liking.

Note that this technique for toasting and rehydrating chiles is a fundamental base for many great Mexican and Southwestern stews, and is less about spiciness (although there will be a bit) than it is about smoky, slightly raisin-y flavor.


  • 1 pound black beans, rinsed, picked over, and soaked for a few hours, or quick-soaked in a pressure cooker on high for two minutes
  • 1.5 pounds beef bottom round, cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 1 large yellow onion, ½-inch dice
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • ½ cup dry red wine or beer
  • 3 dried ancho chiles
  • 2 dried guajillo chilies
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes and their juice
  • 2 to 4 cups beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, for starters
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • Cornmeal
For the garnishes:
  • Chopped cilantro, sharp cheddar cheese, scallions, diced jalapenos, diced poblanos, sour cream


In a cast-iron Dutch oven over high heat, preheated for 10 minutes or so, splash a glug of olive oil and brown the beef to a good, hard sear—in batches, if necessary, so as to not overcrowd the pan—about ten minutes per batch. Remove meat and set aside.

In the same pan, reduce heat to medium, add a little more olive oil, and cook the onion until translucent, scraping brown bits off the bottom of the pan, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add wine or beer, and stir, continuing to scrape brown bits. Cook until wine is mostly dehydrated, 5-10 minutes.

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