Chili: The “Gumbo of the Midwest”

10 February 2012

By Contributing Food Editor Jared Levan

Dear Chili,

We’ve historically recognized you as a spicy stew made of beef, red chilies/chili powder, tomatoes and beans, but these days it seems you’ve lost that straight-forward sense of identify.

When you look at any number of recipes today, the combinations aren’t limited to just beans and beef. On the contrary, the combinations are practically endless yet they all retain the name chili.

Some have meat and no beans. Some have vegetables and no meat or beans…it reminds me of gumbo, actually. A wise man once described gumbo to me as follows:

“If it crawls, flies, swims or grows, then it belongs in your gumbo.”

In the same way gumbo recipes have been tweaked and embellished to include everything under the sun, so too have the myriad chili recipes you’ll find out there. Case in point: My homemade concoction (below).

Smoky Braised Pork & Beef Chili with Fresh Chimichurri
2 Lb Lean ground beef
1-2 Lb Pork loin
2 x 28 Oz Canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 Yellow onion, chopped
1 Cup Sweet yellow corn, roasted
20 Oz Organic black beans
10 Oz Organic pinto beans
1 Cup Beef stock
1/2 Tbsp Ground cumin
1 Tsp Garlic powder
1 1/2 Tbsp Smoked paprika
2-3 Tbsp Mexican chili powder
1/2 Tbsp Fresh ground black pepper
2 Tsp Sea salt

In a large crockpot, combine crushed tomatoes, paprika and all but 1 tsp of the chili. Season pork loin with black pepper, garlic powder and 1/2 of the salt. Place in tomato mixture, cover and cook on high for 3 hours.

Remove pork from crockpot and reduce to low heat. Allow pork to rest for 5-7 minutes before chopping into small cubes. Meanwhile, sauté onions in 1/2 Tbsp olive oil until translucent. Add ground cumin and remaining chili. Stir to coat and add to crock. In the same pan, brown the beef. Add to crock pot with juices.

Add rinsed beans, reserved pork and corn and allow to cook for an additional 30-45 minutes on low heat to allow flavors to blend.

Classic Chimichurri Sauce
1 Cup cilantro, packed
1 1/2 Cups Italian parsley, packed
1/2 Tbsp Ground cumin
4 Cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 Cup Red wine vinegar
2/3 Cup olive oil

Chop garlic cloves in food processor. Add cilantro, parsley, cumin and process to a paste. With processor running, add vinegar. Add olive oil just until the mixture begins to emulsify; this may take some or all of the olive oil. Store at room temperature and spoon on top of warm chili.

Keep on doing your thing and I’ll keep on eating you by the bowl full, chili.

Happy cooking all.


Jared Levan

3 Comment

  1. Elisa says:

    This sounds amazing. I love chimichurri and my girlfriend loves chili. Perf.

  2. rae says:

    oh lord that looks delicious!

  3. Catherine Soria says:

    Who doesn’t love a good chili! Thanks, Jared

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