Around the Island

Food column: Tweaking a classic recipe

For years, my children have heard that I make a fantastic chili, but they had come to doubt its existence.

The recipe I work with is based on the Silver Palate Cookbook’s Chili for a Crowd, and we rarely have a gathering that will justify this undertaking, designed to produce 35 to 40 portions.

Despite large groups rarely gathering these days for health reasons, I decided recently to make my version of this great recipe and prove the doubters wrong.

A crucial first step, I will share with you, is to buy a good supply of containers to save portions in the freezer.

The ingredients, some of which I added to the original, are as follows:


•   ½ cup best quality olive oil

•    1 ½ pounds yellow onions,
      coarsely chopped

•    2 pounds hot Italian sausage meat,
      removed from casings

•    3 packages (1 ½ pounds each)
      meat loaf mixture — pork, veal, beef

•    2 chorizo links, sliced thin

•    1 ½ Tbsp. fresh ground black pepper

•    2 cans, 12 oz. each, tomato paste

•    2 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic

•    1 ½ oz. ground cuminseed

•    2 ½ oz. plain chili powder

•    ½ cup prepared Dijon-style mustard

•    4 Tbsp. salt

•    4 Tbsp. dried basil

•    4 Tbsp. dried oregano

•    4 ½ pounds canned Italian plum tomatoes,  
      drained (about 2 cans, each 2 pounds,
      3 ounces before draining)

•    ½ cup Burgundy wine

•    ¼ cup lemon juice

•    ½ cup chopped fresh dill

•    ½ cup chopped Italian parsley

•    5 shishito peppers, diced

•    2 cans, 16 ounces each, dark red kidney
      beans, drained

•    1 can, 5 ½ ounces, pitted black
      olives, drained

•    Oil from a 2-ounce can of anchovies
      in olive oil

•    Grated cheddar cheese, sour cream,
      chopped scallions for garnish


1. Heat olive oil in a very large soup kettle. Add onions and the oil from the anchovies and cook over low heat, covered, until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes.

2. Crumble the sausage meat and ground meat into the kettle, add chorizo and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until meats are well-browned.

3. Over low heat stir in black pepper, tomato paste, garlic, cuminseed, chili powder, mustard, salt, basil and oregano.

4. Add drained tomatoes, Burgundy, lemon juice, dill, parsley, drained kidney beans and shishito peppers. (To increase heat, add hot chili oil or habanero peppers instead of shishitos.) Stir well and simmer, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.

5. Taste and correct seasoning.  Add olives, simmer for another 5 minutes to heat through, and serve immediately. Put garnishes out for guests to add individually. Even better if warmed and served the next day.

My skeptical children — even my son the chef — were finally persuaded this great chili was real, and enjoyed several helpings. The rest is stored in freezer containers that can carry us through the winter. Or we may stick bows on top and drop some off as Christmas gifts.