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  • Writer's pictureAdam Kaufman

Tailgate Kitchen: Spicy Slopeside Chipotle Chili

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

Part 1 of an occasional series.

Sendin' Brendan enjoys some chili in the K1 parking lot before the pandemic. Photo: John Giuffo

After a seemingly endless wait thanks to our last pandemic-abbreviated season, then a torturously long Indian summer across the Northeast, skiers and riders rejoiced in their first turns of the season last week. But with widespread vaccination and the associated promise of herd immunity still several months away, skiing will look and feel a lot different this year, from lifts to lodges and lunch. Especially lunch, which is where this series of recipes comes in handy.

In addition to capacity limits and mask requirements, the après party scene will be virtually non-existent. This obviously comes as bad news to those among us who love to cap off a day on the slopes with drinks with friends and some live music, or pause mid-day to indulge in a great lunch with a view. But as the saying goes, “when life hands you lemons, make a hot toddy, stash it in a thermos, and keep it in your car for a tailgate lunch.”

While most resorts are planning to offer limited indoor dining options in their lodges, I’m taking a hard pass this winter on participating in the one activity that would put me in an indoor space with a bunch of people not wearing masks. And let’s face it—with a few exceptions, lodge food ain’t all that great anyways, and it costs a lot of money that I’d rather be spending on lodging, lift tickets, gear and beer. I can get a $20 basket of soggy chicken fingers and fries, or I can make an entire vat of piping hot, spicy chili for my whole crew. The choice seems obvious.

John and I are firm believers that tailgating is not only a responsible option this season for public health reasons, but it also adds to the experience of day on the slopes. Be it a quick sausage and pepper sub or a full-fledged parking lot lobster boil (as we did one spring day in Maine), tailgating really spices up a ski day – especially when the weather is nice, but even when it’s not. Of course, preparing and cooking a full hot meal from the back of your car requires quite a bit of planning, the right gear (don’t forget a small fire extinguisher), and a can-do attitude, but almost any day on the hill can be perfect for a fun and cozy tailgate. Double up on the footwarmers and handwarmers, have a hot drink to go during prep, and make sure you’ve brought a camp chair for everyone in your family or pandemic pod. It’s not the year to encourage all the inter-tailgate socializing that’s normal for a slopeside meal, but small groups preparing and eating their own food at their own cars is about as safe as pandemic winter dining can get. And while having some culinary chops certainly helps, all you really need is the right equipment and some good recipes. For our gear recommendations to build your perfect tailgate setup, check out this article John wrote for NY Ski Blog. And if you like this recipe visit us again soon, as we’ll be posting some of our favorite tailgate recipes here throughout the season. They all feature simple dishes that are quick, inexpensive, and easy to make in large batches, and they’ll get you back on the slopes with a belly full of food and a family free of Covid.

The only way to properly kick off our tailgate recipe series is with a tried and true favorite that we make a few times each season—my spicy chipotle chili. There’s nothing like a hot bowl of chili when it’s cold outside, and this recipe has enough spice to give you a little kick but not enough to ruin anyone’s day. I recommend making it at home the night before and bringing it cold in a large food container to the ski resort. Not only is this easier and faster to simply warm — the chili tastes better after it sits for a day. All you have to do is fire up the camp stove, heat it up, and add your favorite fix-ins. Enjoy!


2 lbs ground beef or turkey

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeño pepper, sliced thin (optional)

5 cloves garlic

4 sprigs celery, diced

1 small/mini can chipotles in adobo

1 mini can tomato paste

14 oz can diced tomatoes

14 oz can corn

14 oz can black beans

14 oz can pinto beans

14 oz can kidney beans

32 oz beef or chicken broth

2 bay leaves

1 bunch scallions, sliced thin, separate white from green

1 heaping Tbsp cumin

1 heaping Tbsp chili powder

1 heaping Tbsp ground oregano

1 heaping Tbsp black pepper

Olive oil


Sour cream

Grated cheese of your choice

Tortilla chips or tortilla strips


  1. Heat large pot on high w/ oil until the oil ripples. Add in peppers, onions, celery and lower heat to mid-low. Sauté, stirring, for 10 mins.

  2. Meanwhile, in a food processor, purée the chipotles, tomato paste and garlic cloves and put aside.

  3. Add meat to pot and turn heat to high. Add chili powder and cumin. Cook until meat is well done, stirring frequently and breaking up bits.

  4. Add tomato/chipotle/garlic mix. Stir to coat meat and veg and cook for 5 mins stirring. Some paste will stick to the pan and start browning.

  5. Add beer and use wooden spoon to scrape browned bits off bottom and stir chili. When bottom is clean, add beans, tomatoes, corn and chicken broth. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.

  6. Simmer uncovered for 45 mins until liquid had reduced, stirring every 10 mins or so.

  7. Add sliced scallions (whites and greens) and season to taste with salt and pepper.

  8. Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips/strips.


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