chasing chasen’s chile

Chasen’s Restaurant was a West Hollywood hangout that catered to top entertainment personalities from 1936 to 1995. One notable occurrence here was the proposal of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Davis in 1952. Its food and atmosphere* were lauded par excellence in media reviews during its entire existence.

One of its premier dishes was its chili. All who ate it agreed it was the best to be found. It is rumored that, while filming the movie Cleopatra in Rome, Elizabeth Taylor craved it so much that she had an order shipped to her. Camilla and I were there once just before it closed, but neither ate the chili*.

Its recipe was once a closely guarded secret, known only to Dave Chasen himself. However, now you may easily find it on the internet. At 990 calories, 69 grams of fat, 202 mg cholesterol, 968 mg sodium, and 26 grams of carbohydrate per serving, it appeared to be just a little too far outside my dietary guidelines.

The following recipe is one fashioned in the spirit of Chasen’s, but oriented to lower fat, salt, and carbohydrate.

  • ½ lb dried black beans
  • water
  • 1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes, in juice
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 3 cups onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 lb chicken thigh meat, skinned and boned, coarsely ground
  • 1 lb lean pork shoulder, coarsely ground
  • 1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • 1 tbsp low sodium beef base
  • 2 tbsp ground paprika
  • 5 tbsp New Mexico chile, ground
  • 2 tbsp ground dried cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground dried coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper

Rinse the beans and pick out any rocks and debris that may be there. Place the beans in a stew pot, add enough water to cover, bring to a boil for about 2 minutes, remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for an hour. Drain.

Rinse the beans again, drain, add enough water to cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and let simmer until beans are tender. Some like their beans firmer than others, so you be the judge. (I like mine really mushy.) Add in the tomatoes and continue to simmer another 5 minutes.

In a large skillet, sauté the onions and bell pepper in the oil for about 5 minutes at medium heat until the onions are limp and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic and parsley and sauté for another 2 minutes. Then add this mixture to the beans and tomatoes.

In this same skillet, sauté the chicken and pork meat until browned using as little extra oil as you can. Drain on paper towels to remove excess oil and then add to the stew pot.

Add 1 tsp of the low sodium beef base to 1 cup of water, heat in the microwave for one minute, pour over the TVP, and let it stand one minute to reconstitute. Add to the chili pot.

Add TVP and all remaining ingredients to the pot, bring to a boil, simmer for an hour, covered or uncovered, until the proper consistency is reached (not runny).