Bildner’s Fabulous Five-Alarm Chili

Makes about 6 servings

Source: New England Cookbook


The folks from Bildner and Sons, an upscale grocery store in the Boston area that once sold fancy prepared foods by the quarter pound, confess that it was actually their chili that was their biggest-selling item.  And no wonder.  Bildner’s produced a fabulous good quality chili powder and added a bit of masa harina (you can substitute cornmeal) for thickening.  This is my interpretation of their formula.  Bildner’s suggested serving their chili with toppings of grated cheddar or jack cheese, diced red onion, sour cream, and chopped green chiles.  Some folks ladle their chili over plain rice, but I prefer cornbread on the side.


1 T  vegetable oil

#2  lean ground beef

2 onions, chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 t  salt

½ t  black pepper

4 T  chili powder

2 t  ground cumin

1 t  dried oregano

¼ - ½ t  cayenne pepper (½ is 5-alarm!)

2 T  masa harina or cornmeal

2 c  beef broth

28-oz can plum tomatoes with juice

2 3-oz cans green chiles, drained and chopped (or more to your taste)

1 large bay leaf

3 c  drained cooked or canned kidney beans

1 T  sugar


1.      Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot.  Add the meat, onions, and garlic, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and cook, stirring to break up large clumps, until the meat loses its pink color, about 10 minutes.  Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne, and masa harina and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

2.      Stir in 1 c of water along with the broth, tomatoes, chiles, and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, breaking up the tomatoes with the side of a spoon.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.  Add the beans and sugar and continue to simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the flavors are blended and the chili is quite thick.

3.      Discard the bay leaf and adjust the seasonings before serving.  (The chili can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated, or it may be frozen.)