HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Great chilli con carne recipe to make out here in the (French) sticks

So, bearing in mind that I am currently in v rural France where even kidney beans are seen as slightly exotic, and my choice of ingredients is limited (no fancy chilli peppers or dried mexican anything), can anyone please post up a good, not too spicy chilli con carne recipe (the French will not eat anything too spicy). The local beef is fantastic - organic, estuary reared - have both mince and steak _ and I have home canned summer tomatoes and at a push can probably buy spanish canned peppers, but everything else is v basic (eg chilli powder comes in two sorts - mild or hot, nothing fancy or remotely ethic!).

And what would I serve with it? Just rice, or tortilla chips or...........

Many thanks in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Serve it with grated cheddar, sour cream/creme fraiche, sliced avocado or guacamole and tortilla chips. If available. Or bake a batch of cheese and pepper cornbread using the canned peppers.

    1. We all have different ideas of what constitutes a great chili. The not so great chili that I grew up with had lots of kidney beans and tomato. But beans are banned from competition chili, and tomato is controversial. Pinto beans might be served on the side. I sometimes use black turtle beans in my chili.

      A basic Texas chili consists of beef (fine dice seems to be the preferred competition style), onions, garlic, salt, cumin, oregano (Mexican preferred), and dried red chiles (ground or puree).

      The trick is to come up with a good substitute for the ancho chiles which form the base of a good Texas chili. I would want something mild to medium hot, not sweet, but with a lot complex 'base' notes. One Spanish cookbook tells Americans they can substitute anchos for the Spanish nora. So the substitution might go the other way. SW France produces Espelette pepper, which appears to be in the right heat range. Mild Hungarian paprika is too sweet; most Spanish paprika too bland.

      claims Turkish aleppo has a flavor similar to ancho.

      To serve with it? Rice is fine. Cincinnati chili is served on spaghetti. Some associate cornbread with chili. Nothing wrong with good bread.

      Speaking Cincinnati chili, that has Greek overtones with spices like cinnamon. And may be served with diced onions, beans (a distinct layer), and grated cheddar.

      1. some onions. some garlic. nice fatty tough meat. cumin, oregano, and plenty of chillies. salt, pepper. a flavorful stewing liquid, beer works fine. you dont need much else. i like chopped onions and sour cream on top. and corn bread on the side.

        1. Here's a link to a recipe that Rick Bayless calls "classic" Tex-Mex: http://www.rickbayless.com/recipe/vie... (Bayless is considered a guru of Mexican cooking. I'm not sure his Tex-Mex bona fides are as strong.) Still, reading this recipe ought to get you started with relative proportions of the ingredients.

          I followed this recipe using beef only (chili-grind -- one pass through the grinder) and Dixon Medium-hot New Mexico chili powder. I omitted the beans. However, I found the results didn't have the layers of flavor that I like.

          I added approximately 1 tablespoon ground unsweetened cocoa powder, ground ancho chili powder, and a little chipotle powder. I used double the sauteed onions called for in the recipe. I also whirred up and added 1 can of Rotel tomatoes (combined tomatoes and green chilis) and half another can of fire-roasted tomatoes. The family loved this version.

          Penzeys.com is an excellent source for mail order spices. My Ancho chili and my Chipotle chili powders come from there. My Dixon chili powder comes from the Chile Shop (Santa Fe) which also ships. I don't know if either store ships internationally.

          1. Not a recipe, but tips for France....

            You can buy haricots rouges anywhere -- they're canned (look in the conserves des legumes) -- they're not exactly kidney beans, but they do a more than passable stand-in.

            You can buy haricots rouges dried, too -- figuring out where the grocers keep them is a bit of a challenge -- it might be over in produce, with the nuts and raisins...or it might be over by the pasta and rice...or it might be over by the onions. You're on your own on this one -- I've never managed any logic to it.

