Though I know a ton of fans of the TV sitcom The Office, I have to admit I’m a casual one at best. I can’t recite any lines off the top of my head, but I do remember some pretty good scenes, like when Michael thought it was a good idea to carbo-load fettuccine Alfredo prior to a 5K. As you can imagine (or as some of you remember), things did not end well.
One specific scene that a lot of fans remember, however, is a cold open involving the character Kevin Malone, played by actor Brian Baumgartner. It begins with Kevin proudly showing off a giant stock pot of homemade chili.
“At least once a year,” he says, looking at the camera, “I like to bring in some of my Kevin’s Famous Chili. The trick is to undercook the onions. Everybody is going to get to know each other in the pot. I’m serious about this stuff.”
Then Kevin trundles through the door of the Dunder Mifflin office, lugging this enormous pot with him, until he reaches the front desk. The lid slides off, his arms give way, and the pot tumbles out of his oven-mitt-covered hands and onto the floor, making an enormous and predictably hilarious diarrhea-looking mess all over the carpet. In a desperate scramble to fix things, Kevin tries to scoop up the chili using various items from Pam’s receptionist desk, wiping out in the puddle of chili as he does so. Good times.
I went out to dinner with a friend the other day and asked, “Hey, you’re a big fan of The Office, right? Do you remember Kevin’s chili scene?”
He immediately broke out into a huge grin. “You have to undercook the onions,” he said.
When I learned the other day that NBC streaming service Peacock, current home of The Office, had hidden the recipe for this magical chili in its user agreement, I knew I absolutely knew I had to make it. The fact that it was slipped in there amidst the corporate fine print was already pretty funny, but it’s not just a quick reference to NBC’s biggest show—it’s the whole damn recipe!
“At Peacock, we don’t make promises we can’t keep,” the user agreement reads in part. “So, please see below for the chili recipe inspired by Kevin Malone’s legendary family dish, which he so memorably brought to Dunder Mifflin on The Office.”
For the most part, it’s a pretty straightforward recipe, but in a comically large quantity. It contains three whole pounds of ground beef (the hell?), three cans of pinto beans, 48 ounces of beer and beef stock, along with two and a half cups of fresh chopped tomatoes. (You can get the entire recipe here, and we’ve included it down below as well.) The chili is seasoned with toasted ancho chile powder, a tiny amount of cayenne pepper, cumin, and oregano, along with two medium onions and a boatload of garlic.
I made the entire recipe with a tiny modification (I used ancho chile powder instead of toasting and grinding my own—sorry, Kevin). I even smashed the drained and rinsed pinto beans as instructed, which is a detail I found a bit unusual. I undercooked the onions, crushed all the garlic into the pot one clove at a time using my garlic press, and let the whole thing simmer late into the night, keeping a close eye on it. Even in my spacious 5.5-quart Dutch oven, I had a precarious inch and a half of clearance on top, so I had to be careful not to let the chili get too rowdy over the heat. But in the end, I’d say everyone did get to know each other in the pot pretty well.
I ended up in bed after midnight with our whole apartment smelling like onions and beer, and I’d like to think Kevin would be proud of me. Then he’d say something really weird and then the audience would all have a good laugh.
I fixed myself a bowl for lunch today, after letting the flavors hang out in the fridge overnight as suggested. Of course, in the interest of authenticity, I even finished it off with the suggested garnishes of Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream, and green onions.
I have to say, the chili is... a little underwhelming. First off, it’s more of a soup than a hearty winter stew, since there’s so much liquid involved. It sorely needs acid, too. The only source of acid is from the fresh tomatoes (weirdly, there’s no canned tomatoes included in the recipe), and the amount of salt called for—two tablespoons for the entire batch—isn’t anywhere near enough for the four quarts of chili the recipe yielded. But it looked nice!
A few dashes (okay, maybe way more) of hot sauce did wake it up a bit, though I realize Kevin would probably be unhappy with that modification. It is a prized Malone family recipe, after all. In the end, I can’t really recommend you run out and make this; whatever your go-to chili recipe probably has way more flavor.
But I did spill some on the floor of the kitchen in honor of Kevin. Somehow, that made everything okay. So, what do you think? Should I plow down a bunch of fettuccine Alfredo and go for a run? I’m headed to Olive Garden, be right back!
- 4 dried ancho chiles
- 2 Tbs neutral oil (vegetable, canola or grapeseed)
- 3 lbs ground beef (80/20 or 85/15 lean)
- 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 large jalapeño, finely chopped
- 1 Tbs dried oregano
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 Tbs tomato paste
- 2 12 oz. bottles of beer (lager or pale ale)
- 3 cans Pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 cups beef stock
- 2 ½ cups chopped ripe tomatoes
- 2 Tbs kosher salt
- Chopped scallions, shredded Jack cheese and sour cream for topping
- Tear ancho chiles into pieces, discarding seeds and stems. In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, toast chiles over medium-high, stirring occasionally until very fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer toasted ancho chiles to a food processor or spice mill and process until very finely ground. Set aside.
- Add oil to pot and heat over medium-high. Add ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally to break beef into small pieces, until well browned (about 6 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer beef to a plate and set aside.
- Add onion to pot and cook briefly over medium-high until barely softened, about 2 minutes. The secret is to undercook the onions.
- Using a garlic press, press garlic directly into the pot, 1 clove at a time. Then stir in jalapeños, oregano, cumin, cayenne pepper and tomato paste. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add beer and continue to cook, stirring and scraping the pan, about 7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, put beans in a large bowl and mash briefly with a potato masher until broken up but not fully mashed.
- Add mashed beans, stock, tomatoes, salt, and cooked beef to pot. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low to maintain simmer and cook 2 hours so everything gets to know each other in the pot. Remove from heat, uncover and let stand at least 1 hour (can also be refrigerated 8 hours or overnight).
- Reheat gently, taste and add more salt if necessary, and serve with your favorite toppings. We recommend chopped scallions, shredded Jack cheese and sour cream.