Red Eye Chili

This is my third chili post, and as you may have gathered, I love chili.  More than the end result, I love the process of making chili the most.  It’s a complex dish, aggressively seasoned, highly diverse, and yet subtle in all the right ways.  A pinch of this, a dash of that… it all adds up in the end.  The smell of the meat simmering in a rich concoction of peppers, tomatoes, beans, southwest spices, chocolates, broths, powders… watching it darken as it reduces…
It’s enchanting and perfect for those of us who love to cook.

To recap:

My first chili post was a complex creature in which the sauce is similar to a Mexican mole: rich with dried peppers, chocolate and complex flavors.  My second post was a quick version: to produce a great chili without complicating things too much, and spending too much time.  This version will lie somewhere in the middle.  Complex, multi-step, yet easier to balance.

Red eye chili.  The name itself is enticing.  Red eye gravy is a traditional pork based southern sauce, is normally thin, and its dominant flavor profile is strong coffee.  Hence, red eye.  Normally, it accompanies ham steak, biscuits or grits, but ‘red eye’ can refer to any dish made with coffee.  It’s cheap but tastes great.  Red eye chili is my version of chili with coffee.  It’s delicious.


1 large yellow onion, medium dice
1 lb ground bison
1 lb ground beef 90/10
1 lb ground pork
4 tbsp minced garlic
2 cups strong black coffee
1 8oz bottle regular coke
3 jalapenos, thin sliced
10 each assorted Mexican/south west dried chili peppers, stems removed
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups tomato puree or sauce
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can black beans, drained
4 tbsp dark chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 stick cinnamon
1 bunch cilantro
2 cups rich beef broth (if using canned, use low sodium, and reduce 4 cups to 2)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
kosher salt
ground black pepper


In a small sauce pot, begin warming the tomato puree along with all the dried pepper.  Bring to a simmer and let simmer while you are making starting the rest of the chili.

In a medium stock pot, begin browning the meat in the vegetable oil.  As it browns, stir and break it up with a wooden spoon.  Add the onions, peppers and garlic.  Cook until well browned and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Season with salt and pepper, add half the chili powder and all the cumin.  Add the beans, coke and coffee.  Bring to a boil and reduce slightly.

Transfer the tomato puree with peppers to a blender and add half the cilantro.  Puree until very smooth.  Add to the beef, along with the tomato paste and diced tomatoes.  Mix well.  Add the cinnamon stick, brown sugar, the rest of the chili powder and more salt.  Bring to a simmer and add the beef broth.

Bring to a low simmer and cook for approximately 3 hours, or until very thick.  Check seasoning.

Serve right away.

Best served with avocados, shredded lettuces, queso fresco or shredded cheddar, rice and lime wedges.


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