let’s just not talk about the cornbread, ok?

Very few videogames actually have an “I Win” button.  Granted, every game that pits player against player will have an array of finishing moves, and every once in a while one of them will make it to launch in a woefully overpowered state.  If the game is patchable, you know this ability will be nerfed to the ground soon enough (especially if it benefits mages), or if it’s Starcraft, everyone will just choose the Zerg, forever.

But most of them time, what seems like a quick “I Win” was actually the result of the right ingredients, intense preparation and timing. Often (especially when I’m playing), any “I Win” scenarios are pure luck, and could never be repeated.  Luckily for us all, that doesn’t apply when the game is cooking, and I take notes.

“I Win” Button Harvest Chili

(makes 6 quarts)

The “I Win” button, here, is the second time you turn on the crockpot (yes, I said second). Sure, it will take another 5-8 hours until you can savour your victory – but once you dip your spoon in you’ll know it was worth the wait.

I should note that I have a 6 quart crockpot, and this recipe filled it.  If you have a smaller crockpot, you should buy a larger one. But in the meantime, maybe halve the recipe?

The Ingredients

The Beans

  • 1 lb dried black beans
  • 2 pork (or ham hocks)

The Maillard/Carmelization Consortium

  • 1/2 lb bacon – cut into 1/4″ pieces
  • 5 pound beef chuck roast
  • salt, pepper
  • 5 small onions – diced
  • 3 medium onions – diced
  • 10 cloves garlic – minced (just use the whole bell, you lazy bum)
  • 1/4 cup chili power
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin

The Dump-Ins

  • 2 bell peppers (preferably colours more interesting than green) – diced
  • 3 pimento peppers – diced (you could substitute an extra bell pepper, here)
  • hot pepper assortment – diced fine (I used 4 yellow banana peppers and 2 jalapenos, and my chili had some heat but was perhaps a little mild for my taste — of course, it’s much easier to fix too-mild chili than burn-your-face-off-this-is-too-hot-to-taste chili)
  • 7 medium tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons oregano leaves, minced (or 1 teaspoon dried)

The Method

The evening before

  1. If using pork hocks, roast at 400F for 1 hour.  If using ham hocks, skip this step.
  2. While pork is roasting, wash and sort beans (no need to pre-soak).  Full disclosure — to add variety to my chili, I used a pound of black and a pound of pinto beans.  The next morning, I took half out and froze them, to save time in future.
  3. When pork is browned and delicious-looking, add hocks and beans to crockpot. Fill close to the top with water, and cook on low overnight (8-9 hours or so).

The morning of

  1. Trim as much external fat as you can from roast. Rub with salt and pepper.
  2. Cut tomatoes in half around the equator. Using your fingers, extract seeds and gel into sieve over bowl to capture juice. Core and roughly chop the tomato meat.
  3. Drain beans, discarding cooking water.
  4. Remove and discard pork hocks — if you have a dog, this might be a good time to make him your BFF forever (or, even more so than normal).
  5. Over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp.  Transfer to paper-towel lined plate, and reserve all but 2 tablespoons of bacon grease.  Please use a cast iron pan for this.
  6. Heat pan to high. Sear chuck roast on all sides.
  7. Transfer roast to cutting board, and cut into 1-inch chunks, removing large internal tracts of fat as you go (any fat you don’tremove now, you’ll need to skim off the top before serving, which is a pain).
  8. Add bacon and beef to beans in crockpot.
  9. Heat pan back up to medium,  add remaining bacon grease. Add onions, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and 1 teaspoon salt, and saute until the onions are softened (10-15 mins).
  10. Dump pan contents into crockpot, return pan to heat, add strained tomato juice (give the gel in the sieve a quick spin to extract more) and deglaze.  Pour juice into crockpot.
  11. Add the dump-ins to crockpot, giving the tomatoes a good crush on their way in.  Stir to fully combine everything. The contents might look a little dry, but don’t be tempted to add liquid. Once the tomatoes heat up, they will provide all the juice you require.
  12. Turn crockpot on again (you win!). Cook on HIGH for 5 hours or so, or LOW for 8-10 until the beef is tender.  Over the course of the day, (after the first hour, so the beef is cooked) taste for spice/seasonings.  If it’s too mild, add some heat in the form of more chilis, or dried red pepper. Add more salt/pepper/sugar if necessary.
  13. Serve however you like to eat chili. I like it with cornbread, but not the kind that I don’t want to talk about today. Also, avocados, fresh cilantro, and sour cream can be appreciated in this situation.

The Notes

  • Part of the magic of this recipe is that it uses so many of the veggies that are ripe and ready in my garden/CSA this time of year.   The only “vegetable” that I bought from the store was the beans.
  • Chili, really, is about improvisation to a large extent — if you don’t have the exact stuff that I have listed here, feel free to add/subtract.  I, personally, was really tempted to add a bunch of the CSA carrots that I don’t do a good job eating on their own.
  • I’m in love with the fact that the secret to good beef chili seems to be the addition of multiple pork products.
  • I’m pretty sure I’m never going back to ground beef in my chili. I’ll do vegetarian (though, I don’t know how I’ll work around the lack of pork product), or chunks.  No more compromises.
  • As always, if you try this out, please let me know what you think!


  1. Xteen B Sep 22

    Um, any recipe that begins with “the evening before” equals FAIL for me. But I totally agree with the pork as secret ingredient. Yum. Pork fat!

  2. tph Sep 22

    I can totally see where you’re coming from there — but if you’re going to do a crockpot style thing anyways, what’s the harm in starting before you go to bed (instead of right after you wake up) ^_^

    You could always just buy canned beans and add them part way through cooking, too.