Kirk’s Almost Famous Chili Recipe

Photo courtesy of
‘Chillli! Chille? Chili?’
courtesy of ‘goodcatmum’

If last weekend told you anything, it’s that cold weather is right around the corner. I’m writing, dear reader, to inform you of a method of defense against chill.  I want to bestow upon you a chili recipe that will warm your body and soul.  A chili recipe that is, as of last night, award winning. A chili recipe that has never been written down, before. My very own “Kirk’s Almost Famous Chili Recipe,” winner of the 2009 Miriam’s Kitchen Chili Cookoff.

My recipe is a bastardized Cincinnati style chili. Cincinnati style is sweeter and more complex than its Texan cousin.  It’s more about the spices than about the types and amount of chilis that go into it.  This isn’t to say that it’s weak or anything, it’s just different. What I tried to do was marry the complexity of Cincinnati chili with the beefiness and savor of Texas chili.

It should come out with a subtly sweet broth that has a slow burn towards the back of the throat.  There are hints of bourbon and cinnamon that go very nicely with the change in season and make the chili palatable enough to be eaten without rice or corn bread. Ideally, everything will come out in balance: sweet, but not too sweet and spicy, but not too spicy. And yes, it has beans.  Sorry, purists.

I decided to go with brisket for my meat.  It’s a staple of Texas bar-b-que, but it works beautifully for stewing.  The cut is dense, with a thick layer of fat over the top of it. The fat cooks into the meat, making it moist and tender after a few hours of simmering.

A note: When I make chili, I don’t exactly parse out the spices with a spoon, so these measurements are approximations. Improvise and taste frequently after the first hour (try to avoid testing before this, as the meat may be undercooked). Honestly, half the fun of making chili is experimentation.

Without further ado, the recipe:

Step 1
2 lbs Brisket – cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 large onion – chopped
2 tbs butter
3 medium to large cloves garlic
1 tbs oil

-Over medium heat, melt the butter in a large pan
-Add the onion to the butter and saute until slightly translucent
-Press the garlic into the pan and saute with the onions
-Add to stock pot
-Over medium heat, heat the oil in large pan
-Brown the brisket in the oil, drain, add to stock pot (you’ll probably want to do this in two batches)

Step 2
5 oz Beef Stock
5 oz chicken stock
2 oz bourbon
10 oz crushed tomatoes
6 oz darker brown beer (I used Founders’ Dirty Bastard)
2tbs Cumin
3 tbs red chili powder
1 tbs ancho chili powder
2 tbs Mexican style chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Tabasco

-Add the wet and dry ingredients to the stock pot, stir until combined
-Over high heat, bring to a boil, turn to low and cover
-Allow to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally

Step 3
12 oz Kidney beans
2 oz bourbon
1 tbs of cumin
1 tbs onion powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs light brown sugar
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce


-Add the wet and dry ingredients, stir until combined
-Continue simmering for 1-1.5 hours or until meat is tender

During this second hour, you need to begin using your discretion. You need to be tasting you sauce to determine what ingredients you need to add.  Stick with the spices and additives that you’ve already used and determine if you need more of any particular ingredient.  In particular, pay attention the Worcestershire sauce, sugar, cumin, Tabasco.  I’ve purposely kept the measurements for these at slightly less than what you will need, because over doing any one of them can ruin your chili. If your batch ends up too thick (almost impossible), add some beef stock and beer to thin it.  If it ends up overpoweringly flavorful, add some beans and tomato to chill it out. If it ends up too spicy serve it over rice to balance the heat. Just think creatively about what you need to do.

Once the meat is tender, you can serve this chili immediately, but I prefer to refrigerate it over night.  It basically marinades in itself, which blends and develops the flavors.

So, there you have it: my own personal chili recipe.  It beat out 13 or so other contenders at the Miriam’s Kitchen Chili Cookoff (an awesome event, by the way.  Tons of food, beer and really fantastic people.  Go next year). Enjoy it, and keep warm this fall.

Kirk is a Maine-born, military brat who moved no fewer than 12 times during his childhood. He came to the DC area in 2004 for his undergrad and decided that it was the place for him. Since graduating, he’s nabbed a job with the Fed and spends most of his free time hunting for cheap thrills in the city. Find out why he loves DC.

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