Homage to Elizabeth Taylor’s Favorite Food: Chasen’s Chili

By on March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor lit up the screen and fired the imaginations of Americans for seventy years.  She died today in Los Angeles at the age of 79.  But to properly remember Ms. Taylor it’s important to keep in mind that she had her earthy, sensuous side barely contained for most of her life, despite illnesses,  career ups and downs, numerous husbands and lovers.

But through it all she remained true to one thing:  Chasen’s Chili.  In fact, when she was on set in Rome, shooting Cleopatra with soon-to-be husband,Richard Burton, she ordered Chasen’s to be shipped to her from Los Angeles at the scandalous cost of $100.  Elizabeth was right.  A bowl of Chasen’s chili will set the world right.

And so,  in honor of Elizabeth Taylor, I’m whipping up a batch of Chasen’s chili myself this very night.  I’m using grass-fed beef and Gebhardt’s chili powder, both from Texas and pinto beans which are the only fit additive to a bowl of Red. Serve it with plain old saltine crackers.  Forget all the fancy stuff.  Just know,  as Mz. Taylor did, that a bowl of Chasen’s Chili can light your fire.

This is the stuff of which Hollywood legends are made. Rumor has it back when Elizabeth Taylor was filming Cleopatra in Rome she craved the chili made at Chasen’s Restaurant in Los Angeles so much that she was willing to pay $100 just to have the order shipped to her. For years the recipe remained a closely guarded secret. It seemed the owner David Chasen came to the restaurant every Sunday to privately cook up a batch which he would freeze for the week, believing that the chili was best when reheated.



Chasen’s Chili 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 grass fed beef chuck, coarsely chopped
1 pound pork shoulder, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup Gebhardt’s brand chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

  1. Rinse the beans, picking out the debris. Place beans in a Dutch oven with water to cover. Boil for 2 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 5 minutes. In a large skillet sauté bell pepper in oil for 5 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 sauté 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 6 main dish servings.

About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”