Chasen’s Chili: Cure for the common (and uncommonly) cold

By John Owen | Jan 16, 2014

It's a perverse indulgence.  In past years, my wife and I survived snow storms, icy roads and sub-zero temperatures in Montana and North Dakota.

We are now happy as clams in Edmonds, but can't resist the daily impulse to grab the morning paper and flip to the weather tables.  And we glow, inwardly, when we read about plunging temperatures in Bismarck, Miles City or Grand Forks so that we can recall skidding along icy streets, gasping behind snow shovels and warming frozen fingers in lukewarm bowls of water until they ache.

"Hey, it's 24 below in Minot," I'm liable to yell across the room.

"It's still snowing in Missoula," she may inform me in a smug response.

OK, sometimes winter days in Edmonds translate into rainstorms or wind gusts.  But it's nothing that a bowl of chili can't cure.

That's why Palm Springs, Beverly Hills or San Diego avoid extreme winter temperatures.

The informed cooks in those communities likely have access to the recipe for Chasen's Chili, guaranteed to chase the chill factor right out of the kitchen and back over the San Gabriel Mountains.

Guess what?  A few years ago, I discovered the recipe for Chasen's Chili and included it in one of my cookbooks.  The state convention office didn't give me any credit for improving the quality of life in western Washington, but it must work because some Edmonds residents are still celebrating the New Year with a resounding splash into the Sound, with or without scuba suits.

Chasen's Chili became a favorite of the Hollywood elite.  The Beverly Hills restaurant was a favorite haunt for Jack Benny, W.C. Fields, Walt  Disney, Frank Sinatra and Shirley Temple.  When she was filming "Cleopatra" in Rome, Elizabeth Taylor had frozen batches of Chasen's Chili flown in from L.A. Airport.

Resting in the Ronald Reagan presidential museum is the booth from Chasen's where the late president  proposed to his main squeeze, Nancy.

The restaurant no longer exists in Beverly Hills, but the chili recipe lives on, bringing warmth to the afflicted across the land.  And that includes the Edmonds Bowl.

Chasen's Chili

1/2 pound dried pinto beans

36 ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 pound green peppers, seeded and chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 pounds onions, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic, pureed

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

1/2 cup butter

2 1/2 pounds ground chuck

1 pound ground pork

1/3 cup chili powder

2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

Wash the beans, cover with water by 2 inches and soak overnight.  Simmer, covered, until tender. Add tomatoes and simmer five minutes.  Saute green peppers in olive oil for five minutes.  Add to the bean pot the onions and cook until tender, stirring frequently.  Add the garlic and parsley.

In a large skillet melt the butter and sauté the chuck and pork.  Add this mixture to the beans and season with salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin.  Simmer partly covered for an hour.  Remove cover and continue to simmer another 30 minutes.  Skim fat off top and serve to four or more.

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