Sunbear's Overnight Baked Chili
Here is the recipe for the prize-winning chili (first place, 2000; third
place, 2003). I worked on it for around a year, starting in 1999. around a
year; the prize-winning exemplars were not even the best exemplars of the
The critical element is really the cooking technique: the pot of chili
gets baked for six hours in a 250 degree oven. I decided this would be
worth trying with chili because strega had been making baked beans that
got cooked overnight. The long, slow cooking period results in tender
chunks of pork and virtually no risk of burning because the heat is
uniform around the pot. You don't have to mind it for hours and hours, and
there's plenty of time for the flavors to develop.
- 5 to 8 pounds pork shoulder (a pain in the
neck to work with because of the layers of fat and connective tissue
running through it, but it's flavorful and moist - all that fat! - and
holds up under long cooking)
- 5 medium-to-large onions
- chopped garlic (I used maybe six big cloves, but you can use
- lots of dried chilis (I've used various combinations of pasillas,
Californias, New Mexicos, Negros, chipotles, guajillos, puyas, and those
evil bright red Thai chilis. Note that at least one of these - I think
New Mexicos - comes in both hot and mild versions. Using some of the
sweeter and milder chilis gives a nice base from which to build the heat
of the chilis)
- chicken or pork or beef broth
- one small can chipotles in adobo sauce
- one 28 oz can of diced tomatos
- spice grinder (I have a coffee grinder used only for chopping
- a sharp enough knife to make it EASY to cut up all that pork
- nonreactive Dutch oven or other heatproof pot (I used a 7 qt Le
- an oven with a timer
How to do it:
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
- Grind enough chilis to wind up with 12 to 15 tablespoons of chili
- Chop the onions and garlic.
- Cut up the pork shoulder into small pieces.
- Sautee the onions and garlic in vegetable oil.
- Add the pork and lightly brown it.
This will take a few minutes, depending on how much pork you have.
- Add the chili powder and salt to taste; stir thoroughly.
- Add the can of tomatoes; stir.
- If you're sure it's necessary, add a few ounces of broth to ensure
that there is enough cooking liquid, but you probably won't need to.
I could have omitted this.
- Add at least half the can of chipotles (more if you like).
- Set the oven timer for six hours.
- Cover the pot and put it in the oven.
- Go to sleep. The chili will be done when you wake up.
- More onions. The best batches I've made had more onions in the
onion-to-meat ratio than the batch that won in 2000.
- Start the chili by frying some bacon or smoked bacon, then cook the
onions and garlic in the bacon fat. This adds another note of complexity
and smokiness to the flavor.
- Vary the chili mix.
- Throw in a splash of sherry. I'm pretty sure I did this a couple of
times in previous batches; if so, I probably used a sweet dessert sherry
rather than a dry one.
- Try it with cumin. :-)
- Grind the chilis and cut up the pork a couple of days in advance and
make the chili powder plus some salt a dry rub. Then pick up with cooking
the onions and browning the pork.
- This recipe should work fine with the right cut of beef, but talk to a
butcher about what that might be.
- Cook the chili a day or so before you intend to serve it.