Chili – My Version

Chili purists, no complaints please. I know that for some people making
chili is a way of life. Any major, and sometimes minor, alterations to
the recipe are utter blasphemy. My culinary background is diverse and
I’m from the NW, with roots in both the midwest and SE Asia so I can
claim no tried and true family recipe for chili that has been handed down through the generations. In fact, the recipe from my mother and grandmother included instructions for use of canned beans and a chili
spice packet. It served me well through college and in my early adult
years. Recently, I decided to brave the realm of whole dried chillies
and go sans flavor packets.

I wanted to make something tasty and I achieved it. If you’re a purist, you can argue that this may not be
true chili. I used beans, meat, didn’t use the traditional kidney beans,
etc, etc, etc. I don’t care, I used what I like and it turned out
pretty fantastic. My gaming group (a crowd of sometimes picky
meateaters) all went back for thirds or more. I consider it a success. I’ve used porcini and portobello mushrooms for added flavor and thickness to the chili. I promise, you won’t even know there’s mushrooms in this dish. They just add some extra depth of flavor and meatyness.

Thogg and I spent most of today talking about the wonderful chili we had last
night. I think this recipe gets multiple thumbs up. This dish, after cooking in the crock pot all day, turned into a very thick and hearty chili. We even had spanish rice to go on the side. Thank you Todd for that addition.

One thing I’ll warn you is that this recipe was made
using what I had on hand. Substitutions may be in order. For example if you don’t have dried porcinis you can omit them and use a little extra chicken broth in place of the porcini soaking liquid.  This recipe is designed so that
you prep the ingredients the night before and then turn the crock pot on
in the morning. You’ll have a delicious chili ready to eat by dinner time.


  • 1 pound dried pinto beans – soaked in water for 8 hours+
  • 2 handfulls of dried mild chiles (I used a mix of Ancho, Guijillo and Goliath) – soaked in water for 8 hours
  • 4 Tbs corn meal
  • 3 heaped tsp dried oregano
  • 3 heaped tsp ground cumin
  • 3 heaped tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 cup of porcini soaking liquid (from soaking dried porcinis)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 medium to large onions – roughly chopped
  • 1 large shallot – roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic – chopped
  • 1x 32oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tsp dark molasses
  • 1.5 lbs extra lean ground meat (I had pork on hand but chicken, turkey, or beef would work too)
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms – gills scraped off and discarded
  • 1 bottle of good beer (I used a belgian tripple with corriander)
  • small hand full of dried porcini pieces – soaked for 8 hours and roughly chopped


  • Remove the soaked porcini mushrooms from the soaking liquid. Give them a rough chop. Remove the gills from the portobello mushrooms using a spoon. Give them a rough chop, you can peel the stems and use those too. Set all the mushrooms aside. Carefully pour off the liquid, and discard any of the precipitate in the bottom. Reserve 1 cup of the soaking liquid. In a food processor, blend the cornmeal, oregano, cumin and cocoa powder. Add enough of the porcini soaking liquid to puree into a liquidy paste. Transfer the paste into a small bowl, and set aside.
  • If you have the time, toast the dried chiles in a pan before soaking. I didn’t do this step but it adds a more complex flavor to the chili. Remove the soaked chiles from their liquid. Using gloves, discard the liquid, remove the stems, seeds and inner membranes from the chillies. Tear them into chunks and place them in the food processor. Pulse to a paste. Remove the chile paste, scraping the sides of the food processor, and set aside in a small bowl.

  • Place the chopped onions and shallot in the food processor. Give it a few pulses until it is chopped like a chunky salsa. Place the pulsed onions in a pan with a little cooking oil and some salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes or until translucent. In the mean time, pulse the garlic, portobello and porcinis until it is finely minced in the food processor. Add this mixture to the onions and cook until it loses most of its moisture. You may need to add a bit more cooking oil. A little bit of caramelisation is good for this step as it adds flavor.
  • When the mixture in the pan is beginning to become dry and starts to take on some color add the oregano mixture. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, and then add the chile puree and molasses. Cook for another few minutes on medium to med-high heat until some of the moisture dissipates. Add the canned tomatoes and bring to a boil. Remove mixture from heat and place in a large crock pot, add the beans (discarding the soaking liquid) and the chicken broth and any remaining porcini liquid not used to make the oregano paste.
  • After scraping the cooking pan very clean, add your ground meat. You may need to add a little cooking oil, depending on how lean your meat is. Cook on medium high heat, breaking up the chunks into very little pieces, until the meat takes on a little color but is only about 2-3 cooked through. Add this to the crock pot.
  • At this point, you can place your crock pot into the fridge overnight.
  • In the morning turn the crock pot on to low heat and cook for 8 hours or until the beans are soft and the chili has thickened. Once the beans have mostly softened, give it a taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. You may need to use a lot of salt if you didn’t use salted canned tomatoes. Serve over rice or tortilla chips.


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