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Made With Love: The Meals On Wheels Family Cookbook

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Spike MendelsohnSpike Mendelsohn's Uncle D's Chili

If anyone in this business could make money out of a stone, it was Uncle Denny. He had a club called the Blue Angel, which had a lab downstairs where he mixed bootleg liquor with legal liquor. He knew how to get the absolute most out of anything. He’s been credited with watering down mustard, not giving lids or straws on cups, and telling people he’s out of napkins when he had a whole supply stashed away. But his absolute best was whenever a cook was ready to pitch something, he’d look at it and say, “Put it in the chili!” It became a family joke, so how could we not name it after Uncle D?

Serves 4

For the chili:

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 c diced red onion
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 (16-oz) can kidney beans, drained, and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 (32-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 c chipotle barbecue sauce (recipe, below)
  • Salt, as needed
  • ½ c cheddar cheese sauce (recipe, below)
  • ½ c sour cream

For the cheddar cheese sauce:

  • 2 c whole milk
  • ¼ c unsalted butter
  • ¼ c all-purpose flour
  • 1 c grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1½ tsp cayenne powder
  • Salt and ground black pepper

For chipotle barbecue sauce:

  • Half a (7-oz) can chipotle chiles in abodo sauce
  • 2 c sweet, mild barbecue sauce
  • ½ c ketchup
  • ¼ c apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp molasses

Make the chili: Heat the beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring and breaking it up, until browned. Drain off the fat.

In large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat, heat the oil, and add onion and green pepper. Cook, stirring until softened until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the beans, cumin, paprika, chili powder, and black pepper. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring until the mixture is fragrant, about 4 minutes.

Add the browned beef into the pot, continue cooking and stirring until well mixed. Add the tomato sauce and water, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens, about 1 hour.

Make the cheddar cheese sauce. Heat the milk in a large saucepan over medium heat until you see bubbles forming on top. Remove milk from heat. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another saucepan and stir in the flour to make a roux. Add the warm milk, whisking constantly, and continue cooking until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the cheese, whisking constantly to combine. Season with the cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste. If desired, strain through a sieve to remove lumps before serving.

Make the chipotle barbecue sauce. Add the chipotles to a food processor or blender, and purée until smooth. Add the barbecue sauce, ketchup, vinegar, and molasses. Purée until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove seeds.

To finish the chili, stir in the chipotle barbecue sauce and season with salt. Top each chili serving with 1 tablespoon of cheddar cheese sauce, and sour cream. Serve immediately.


Spike Mendelsohn was a contestant on the fourth season of Top Chef and also appeared on Top Chef All Stars. He also owns Good Stuff Eatery in Washington, D.C.

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