Chasen's Chili

Chasen's Chili Recipe

The story behind this recipe for Chasen’s Chili  by Anna Russell

My parents, George and Lucinda, owned an antiques shop in downtown Seattle for over twenty years.  One day in the mid-1980’s, a customer came into the store and found my mother at the front desk pawing through cookbooks and magazines.  He asked what she was looking for and she explained that she and my father were hosting a dinner party with chili as the theme and she was searching for a good recipe.  The well-dressed gentleman said he knew of a world famous chili.  As a lobbyist for the forest products giant, Weyerhaeuser, he travelled extensively and the best chili he’d tasted came from a Beverly Hills restaurant named Chasen’s.  Their chili was so famous among celebrities that Elizabeth Taylor had it flown to her on dry ice during the filming of Cleopatra.  The gentleman promised to get the recipe for my mom.  A week or so later, the recipe for Chasen’s Chili arrived on hotel stationery from the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago.  While this is not a traditionally-styled chili, it was a big hit at my parents’ party and became a family staple.  The original recipe on the hotel stationery has many kitchen stains on it as proof. 

We have made this recipe many times and adapted it to suit our personal tastes.  See the notes at the bottom for our preferred changes.  Here is the recipe as sent to my mom:

Chasen’s Restaurant was in business in West Hollywood from 1936 to 1995.  Many celebrities enjoyed a meal there, and some were such regulars that they had their own booths.  

Several copies of old Chasen’s menus are on the internet and here is an interesting comparison… for a fine meal beginning with an ounce of Beluga caviar, followed by cold Vichyssoise soup and filet mignon with Béarnaise sauce, you would have paid:

  • $10.90 in 1955
  • $19.50 in 1971
  • $69.00 in 1987

That’s not including beverages, dessert and tip, of course.  The caviar took the biggest jump from $4.50 an ounce in 1955 to $40.00 an ounce in 1987.  Holy fish eggs, Batman!

Chasen’s Chili

  • 1 lb (454gr) dried pinto beans
  • 2 - 16 oz cans (454gr each) tomatoes
  • 1 lb (454gr) green bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp salad oil (substitute virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil)
  • 1½ lb (680gr) onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ cup parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ cup (1 stick/114gr) butter
  • 2½ lbs (1.14kg) ground chuck or regular ground beef
  • 1 lb (454gr) ground lean pork
  • ⅓ cup chili powder (your favourite brand)
  • 2 Tbsp salt, or to taste
  • 1½ tsp ground pepper
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin

  • Wash beans; place in a bowl and add water to two inches above the beans.  Soak overnight.  

  • Simmer, covered in the same water until tender.  Add tomatoes and simmer five minutes.

Sauté green peppers slowly in oil for five minutes.  Add onion and cook until tender, stirring frequently.  Add garlic and parsley.  In a large skillet, melt butter and sauté beef and pork for about fifteen minutes.  Add the meat to the onion mixture, stir in chili powder and cook ten more minutes.  Add this mixture to the beans and season with salt, pepper, and cumin.  Simmer, covered, about one hour.  Remove cover and cook 30 minutes longer.

Serves 6 - 7.


Our suggested accompaniments are shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and finely sliced green onions.  A Mexican style hot sauce is the best choice and don’t forget the cornbread!


Notes:

If the ½ cup of butter is too rich for your palate, you can reduce or remove it and still have a terrific chili.  You can also substitute oil for some of the butter, but make sure to one suitable for high heat cooking such as virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, or camelina oil from Saskatchewan. 

We tend to use cubed beef instead of ground beef in our chili; sear the cubed beef in a hot cast iron skillet first to develop some caramelization.  

For this recipe we increase the garlic and cumin.  Depending on the crowd we’re serving, we use mild or medium chili powder.  You can add hot chile powder for more kick.  

Dave and I are not huge fans of green bell pepper (chock it up to too many sausage & rice stuffed bell peppers growing up), so we substitute red bell pepper or even roasted peppers.

Leftover chili freezes well for up to 6 months.


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