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Chili Con Carne


Tuscany’s a long way from Terlingua, but Maremma chef Cesare Casella’s Tuscan chili could bring together any Texans and Cincinnatians who show up at your Super Bowl party, to say nothing of Steelers and Seahawks fans. His secret ingredients are dark-roast coffee and bittersweet chocolate. As for the hot-button issue of beans vs. no beans, with apologies to the Texans, it’s a no-brainer (beaner?): You’ve got to have them. Casella soaks his own dried Italian heirloom variety, but canned Goyas will also do.

Illustration by John Burgoyne.  

Cesare Casella’s Tuscan Chili
1 red onion, quartered
1 small carrot, chopped
1 jalapeño, chopped
1 T. fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 T. fresh sage, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 oz. pancetta
8 strips bacon
3 T. olive oil
2 lbs. beef chuck or skirt steak, cut into 1-inch strips
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T. garam masala
16 oz. can plum-tomato purée
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. fennel seed
11/2 T. chili powder
2 cups water
1 small potato, cut into 1/-inch cubes
1 cup brewed coffee
5 cups beef broth
2 cups red or kidney beans
3/4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
For garnish: freshly grated Parmesan, 1 small white onion and 1 avocado, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400. Place onion, carrot, jalapeño, rosemary, sage, celery, garlic, and pancetta in a processor and chop. Place the bacon on a sheet pan and bake in oven until crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove, dry with paper towels, and set aside. Add the olive oil to a large saucepan with the processed ingredients and cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes.
(1) In a large bowl, season the meat with salt and pepper and the garam masala. Add meat to saucepan and continue cooking for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato, cumin, fennel seed, chili powder, potato, and water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the coffee and 2 cups beef broth and cook for 20 minutes, stirring continuously.
(2) Add beans and 1 cup broth and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the remaining broth and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the chocolate and cook for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
(3) Garnish with Parmesan, crumbled bacon, white onion, and avocado.


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