Over the Top Chilli

Over the Top Chilli
Idly browsing through the internet in 2017 there were lots of “Over the Top” Chilli recipes appearing on social media.  The name itself drew me in!  ‘Over the top’ could just as well describe the obsession of Big Green Egg cooking as much as this particular dish!  A little exploration traced the origin of the dish to Dawn and Johnny Barnes from 2016.  The concept is simplicity itself, a Chilli where the “carne” is initially cooked separately from the sauce and then combined in an attempt to enhance the complexity of the smokiness that can be captured.   Our first venture into this genre came directly from Adam Flint at the Cooks Digest. Adam made no claim for authenticity basing the recipe on his standard Chilli.  So it was this recipe which we adopted and modified to accommodate the ingredients we had available when we first made the recipe and further modification to cope with my own particular sensitivity to the chilli spice!

There are really 2 parts to the dish.  The idea is to first smoke the meat separately but at the same time as the sauce with the idea of both “roasting’ and ‘smoking’ the meat to potentially up the complexity and depth of flavour of the dish as a whole.  Once the meat is cooked through it is then broken up and added to the sauce component and cooked for a few more hours to bring the flavours together and enrich them further.  Is it better than conventionally cooked chilli on the BGE?  This is something you must compare yourself – if you like your chilli with lots and lots of chilli heat I really don’t know if you will tell the difference (it is easier to cook this way though as you don’t need to separately brown off all the meat the BGE does it for you) – if you are more in my camp and like a more restrained chilli heat – then yes I definitely think there is an added richness and complexity in the final product.  So the first thing to do is set up the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking and let it stabilise at 135-140C.  Whilst the EGG comes up to temperature simply prepare the meat and the rest of the dish.
We were using minced beef and the first task was to season this.  We took a very simple approach and used the ‘standard meat rub’ that we currently have in the kitchen  which is ‘Bad Byron’s Butt Rub Barbecue Seasoning” – I used it at the rate of 3 tbs to 1Kg of minced beef – for most chilli lovers this is likely to be ‘too mild’, but for me with chilli ‘less is usually more!”  This was simply mixed through the beef and the meat was then rolled up into a single ball and set to one side.
The rest of the dish was then prepared.  Firstly, the 2 large onions were roughly chopped and lightly sautéd in a dutch oven on the hob until they began to become translucent.  To this was then added 3 roughly chopped peppers, a mix of red and green and sautéd for a further minute before adding the chopped garlic, quickly followed by 2 tins of drained kidney beans and 4 cans of chopped tomatoes.  As we had no fresh chilli – we simply used a commercially available chilli paste from the local supermarket – it was added carefully to taste.  This pan was brought back to the simmer and then the red wine was added.  Although not strictly necessary, for a further layer of flavour we also added half a litre of concentrated beef stock (a commercial jelled stock works very well for this and allows you to add a little less water at the start).
The Dutch oven was carried out to the BGE and set to one side.  The plate setter was removed from the EGG (do make sure you have heat proof gloves to do this) and a couple of pieces of cherry wood were added to add the naturally smoky taste.  The platesetter was put back in place, feet up with the stainless steel grill on top.  The dutch oven was placed on top and was itself covered by a smaller stainless steel grill over the top (we used the one from the minimax – but anything slightly wider than the Dutch oven will do).  The ball of seasoned minced beef was added on top of the second grill and a remote temperature probe pushed into the centre of the meat.  The EGG  was closed and the contents allowed to cook undisturbed for the next 3 hrs or so until the internal temperature of the meat registered 60C.
Once the meat was at 60C it was removed and chopped into small chunks on a clean chopping board.  The most noticeable thing at this stage is the smokey aroma and the smoke ring in the meat (the slightly purple pieces of meat).  With the extra grill taken off the Dutch oven and before the meat is added it is a good time to assess the spicing and seasoning of the sauce itself – in this case a little more chilli paste was all that was needed.  The chopped meat was then carefully stirred into the sauce on the BGE and fully incorporated into the sauce itself.  The BGE was then closed and left to cook for another couple of hours at 130-140C with the lid off the Dutch oven so that further smokey flavour could be absorbed.   Normally cooking without the lid would cause the whole mix to dry out but this is one real advantage with the BGE that things stay moist.  The only issue that there can be with this is that when modifying recipes from conventional recipes it is sometimes  necessary to reduce the liquid content even when cooking with the lid off!  After a further 2 hours the dish was beautifully cooked through and was ready to serve.  This is a dish that is so easy to adapt to your own current favourite Chilli Recipe but there is one further step that is pretty well guaranteed to enhance your recipe just that little bit further.  When the cooking has finished, find a couple of squares of dark chocolate, ideally at least 70% cacao, and gently stir in – you won’t regret it!! 
If serving at this stage simply skim off any fat layer that has come to the surface. I have to say though this is yet another slow cooked dish where if you can leave it to sit for 24 hours or so you will be rewarded with greater depth of flavour and an altogether more sophisticated end product.  So if you can, pop the lid back on and once cooled, let it sit in the fridge for 24 hours or more – once cold it is easier to remove any excess fat if there is any.
We usually serve with rice but it works well with tortilla chips too.  If your balancing of chilli spices leaves your dish with a ‘kick’ try a little sour cream, just stiring it in a little.  A little fresh coriander or some chopped parsley just finishes the dish off perfectly. 
If you have your own favourite chilli recipe that you think may be ideal to use for OTT Chilli – do share it via the comments section.                          
……………………………………bon appetite!

2 thoughts on “Over the Top Chilli”

    • Thanks Adam – and thanks for the inspiration for this. I know that not everyone “approves” of moving to the OTT technique – but I find it really works for me especially when using slightly less ‘hot chilli’ as you get an exciting richness without the ‘burn’ (I also think it is a lot easier than browning the meat off in the pan with the more conventional technique!

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