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Almost everybody has a signature chili recipe. (Some are better than others.) Chili Chat is a series that will investigate these variations through the expertise of our favorite chefs, both amateur and professional, so that you can recreate them at home this fall and winter.

Jenn de la Vega (IG) is an author, editor at large of Put a Egg On It and caterer at Randwiches. She was on Guy Fieri’s Grocery Games once. (She is also one of my favorite humans! She even invited me over to her house one time to eat sous-vide eggs!) She recently released her debut cookbook Showdown: Comfort, Chili & BBQ, so it made sense to me to kick off Chili Chat with one of her amazing recipes; here’s the one she picked to share with us:

 Photo credit Colin Clark

I loved the TV show LOST. This chili recipe is my tribute to THE SMOKEMONSTER, it is adapted from my first-ever cookbook Showdown: Comfort, Chili & BBQ. In it, I share tales of cooking competition wins, losses and life lessons. This particular vat of awesome won second place at the Chili Takedown. As an added bonus, you can leave it in a slow cooker overnight or while you are work. Super chill chili, right? I hope you enjoy this nontraditional, simulated smoke in a bowl when it starts to get cold outside. I love it with a handful of Fritos and a dollop of sour cream. If you have leftovers, plop on some cornbread batter and bake it into a chili pie.

Photo credit Colin Clark

Serves 4 (8oz) portions

2 pounds of tasso ham, cubed
1 15 oz can of Roman beans
1 12 oz jar of pepperoncini rings
1 12 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 red onion, peeled
1 jalapeno, stemmed
1 dry chile de arbol
1 dry guajillo pepper
2 tbl of brown sugar

Special equipment:
Slow cooker
Food Processor

Soak the beans in a bowl of water overnight, leaving an inch of water to spare over its surface.

Meanwhile dice the onion and chop the jalapeños into rings. Broil on high for 5 minutes or until the edges char (this is our simulated smoke!). Set aside.

Toss the tasso with the brown sugar and broil until the sugar melts. Let it cool before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Boil a quart of water and turn off the stove. Soak the chile de arbol and guajillo in it until they become soft. Remove the stems. Using a cup of the soaking liquid, pulse the peppers with the charred onion and jalapeño in the food processor. If it sticks to the sides, add more of the water. Once you’ve got a mix resembling a watery pico de gallo, combine with the rest of the warm water from before. Set aside until the beans are done soaking.

Once the beans have been constituted, wash and drain them before putting them in the slow cooker. They should appear larger and may have wrinkled skins. Combine the beans with the whole jar of pepperoncinis (even the juice!), tomatoes and liquid pepper mix in the slow cooker. Cook for 4 to 6 hours until the beans are tender and not mealy.

30 minutes before you plan to serve the chili, fold in the broiled tasso. Season with kosher salt to taste.

Additionally, you can prepare the chili ahead of time and let it rest in the fridge overnight to mature the flavors.

For even more deliciousness, grab a copy of Showdown: Comfort, Chili & BBQ right here.