This recipe is one of Josh’s favorite meals ever. It’s easy to assemble and gets better with age – if it manages to even make it to becoming leftovers, that is! This secret ingredient in this chili is the Maryland staple spice, Old Bay. If you’re not in the Chesapeake region, you may have a hard time getting your hands on a distinctive little yellow can of the most magnificent spice on earth, but you can order it online if necessary.
What exactly is Old Bay? Here’s a description from the official site:
There are two things you need to know about OLD BAY® Seasoning: 1) it’s great on seafood and 2) it’s great on everything else. For 75 years it’s ruled the spice rack as The Definitive Seafood Spice, with a world-famous blend of 18 herbs and spices.
In Chesapeake Bay area, it’s on every dining room table, nestled between the salt and pepper shakers. But it’s more than that. It’s a time-honored tradition. When somebody whips out the little yellow can, you know you’re in for a good time.
Now that we’ve got that cleared up, here’s what you’ll need for the recipe:
The First Round
The base of the chili is constructed from ground beef, onion, and beer. Besides Old Bay, beer is the most important ingredient in Maryland Chili. I prefer to use a local or seasonal brew (pictured here is a bottle of Flying Dog Hefeweizen, both local AND seasonal), but you can use any wheat beer, pale ale, or stout. I recommend sticking with true beer flavors (wheat, hops, yeast) and avoiding a seriously contemplative IPA, anything spicy (Chai beer is right out), or anything else heavily non-beer flavored (what’s even the point?!).
Different beers yield different results, and my top 3 favorites are the aforementioned Hefe, Flying Dog Dead Rise (an Old Bay flavored beer – iffy for drinking, perfect for cooking, because Maryland, duh), and plain old Guinness. It may be difficult to find Maryland beers outside of the Mid-Atlantic states, but once you’re done crying over that sad, sad fact, head to the liquor store and pick up your favorite wheat or pale ale. Your chili will still be delicious!
If you are truly beer-averse, the chili can be made with beef stock. The flavor will definitely be different but you’ll achieve a similar result.
Construct the Base
First things first: you are going to want to brown a pound of ground beef in your favorite stock pot. When it’s all browned up, drain, and set aside.
Next, leaving all of the good bits from the beef behind, return the pot to heat and add half of a diced onion to the pot. Let sweat over medium heat for about four minutes. Sizzly goodness.
Once the onions have enjoyed their time on the hot seat and are slightly softened, reduce the heat slightly, and add half of the beer to the pan. Feel free to drink the other half 😉
Build the Body
When the steam has settled, and the happy couple is simmering away, re-introduce the beef to the party (don’t worry, they’re all good friends). Turn the heat down to low, and prepare the remaining ingredients for cooking. This part is easy, I promise.
These four players are the remaining ingredients that compose the body of the chili. You are going to want to add a whole can of kidney beans and Cannellini beans (or black beans, or pinto beans, or Great Northern beans, or…) You have some flexibility for the second bean depending on your family’s preferences or whatever you happen to have on hand, but I definitely recommend at least one can of kidney beans.
What the heck is tomato bouillon?!
Tomato bouillon is a lovely powdered tomato product that you can find at a Mexican specialty store or in the Spanish/Mexican section of your favorite grocery store. It adds a brilliant punch of tomato flavor without adding an unnecessary amount of water to a dish. Because of that, I really love to use bouillon in my chili. You can, of course, use a can of Campbell’s tomato soup (without the added water) for a similar effect, but if you can get your hands on bouillon, I highly recommend using that instead. The flavor is so much more smoky, earthy, and all-around wonderful!
Ah… it’s time to make the chili super flavorful and Delicious (with a capital “D”)! For starters, you’re going to want to add chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, and the green Tabasco sauce. I never measure, because that’s pretty much heresy in my book, but for those of you keen on such matters, you’re going to want to start with a tablespoon of the chili powder, salt, and pepper, as well as a a teaspoon of the paprika and cumin, and just a few splashes of Tabasco. Depending on the beer that you use and your personal taste preferences, you will probably want to add a few more sprinkles or dashes of one or two of these. I tend to taste and add rather liberally at this point in the game. But, before you go crazy with the little guys, take a second to add the star of the show…
Add a tablespoon and a half of Old Bay to your stew pot. (Or, if you’re like me, add half the can.) This is going to add a wonderful complex spicy flavor to your chili. Again, you may want to use more depending on your particular tastes. Here are all of the spices mingling, pre-stir:
As you can see, I like to use a LOT of spices in my chili, but I know that that’s not everyone’s deal. On a side note, after the initial stir, I taste tested and went back to add more Old Bay, pepper, and Tabasco. To each our own!
Technically, once the spices are added and the chili is heated through, it is ready to be served. Ninety percent of the time, I serve my chili at this point because it’s a weeknight and we have somewhere to be. But the longer you have to let the chili sit on the stove with the burner on low and think about what it’s done, the better. As the flavors mingle and some of the components break down, you are left with some delicious, delicious flavors. If you can hold off for three or four hours, you are going to serve up some mighty fine stew! If, however, you can’t wait that long, I totally understand (and your chili will, too)!
Serve it Up
Whether you’ve exercised patience or not, when you’re ready to serve, simply dish the chili up and add a bit of shredded cheese and/or sour cream on top. This is wonderful with a side of cornbread, salad, rye toast, or just about any other delicious foods that you and your family enjoy as side dishes. Yum!
1 lb ground beef
1/2 large white onion (or 1 whole smaller onion)
1/2 bottle beer
1 can kidney beans
1 can Cannellini beans (or other)
1 can tomato paste
2 Tsp tomato bouillon OR 1 can condensed tomato soup
1.5 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp pepper
1 Tsp cumin
1 Tsp paprika
5-10 sprinkles green Tabasco sauce
1) Brown ground beef on medium high in large stock pot and set aside, retain brownings and grease.
2) Lower heat (medium) and saute mushrooms in beef brownings for approx. 4 minutes. Add half of the beer to descale pan once onions soften.
3) Reintroduce ground beef to pan. Lower heat (low). Add both cans of beans, tomato bouillon, tomato paste, and all seasonings.
4) Turn burner to simmer and allow chili to reduce for approx. 3-4 hours. Or serve immediately, if desired.
5) Top chili with shredded cheese and sour cream. Enjoy!