Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hollywood Cooking: Chasen's Chili

Photo from LIFE

Since opening in 1936 until closing in 1995, Chasen's was a Hollywood institution.  The restaurant, which used to be located at the corner of Doheny Drive and Beverly Boulevard at the edge of Beverly Hills,  hosted the greatest stars ever to appear on screen. 

James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Ralph Bellamy, Frank Morgan and the rest of their "Boys Club" would gather every Wednesday at Chasen's during the forties to eat, drink, sing, and catch up after their busy days working at the studios. In 1939, after Clark Gable and Carol Lombard introduced the newly arrived director from England, Alfred Hitchcock, to Chasen's, the director and his wife would have their Thursday night dinners at the restaurant. The Jimmy Stewarts, Don Ameche (who introduced owner Dave Chasen to his wife Maude), George Burns and Gracie Allen, Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Jack Lemmon, Billy Wilder, David Niven, Fred MacMurray, Joan Crawford - well, nearly every major star from the Golden Age of Hollywood dined at Chasen's.

One of Chasen's signature dishes was their chili. Elizabeth Taylor loved the chili so much that in 1962, while in Rome on location filming for Cleopatra, she paid $100 to have the chili shipped to her on dry ice! I love chili and knew I had to try the Chasen's chili if it really is that good. Although the restaurant has been long closed, the book "Chasen's: Where Hollywood Dined - Recipes and Memories" by Betty Goodwin, contains the recipe for this famous chili.

With winter here I could think of nothing better to cook up than a hot bowl of chili, so I took a try at making this Hollywood classic. Here is the recipe and the results from my cooking:

Chasen's Chili

Prepping the Ingredients

1/2 pound dried pinto beans
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup butter
2 pounds beef chuck, coarsely chopped
1 pound pork shoulder, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup Gebhardt's chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Farmer Brothers ground cumin

  1. Rinse the beans, picking out debris. Place beans in a Dutch oven with water to cover. Boil for two minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand one hour. Drain off liquid.
  2. Rinse beans again. Add enough fresh water to cover beans. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for one hour or until tender.
  3. Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Simmer five minutes. In a large skillet saute bell pepper in oil for five minutes. Add onion and cook until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and parsley. Add mixture to bean mixture. Using the same skillet, melt the butter and saute beef and pork chuck until browned. Drain. Add to bean mixture along with the chili powder, salt, pepper and cumin.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for one hour. Uncover and cook 30 minutes more or to desired consistency. Chili shouldn't be too thick - it should be somewhat liquid but not runny like soup. Skim off excess fat and serve.
Makes 10 cups, or six main dish servings.

Simmering and Sauteing 

The cook in the kitchen.

Simmering all ingredients together.

Dinner is served!

I must say, this chili turned out amazing! I understand why Elizabeth Taylor had this chili shipped all the way to Rome. If you are looking for something hearty and tasty to make this winter and want to dine like a classic Hollywood star, I recommend giving this chili a try. 

For more of Chasen's recipes I recommend picking up a copy of Goodwin's book. In addition to the recipes are some intimate photographs of the stars who dined at Chasen's as well as some fun anecdotes about the restaurant.

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