Chili Van Horn

Thursday, March 16, 2006

You know. I haven't shared a recipe in awhile....

This recipe, like my gumbo, is always a hit. Unlike my gumbo, my wife will actually eat it, so I get to enjoy this a lot more often.

The recipe has humble -- and some who remember my college days might even say "disreputable" -- origins. It was the first thing I learned to cook when I was away from home for college. The basic recipe was fine, being from a small cookbook that came with a crock pot. It was the execution that was sorely lacking. We'll just say that I have since learned that draining ground beef after cooking it adds a certain je ne sais quoi.

Over the years, I have modified the recipe extensively. I began adding dill after I enjoyed a picante sauce in Mesquite, Texas, that included dill. I don't recall how I got the idea of adding the barbecue sauce, but it worked. The Ro-Tel and tomato sauce were an emergency substitution for ordinary canned diced tomatoes I made once when in a hurry and out of stock. That worked very well. The cayenne was also my idea during a capsaicin machismo phase. My wife normally makes me cut back on that quite a bit.

The chili is universally described, with its sweet barbecue sauce and dill background, as "tasty". As I recently told my friend Martin, a fan of hot peppers, the cayenne can be varied and, I am sure, replaced to good effect with other peppers by someone who is more of a connoisseur than I am. I think that the sweetness of the barbecue sauce and the flavor of the dill nicely balance any hot flavors.

Until very recently, this recipe was a secret.

1. Brown and drain:

  • 2-2.5 lbs ground beef.
2. Chop and add:
  • one small onion or half of one large onion.
3. Mince and add
  • clove(s) of garlic to taste.
4. Add the following canned ingredients:
  • 2 cans Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and peppers or equivalent
  • 2 cans tomato sauce
  • 2 cans kidney beans, including juice.
5. Add the following seasonings:
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dill (fresh optional)
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 cup catsup-based barbecue sauce with brown sugar (Follow links for suggestions.)
6. Mix thoroughly and simmer for 15-20 minutes after the first bubbling occurs at the surface, stirring
every 5 minutes.

7. Variations: Try fresh dill. Add a chopped, ripe tomato or two. Vary the spices as noted above. And please let me know whether you have any successful experiments! I eat mine with crackers.

Bon appétit!

-- CAV


Toiler said...

You're in the company of greats, Gus. My absolute favorite chile recipe comes from the famous Silver Palate Cookbook, and its most distinctive ingredient is dill -- lots of it. I hadn't seen any other recipe like it until you posted this. Maybe this calls for a cook-off between those New Yorkers up at the Silver Palate and a real, live Texan.

Gus Van Horn said...


Good! Sounds like you'll enjoy this, then! Let me know if there was enough dill for you.

You accidentally remind me of something I forgot to mention. People like me who use beans in our chili will occasionally take flack from self-proclaimed "purists" who claim that "'real chili' doesn't have beans". Never mind them. That's just a bunch of hoo-hah!

(And this remark might draw out some interesting comments from visitors who drop in from the next Carnival of the Recipes! Hee, hee!)


Anonymous said...

This probably won't make the purists happy, but all your recipe needs, in my opinion, is grated cheese added after dishing up! And crackers with it sounds great.

Gus Van Horn said...


Ooooh! We're a helping of pasta away from being within a stone's throw of Cincinnati Chili territory!

Come to think of it, I have a good recipe for that, too, although it's not my own. (It's not the one at the above link.)

In any case, I hope you enjoy it!