Way back when, there was a TV show we’d watch called “Dinner and a Movie.” It was, as the name suggests, a movie night that added a cooking show between commercial breaks. The recipe for the night always had a tie-in with the classic movie it was showing. This particular recipe comes from the airing of that family favorite “Animal House,” and the fare was Bluto’s Beer Chili.
We’ve adapted the recipe considerably over the years, and I bet by now my own recipe is a bit different from Mom’s, as we’ve each made changes that matches our respective tastes. But at its heart it’s a great meaty chili (I usually use fake beef now), with many of the other usual suspects — black and kidney beans, onions and peppers — and, obviously, some cheap beer.
I’m not sure how long something has to be in the family for it to be a “family tradition,” but even though I remember its history, this feels like it’s always been there. It’s that kind of chili.
Bluto’s Beer Chili
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound ground meat (any ground meat will work; I like using fake ground beef)
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped (the bigger the better, in my opinion)
2 medium onions, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
5 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1-2 tablespoons dried oregano, crushed
1 tablespoon ground coriander (I prefer whole coriander, if you have it on hand)
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili flakes
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can chopped green chilies (optional)
2 cup beef stock (If I make it vegetarian, I’ll use a vegetable stock)
2-3 bay leaves
2 (12 ounces cans of beer, preferably Hamm’s or Pabst)
2 (14.5 ounces) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 (14.5 ounces) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons cornmeal or masa harina (optional, to thicken if desired)
Time permitting, it really is best to have all of the veggies chopped, cans opened and spices measured out into a bowl before getting started. Each step until the end cooks for just a couple minutes, so it’s pretty hectic if everything is not ready to go. Put oil into a Dutch oven or soup pot. Heat stove to medium and add meat. Brown meat, stirring occasionally. Add onions, garlic and jalapenos. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the spices. Stir constantly to avoid browning, and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes until well mixed and aromatic. Add bell pepper, crushed tomatoes with juice and canned chilies. Stir well until nearly boiling, and add stock, bay leaves and beer. Bring back to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and half-cover pot. Let simmer for 1 to 2 hours (2 hours is better, if you have the time), stirring occasionally. Whenever the aroma is overwhelming, or you’re finally ready to eat, drain and rinse beans and stir them into the chili. Cook for another 20 minutes. Add salt and cornmeal/masa harina to taste and texture, and enjoy. Christinia Crippes is a Courier reporter who loves to cook. Read her blog at www.wcfcourier.com.