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Chef Gina Veneziano Makes Award-Winning Chili

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I love soup. I’m one of those people who will eat soup year-round; lighter varieties in the summer, slowly getting heartier and homier as we move into the fall, finally hitting optimal soup-style ingredients and eating conditions in the winter. I love soup not only because it’s comforting, but because really, you can make soup out of anything. It’s almost like a “smorgasbord” in a bowl, a menu item chefs often create with whatever they may need to get rid of in the fridge. The ultimate efficient dish, stocks are made from scraps of other dishes (think bones, rinds, stems, etc.) and much like the finished product satisfies the eater’s soul, the process satisfies this chef’s soul. The combination of flavors melding together, the sum greater than its parts, and it just makes me feel like all is right in the world for a few moments. 

It also doesn’t hurt that soup almost always tastes better the second day, or even the day after that – making it the perfect, cook-on-Sunday-eat-all-week meal. All of this, a long way of saying that I’m very excited for the next 3 weeks where we will be featuring a “soup of the week” in this section.    

After all of that, my following recipe may actually rub true soup enthusiasts the wrong way. My recipe this week is actually for chili. I know, I know, it’s technically not a soup because it doesn’t contain stock or broth but hear me out; if you classify soup as I mention above – ingredients slow cooked together to make a heart-warming, comforting bowl of goodness, only getting more layered and complex with each bite and each day – then chili fits that description. I feel so strongly about the feel-good vibes of chili that I recently hosted a chili cook-off … and this was my award-winning recipe. Enjoy! 

Award-Winning Chili Recipe

Prep Time: 1 hour

Makes: 16 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 LBS. SPICY ITALIAN SAUSAGE, NO CASING
  • 3 LBS. GROUND BEEF
  • 2 YELLOW ONIONS, DICED
  • 10 GARLIC GLOVES, MINCED
  • 2 (7OZ.) CANS CHOPPED GREEN CHILIS *OR SEE NOTE BELOW
  • 1 TPS. SALT
  • 1 TPS. PEPPER
  • 6 OZ. TOMATO PASTE
  • 1 CUP RED WINE
  • 2 (28OZ) CANS, SAN MARZANO PEELED TOMATOES 
  • ¼ CUP WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE
  • 1 TBS CHILI POWDER
  • 1 TBS OREGANO
  • 2 (16OZ) CANS RED BEANS, DRAINED

Directions

Tips

  • I used about 10 peppers from my own garden. A mixture of jalapenos, sweet heats, and bell. If going this route, you may want to cut off the tip of each pepper and try to taste test how spicy they are so you can control the amount of heat you’re adding to chili. You may want to add more or fewer chili peppers, it’s hard to be exact especially with homegrown chilis differing greatly in heat levels
  • A large Dutch oven is a perfect pot to make this in
  • If short on time, you do not have to simmer for 3 hours. The mixture is cooked but the longer you can let the flavors simmer together, the better. I often make the night before and after it’s brought to a boil, I turn off completely and refrigerate for the night, simmering the next morning for a few hours before serving  
  • This is hearty enough to be served on its own as a main dish. It’s also great over pasta or rice or with corn chips or cornbread. I always add shredded cheese and sour cream because, why not, but it’s not necessary. I served this particular batch with pumpkin-shaped cornbread, which I believe is what took me over the top to get the “win” for the chili cook-off
  • If you want to make a smaller portion, while you would cut most of the ingredient quantities in half (for half the yield, i.e. 8 servings), you don’t need to cut down the amount of onion, chilis, salt, pepper, or tomato paste as these are about layering flavor and quantities do not need to be an exact ratio – another reason to love soup (or in this case chili), use what you’ve got! 

About Chef Gina Veneziano

Hailing from a long line of chefs, Gina spent much of her early childhood at her family’s restaurant.  Always wanting to make a career of it, she has spent the last 15 years doing everything from interning at a butcher shop to concepting food trucks to catering sales to most recently, recipe development and culinary innovations. She prides herself in being the only person to successfully recreate her grandmother’s famous meatballs – you can usually catch her, apron on, and a glass of prosecco in hand – cheers!  

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