My Favorite Silver Palate Chili

Thirty years ago, when I was a newlywed living and working in Boston, Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’s The Silver Palate Cookbook was the “it” cookbook. Just as in 1961, when Julia Child made learning French cooking techniques attainable for home cooks with Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Rosso and Lukins, in 1982, introduced the next generation of home cooks to a style of gourmet cooking using simple instructions and fresh ingredients.

Their recipes were so accessible, flavorful, and sophisticated that an expanded language of food emerged. Suddenly, phyllo triangles, tarragon chicken, hummus, arugula, red leaf lettuce, colorful pinwheel fruit tarts, and blueberry and walnut oil vinaigrette, became de riguer at luncheons and dinner parties across the country. As an indicator of how unconventional their ingredients were there was an asterisk next to “balsamic vinegar” in one recipe, indicating it could be found in “specialty food shops.”

The Silver Palate Cookbook authors gave my peers and me the confidence to experiment with unfamiliar ingredients. It is hard to describe how accomplished I felt, as a cook, the first time I made Silver Palate classics like Chicken Marbella and Raspberry Chicken, both notable for their beautiful presentations and multiple layers of flavor. The authors made time spent in the kitchen an adventure; an adventure that continues to this day.

This chili recipe, with a few adaptations, continues to be my favorite chili. It is loaded with wonderful flavors like dill, cumin, citrus, Dijon, and wine. It is A-mazing. Be warned: it makes a lot of chili — feel free to cut the ingredient amounts in half.


Yield: 8 quarts or 32 cupfuls



½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds sweet onion, chopped
¼ cup minced garlic
3 pounds sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
6 pounds lean ground beef
3 15-ounce cans (about 5 cups) dark red kidney beans, drained, unrinsed
4  28-ounce cans crushed Italian plum tomatoes (plus ¼ cup water/per can, to rinse can)
2  12-ounce cans tomato paste (plus ¼ cup water/per can, to rinse can)
½ cup Dijon mustard
½ cup red wine
¼ cup (1 large lemon) freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup sea salt
1½ tablespoons ground black pepper
3-ounce can ground cumin seed
4-ounce can plain chili powder
¼ cup dried basil
¼ cup dried oregano
½ ounce (1 cup) fresh chopped dill, stems removed
1 ounce (1 cup) fresh chopped Italian flat-leafed parsley, stems removed
4  6.5-ounce cans pitted black olives, coarsely chopped

A few words about the ingredients …

Sausage: I use Premio’s Sweet Italian Sausage in this recipe. I buy it at Costco. The sausages are fabulous grilled or cooked in a Sunday tomato sauce.


Spices: You can go to the international aisle of most grocery stores and find spices at one-third the cost of those sold in the regular spice aisle?


Technique Tip: How to use a fat separator:
Fat separators are pitchers with pouring spouts set into the base. Since water is denser (has more mass per unit of volume) than fat, the water-based juices sink to the bottom, and the fat floats to the top. With the spout on the bottom, it is easy to save and pour out the juice while retaining the fat in the container. Remember to stop pouring the liquid just before the fat enters the spout hole in the base. The straining basket on top keeps solid particles from falling into the container and clogging the spout hole.


If you don’t have a fat separator, pour the liquid into a one-quart measuring container, chill it in the refrigerator, and scoop off the yellow congealed fat that floats to the top. Pour the meat juice back into the pot. If you want to feel really virtuous, take a look at how much fat you have eliminated from the pot of chili. Nice.



Add olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot.  Add onions and garlic and sauté until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes.


While onions are cooking, squeeze sausage out of its casings and crumble. Sauté meat in a 6-quart, or larger sauté pan until evenly browned.


Next, we want to get rid of the fat from the cooked meat but keep the meat’s juices. Here’s a way to do it: Make a well in the center of the meat mixture. A golden liquid will quickly fill the well. Use a ladle to remove the fat to a large fat separator. Keep scooping until all the liquid is gone.


After juices settle to the bottom of the fat separator, pour them (about 2 cups) back into the stockpot. Discard fat that remains. This is extra step is a time-consuming process but worth it to retain the two cups of meat juice that would have been lost had you simply drained the meat into a colander.


Prepare a mise en place for the remaining ingredients. This is very helpful when there are so many add-ins that need to be measured. Otherwise, it’s easy to lose track of which ingredients have already been added to the pot.


Add all ingredients except the olives to the meat and onion mixture. Rinse each can of tomatoes with ¼ cup of hot water and add that to the pot.

So many lovely ingredients in this chili!


Simmer chili for 20 minutes on low heat stirring frequently.

Add coarsely chopped olives, stir, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Serve with bowls of garnish such as shredded cheddar cheese, sliced green onions, chopped parsley, and sour cream. Serve over rice, if desired.


This chili can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.


You might also like these other soups, chilis, and stews:
Lisa’s Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili
Kelly’s Duck Stew
Bruce’s Turkey and Sausage Gumbo
Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs
Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe or pattern.

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

12 thoughts on “My Favorite Silver Palate Chili

  1. Love this recipe and love this cookbook. Is still one of my favorites for:

    Linguine with Tomatoes & Basil Roast Lamb with Peppercorn Crust Dilled New Potatoes …I could go on. Let us know how the Chile fares in the cook-off! Kate

    1. I LOVE hearing what other people cooked regularly from the Silver Palate. Brings back nice memories, especially of our youthful enthusiasm for trying new recipes! I’m going to take a look at the roast lamb recipe. I’ll let you know how we do cook-off. Until then, stay warm! Judy

    1. Those were definitely fun times, Becky! Remember that tiny dining nook in the living room? Lots of good Sunday dinners and laughs there. We were fortunate to have one another during those residency years.xo

  2. Judy—just found you today. I love Sheila’s chili recipe. Just made it this past weekend and it got rave reviews once again!
    Wondering if you can help me…… looking for a chicken chili recipe that Sheila had in Parade magazine years ago(late 1990’s-early 2000’s).
    It had diced red & yellow bell peppers in it and the eye-appeal was superb! The taste was delicious as well.
    I’ve looked & looked on the internet & can’t seem to find it. Can you help me, please?

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