Hungry Bracketologist's Chili

Ah yes, it is the month of March and everyone knows what that means: March Madness! And, Selection Sunday just wouldn’t be the same without steaming bowls of chili while you watch with bated breath as college basketball's top 68 teams are announced for the upcoming NCAA Men's College Basketball tournament bracket. Chili is a definite crowd-pleaser and is easy to serve. You can cook up a huge pot in advance and keep it warm on the stove, so that bracketologists can imbibe all evening long.

Chili is probably the most hyped dish in America, but that is understandable. It is hearty, comforting, full-flavored and satisfying. I can’t think of a single person that doesn’t like chili in some form or fashion. In fact, most folks are highly opinionated about their chili preparation which may explain the vast number of chili competitions still held in the U.S. even when it would seem that every possible variation has been created.

Chili was originally popularized by brightly-dressed Mexican women known as "Chili Queens" who built wood fires to reheat cauldrons of chili in downtown San Antonio during the 1880s. The aroma was a potent sales pitch and mariachi street musicians provided ambiance to the dining experience. People from other parts of the country were introduced to chili at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago where the San Antonio Chili Stand sold bowlfuls of the Texas concoction.

Of course, our chili recipe is by far the best you will ever try. The combination of spices, the addition of cocoa powder and beer and the finishing touch of cornmeal create a spectacular blend of flavors that are sure to please all of your senses. (A mere demonstration of the personal conviction that most cooks have about their own cherished chili recipe!) Anyway, this is our favorite formula for the world’s most popular Super Bowl dish!

  • 2 ½ lb. lean chuck, ground
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (canned is fine*)
  • 1 cup beef broth or water
  • 1 12-oz. bottle of beer
  • 2-3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoons cumin, ground
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons oregano leaves
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon coriander, ground
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 15-oz. cans of kidney beans
  • ½ teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornmeal or corn flour

Heat a large heavy saucepot over high heat, reduce heat to medium and add half of the ground beef. Cook the meat until well browned then drain the fat and set aside. Add the remaining ground beef to the skillet, brown and again drain reserving about 2 tablespoons of the pan juices.

Add the garlic and onion to the reserved liquids in the pot and cook until tender and the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, broth, beer, dry ingredients (except cornmeal) and hot sauce and mix well. Add the browned meat back to the pot and stir to combine all ingredients.

Bring the chili to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours. The chili can be removed to a crockpot or a large oven-safe dutch oven and allowed to cook in a 250 degree F oven for the same amount of time.

If you are making the meal ahead, the chili can be allowed to cool and brought back to temperature. Allowing the chili to cool actually lets the ingredients marry and enhances their flavors.

Place the cornmeal in a non-stick pan and gently toast the meal for about 2 minutes.You can visibly see the cornmeal darken. Remove from the heat and set aside.

About 30 minutes before serving, sprinkle the toasted cornmeal over the top of the chili and stir to incorporate fully. Replace cover and cook for 20-30 minutes more until ready to serve. Serve in your favorite bowls and top with grated cheese and chopped green onions for a hearty meal that is sure to warm the soul and inspire accurate bracket predictions!

* As you can see we used Red Gold® tomatoes. They sent us a variety pack of 6 cans of their tomatoes for us to sample which we used in this recipe. As you can see from the picture they added a gorgeous red color to the dish and a tangy sweetness that would stand up to any San Marzano tomato product on the market.