            You don't say where you are -- but in many places there are groceries owned and operated by Portuguese folks -- these have a terrific selection of dried and canned beans (black, pinto, blackeyed peas, etc). You'll find lots of other Latin foods you probably enjoy, too -- olives, hot sauce, corn meal, peanut butter, fresh chilis -- up to and including the incendiary little goat peppers (sometimes called Scotch bonnet) -- not a huge collection, but between that and the harissa paste and the piri-piri sauce...it's burn your cravings.

            Barring that, order some chilis from these guys: http://www.lepiceriedebruno.com/ They've got a nice shop just off the end of rue Montorgueil in Paris -- they're pretty knowledgeable, and their spices are good and fresh.

            and if you can't get cheddar cheese? I've found that the really, really cheap, really young Mimolette from the bargain bin does a respectable job of it. It's not the same, but it's orange and mild....

            5 Replies
            1. re: sunshine842

              Talk about getting the right beans in France makes me chuckle a bit. In the States we worry about getting the right beans for cassoulet. If we don't want to buy expensive imports, we might settle for cannellini, which are sometimes called white kidney. Others of us are happy to use a pale yellow bean called peruano, which is not well know in the USA, but quite popular in Mexico.

              But the use of red kidney beans in chili is more of American midwest practice, where as pinto is the preferred bean in Texas. So unless you wedded to a particular memory, the type of bean in chili, or with it, is not very important.

              The same goes for a grated yellow cheese. It's part of that midwest chili tradition.

              1. re: sunshine842

                Thanks for all the tips. Think I'm going to go with the finely chopped beef, lots of onions and garlic, espelette (why didn't I think of that) and cocoa powder; will think about the tomato. I like the idea of serving the beans on the side.

                I'm normally in Bordeaux but am currently in the Charente Maritime where the local supermarket has just started selling 'les haricots rouges' otherwise it was a 40km round trip to get them! I've been reading through some of the bean threads with a mind to this chilli and realised how limited France is as beans go. Thousands of different cheeses, and probably 4 or 5 different types of beans. The basic ingredients here are superb but it is a locavore's paradise and there would just be no call for anything not typically French.

                Incidentally, can get v good cheddar as above supermarket caters for the local Britpack and does an excellent vintage cheddar! Whereabouts are you sunshine 842?

                Will definitely check out mail order.

                Now I need a recipe for cornbread....

                1. re: nolbombol

                  Regarding cornbread, do you have cornmeal? People in Europe often have problems finding that. At least I've seen lots of questions about corn flour , corn starch, polenta etc.

                  There are, roughly, 3 kinds of cornbread
                  - southern, all corn
                  - northern, half cornmeal, half flour (may be sweetened but does not have to be)
                  - elaborate - northern with additions like fresh corn, cheese, fresh peppers of some sort, etc.

                  1. re: paulj

                    I can get polenta - have coarse and fine in at the moment - and locally produced maize flour which is fine. I'd probably go for the southern - which one should I use?

                    Have looked up the Rick Bayless and I think with one or two subs I could wing it - I have a couple of homegrown chilis in the freezer and have roast tomato passata which would have to do for the fire roasted toms. Will report back - and keep checking this thread if there are any other suggestions!

                    Many thanks

                    1. re: nolbombol

                      Try the international section at Leclerc -- if not there, a big Intermarche *might* have a Portuguese section. Sometimes things show up there that don't show up elsewhere -- if not Portuguese, perhaps the Halal, north African, or Arabic sections -- sometimes I find beans there, too.

                      You might also have a look and see if there's a north African market around somewhere.

                      I'm way up north (in the snow and ice and freezing temperatures!) in the 77.

