On a Sticky Summer Day: Coffee & Cocoa Chili Con Carne

Chili con carne (Eat Me. Drink Me.) I know it’s summer. I can feel the sweat dripping down my back, the wet air making my elbows peel from my desk as I type. My eyelids stick when I blink. And yet… Call me crazy, but I made chili for dinner. I thought about calling this breezy summer chili. Fresh, seasonal meat and beans magic? And then I realized that there was really no point in telling the story any other way than the way it was. It was too hot to make chili, and that’s exactly what I did. Stick, stick, says my elbow, letting me know I spent too long thinking about that last sentence. Chopped vegetables (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Diced garlic (Eat Me. Drink Me.) You know that feeling you get when you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown? That quiet, manic calm that feels watery and full of cracks? I feel a little bit that way. There’s too much to do. I’ve had to read piles of poetry for SAND, the literary journal where I work as the poetry editor. I’ve been working on a translation competition, getting my own poetry collection finished, visiting with family, keeping the apartment clean, working on home improvement projects and crafts, answering emails. It doesn’t even sound like much to write it out, and a lot of it is things I generally enjoy doing – but all those little things add up. And when I think about tackling just one of those things, I go… ah! GIFs on the internet!

Oregano (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Fresh vegetables for chile con carne (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Bacon! (Eat Me. Drink Me.) So logically, after a full day of work, I pedaled to the grocery store to pick up beef and peppers, coffee for breakfast tomorrow, bacon, sour cream and green onions. My project was herculean, considering the weather. Stand by the hot stove, sweat streaming, to slow-cook some chili. At least I remembered to pick up an icy Hefeweizen to take the edge off. Paprika (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Chopped chocolate in chili (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Oregano and cumin (Eat Me. Drink Me.) There’s something about cooking that’s always calmed me. The more complicated the recipe, the more ingredients there are to chop and measure, the more soothed I am. So in that respect, chili was the perfect choice. The ingredient list was a mile long and kept growing as I impulse-added anything in my pantry that sounded like it might be nice. Like the breakfast coffee that couldn’t wait for tomorrow to be used. Or the bar of chocolate I was munching on while I chopped. Tomato paste (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Chile con carne (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Chocolate for the chili (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Right now, I don’t know. I don’t know if I feel calmer or less ready to explode. I might lose it all in the next few minutes and behead some unlucky passerby. Or I might just fall asleep in a pool of sweat. All I know for sure is there’s jalapeno juice stinging the tips of my fingers, and my fingers, slick with sweat, are spreading it everywhere they touch. But my belly is full. And that’s a good place to start.

Coffee and chocolate chili con carne recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Coffee & Cocoa Chili Con Carne
I’d say this is a perfect hot weather recipe, but I’d be lying. What I will say is that it’s the best chili I’ve ever made. Luxuriously rich, just this side of spicy, and the perfect pair for warm cornbread, which, had I not been so exhausted, I would have totally made.

1 tbsp. olive oil
2 yellow onions
1/3 cup (120 g) bacon
1 lb. (500 g) ground beef
1 tsp. Ancho chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. paprika
1 tbsp. oregano
2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
1 bell pepper
1 jalapeño
2 scallions
2 cans (530 g) kidney beans
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 beef bouillon cube
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. tomato paste
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp. baker’s chocolate
1 tsp. ground coffee
Salt & pepper to taste
Sour cream, to serve

Dice the onions and bacon and sauté them in olive oil. When the bacon has cooked most of the way through, but before the onions start to brown, add the ground beef and sauté until it’s browned. As the meat browns, add spices: Ancho chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and oregano. You may want to adjust the seasoning amounts later, after you’ve added the liquid ingredients.

Chop carrots, celery, bell pepper, jalapeno, and scallions. Add to the meat and cook until the vegetables have softened. When they’re soft (but not mushy), add drained kidney beans and the chopped tomatoes (with juice). Add beef bouillon, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, and coffee. Finely chop garlic and baker’s chocolate and add. You may need to add water if your chili looks too dry. I ended up filling the tomato can up about halfway and adding that much water.

You may need more, or less. Allow to simmer on low heat for half an hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream.


  1. Grandma xo says:

    I’m worried about you: I think the heat must have fried your brain or else you would not be making chili under the conditions you described. No a/c? No fan?Ah well, you had chocolate to keep you calm and sane. Love you our little cook.

  2. Uncle Richard says:

    What beautiful Paprika!

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