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Posted on Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 7 a.m.

Ancient Webster secret recipe revealed: chili con carne

By Jessica Webster


You can use avocado and shredded cheese to cut the heat on spicy chili.

Jessica Webster |

I am pretty confident about my chili-making abilities. Cocky, even. I make delicious chili. It's spicy, but not in a burn-your-mouth kind of way. More like a warm, lingering heat with a depth to it. (See, I told you I like my chili.)

I have considered keeping my chili recipe shrouded in mystery. People could ask me what the magic ingredients are, and I could respond with a sly smile and say it's an "ancient Webster secret!" But I am terrible at keeping secrets. I am about as bad at keeping secrets as I am good at making chili.


My three favorite hot sauces: Clancy's Fancy, Frank's Red Hot and Cholula.

Jessica Webster |

I am quite aware my chili recipe would get me laughed out of Texas, the birthplace of chili con carne. Texas chili contains no beans, an ingredient that replaced or augmented meat as the chili recipes traveled north and east away from cattle country in the early part of the last century. Tomatoes, too, can get you kicked out of Texas chili contests. But here in Michigan, both are quite acceptable.

I like my chili to be quite spicy, but it's easy enough to cool it down by using the lower end of the recommended chili powder and hot pepper sauce amounts, or by eliminating the jalapenos or replacing them with less potent peppers. The poblano pepper adds a nice flavor and can be easily roasted in a toaster oven or under the broiler.

Fresh andouille and chorizo sausage can usually be found at the butcher counter of your grocery store, but I have found that it's useful to call ahead to make sure. Sparrow Meat Market in Kerrytown also usually has both in stock.

My recipe calls for the use of a slow cooker, but you can just as easily cook it all in a stockpot, making sure to keep an eye on the chili as it simmers and stirring occasionally.

Jessica's Chili Con Carne
Loosely adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 1975 edition


2-3 teaspoons bacon drippings or olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, diced
1 roasted poblano pepper, cut into ribbons
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
3/4 pound fresh andouille or chorizo sausage, with casings removed
1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes (or 6-7 fresh chopped plum tomatoes)
4 cans of beans, rinsed. I use black and pinto beans in equal amounts.
3/4 teaspoon or more salt
2-3 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2-3 tablespoons hot sauce. I use a combination of Franks, Clancy's Fancy and Cholula


1. Heat the drippings or olive oil in a large frying pan and saute the onion, garlic and jalapeno peppers before adding the ground beef and sausage. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon as it browns.

2. Turn the contents of the frying pan out into a slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well. Cover and cook on low for three hours or longer. The longer it cooks, the thicker it becomes and the better it tastes. 

3. Serve with cilantro, shredded queso fresco, avocado and sour cream. Or serve it Cincinnati-stye over cooked spaghetti garnished with chopped onions or shredded cheese.

Serves eight to 12.

Jessica Webster leads the Food & Drink section for You can reach her at



Jessica Webster

Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 2:44 a.m.

Note: I often add quite a bit of red wine to the pot at the beginning - up to half a bottle of whatever I have on hand (which is usually pinot noir or Cabernet). You can also use a few cups of beef stock.

David Bardallis

Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 2:54 p.m.

Yum! I like to use a nice dark doppelbock when I make chili. Never thought of throwing andouille in there, though. Sounds like a great idea!

Peggy Lampman

Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 8:41 a.m.

Man oh man, Jessica. Bacon, sausage,poblanos & cocoa??? This looks incredible and I can't wait to make it!!! Thanks for sharing your secret!!!


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 11:49 a.m.

I'm from Texas and I use tomatoes and beans in my chili. Everyone I know does. The idea that you can't use beans or tomatos is from those big heads on the chili contest circuit who make meat slop that burns your stomach and numbs your tongue. They give Texans a bad name! Your chili recipe is almost the same as mine, but I use lots of cumin and don't add sausage, although its a great idea. The cocoa powder puzzles me though!