              2. I just love mild chilli in red wine. Proportions are not important, so I shall not provide specifications of quantity, so use your imagination and experience making chilli to achieve the best results. In a french professional ceramic pot (you can use an ordinary pot if you must), brown ground beef in a little olive oil. Remove the meat from the pot and drain out excess water. Into the pot goes olive oil and mild paprika (you may use a hotter chilli if you like), and warm it until the oil extracts the flavour of the paprika. Add a whole bottle of red wine and two to three cloves of crushed garlic. Set the heat to high and boil off all the alcohol until the liquid reduces to right amount (it takes practice to know when to stop the reduction). If you do not remove the meat, while reducing the wine, the contents of the pot will "bump" during the reduction and make a mess of the stove top. Add the meat back to the liquid, add crushed tomatoes, chopped onions and celery, salt to taste and drained kidney beans. Simmer on moderately low heat until the vegetables are of the right consistency (I like them with a bit of crispness).

                5 Replies
                1. re: AlbertaSun

                  I like red wine in chile too - I'd never call my chile any kind of authentic - but wine is expensive here in Qu├ębec so I'd never use a whole bottle. (Oh, we drink plenty of it just the same, but it is heavily taxed).

                  Yes, a Portuguese, Maghrebi or Antillean shop might well have a variety of beans.

                  1. re: lagatta

                    It's funny you should say that. My friends also tell me to go easy on the wine :) I think you're right, half a bottle would probably be more than enough and use either water or beef stock to obtain the right amount of liquid.

                    1. re: lagatta

                      You live in Quebec! I just love french food!

                      I also love the song "C'est toujours a recommencer" sung by a French Canadian trio called "Toulouse".

                      What does this have to do with cooking? Well, plenty! We all know how a good, home cooked dinner with one's significant other, always leads into a good recipe of a wonderful desert :)

                      1. re: AlbertaSun

                        Dear Alberta,

                        I do hope you mean "dessert" and not "desert", given the context!

                        1. re: lagatta

                          I meant the former. Hey, I made a mistake. It happens to the best of us.

                  2. Can you order chili powder, dried chilis, and kidney beans online?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Querencia

                      I gave the OP a source guide over a year ago upthred.

                    2. American TV Cooking Personality "Rachel Ray" has some good quick and easy chili recipes, a quick internet search may be of benefit.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Blessings

                        the OP has probably long since figured out a chili recipe.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Yes, 2013..ooops new to CH thought it was 2014.

                      2. Oh dear, at a Ray Stevens' YouTube video concerning a Texas chilli cook-off (no beans, tomatoes, or celery), I commented I'd rather resort to cannibalism than eat the fiery stuff (I hear the forearm is the best part). I thought it was funny, but they obviously do not share my warped sense of humour.


                        1. Was this really over a year ago?

                          It went down a bomb - did a mix of everyone's suggestions and cooked it overnight in the slow cooker - and gave the recipe to all present as they all wanted to try make it at home ;)

                          Incidentally, when I took my 6 year old to school this morning, we stopped at the gate to read the day's menu (very French, 3 courses, plus cheese), and guess what the 'plat du jour' is today? Chile con carne......

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: nolbombol

                            I had "chile con carne" made by francophone Belgiums while facilitating at a seminar in the Netherlands. It was perfectly tasty, but doubt it had much to do with such foods in the southwestern US, or related dishes in northern Mexico. At least there were no corn kernels. Often francophone Europeans add those to anything that is supposed to be from Mexico or the southwestern US.

                            1. re: lagatta

                              Yep - I asked, and it did indeed come with corn kernels and the odd pea. On the other hand, they followed it up with ripe camembert + boulangerie baguette and locally grown kiwi fruit - which makes up for the tex-mex faux pas.

                          2. If you omit the cayenne, Prudhomme's Texas Red chili isn't hot at all. The poblano and New Mexico chilis give it a nice warm smokey heat.


                            1. Make beanless chili con carne and serve over polenta.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Antilope

                                Peposo dell'impruneta is the Italian 'chili' - lots of pepper (admittedly the other kind).

                              2. It's not chili without peppers. Mild or smoked paprika is good. I us Gebhardts chili powder to get the taste of chili peppers without the heat. Don't forget the oregano and cumin.