Last week I wrapped up my Star Spotlight on the truly amazing Jimmy Stewart. The star of such classics as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Winchester ’73 (1950), and Rear Window (1954), Jimmy Stewart was a versatile actor as beloved for his genuine niceness off-screen as he was for his undeniable talent and charisma in his films.
A Real-Life, Down to Earth Hero
As a bomber pilot in Europe during WWII—with 20 combat missions and over 2,000 hours of flying B-24 Liberators to his name, Colonel James Stewart became the highest ranking movie star in the military, and the definition of a real-life hero.
And then there’s the admirable fact that Jim remained (faithfully) married to the same woman for 45 years, in Hollywood no less!!!
Despite all these accomplishments, there’s something so familiar and approachable about this movie star the whole world feels comfortable calling “Jimmy.”
A Man of Simple Tastes
So perhaps it’s not all that surprising to learn that Jim was a man of simple tastes when it came to the food he enjoyed. As Jimmy’s daughter Kelly once shared,
“He liked simple food and he liked food he knew. He used to order the same meal at Chasen’s for a decade or so, and then switched to another meal for the next decade. And he hated huge heaping portions—he had a small appetite.”
The restaurant Kelly mentions, Chasen’s, was the famous Hollywood eatery of Dave Chasen. Located at the corner of Doheny Drive and Beverly Blvd., Chasen’s became the neighborhood hangout of the stars.
Regulars over the years included Jimmy, Clark Gable, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Lucille Ball.
Jimmy Stewart and Chasen's
Perhaps one of the things that drew a guy of simple tastes like Jimmy Stewart to Chasen’s was that from the restaurant’s opening in 1936 to its closing in 1995, Dave Chasen never let his place get too fancy to serve the dish that started it all: his famous chili. Dave’s legendary chili was so good, Liz Taylor had it shipped to her from Hollywood to Rome (for the then exorbitant sum of $100!!) when she filmed the epic Cleopatra (1963).
In fact, Chasen’s was one of the few restaurants where the frugal Jimmy Stewart was willing to spend his hard-earned cash.
According to Jim’s wife Gloria, even during their courtship, getting Jimmy to take her out for a meal was like pulling teeth:
“He was always tight with his money. I thought with me he might loosen up a little. But he didn’t. I kept saying, ‘Let’s go out to eat at a restaurant,’ and he kind of fumbled and mumbled and said something about why spend money in a restaurant when I—I—could cook. Finally I said, ‘Let’s go to a restaurant and I’ll pay.’ His sense of pride as a man overcame his sense of prudence, and he finally took me out to dine.
When [a film] had its premiere, Jim asked me if I wanted to go. I said, ‘If we go to the premiere, does it mean you’re actually going to feed me as well?’”
Oh how I love Gloria’s trademark wit and sass!
Jimmy Stewart's Favorite Restaurant
Despite Jimmy’s penny-pinching ways, Jim and Gloria, and later the whole Stewart family, were known to eat at Chasen’s twice a week, where Jimmy would order something simple like Sole Hitchcock or vichyssoise. And if he was in the mood, dessert was always, always, a single scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Inspiration for My Beyond Meat Chili
I can’t go on the record as saying that chili was a favorite meal of Jimmy Stewart’s, but for a man who frequented a restaurant famous for its chili, it’s easy to imagine that Jim, with his love of simple foods, enjoyed at least a bowl or two of Dave’s chili over the years.
And it’s this image of Jim, sitting down at his favorite booth with a pal or his family, enjoying Chasen’s chili with perhaps a side of their celebrated cheese toast, that inspired me to create my Jimmy Stewart Beyond Meat Chili Cheese Toast.
I was so excited to discover Dave Chasen’s original chili recipe during my research. And though I’ve tried to stay true to the spirit of Dave’s recipe, I admit that my plant-based, vegan chili is a completely different dish. But in developing my recipe, I was sure to include many of the veggies in Chasen’s chili—such as tomatoes, bell pepper, and onion—and the herbs and seasonings Dave used, namely cumin and fresh parsley. So elements of my recipe are certainly similar to the chili Jim and Hollywood’s other luminaries would have enjoyed at Chasen’s.
Beyond Meat Chili Cheese Toast!
Enjoy my Jimmy Stewart Beyond Meat Chili alone, or go all out and make it chili cheese toast. But I warn you, it’s absolutely addicting, and perhaps even Jim would have had a hard time sticking to his usual small portion-sizes if confronted with a plate of my Beyond Meat Chili Cheese Toast.
Either way, this recipe is my tribute to Jimmy Stewart, a great man, a genuine nice guy, and a one-of-a-kind original.
A Few Things!
The Best Spatula for Beyond Meat Chili
With all the veggie sautéing and stirring, this recipe is the perfect time to use my favorite spatula. Technically made for taking cookies off the baking sheet, I use this spatula for everything: I love its small size, and the control it gives me when cooking. You can find my favorite spatula here on Amazon [aff. link].
Enhance the Flavor of Beyond Meat Chili with Good Tomato Paste!
Also, my recipe calls for tomato paste to enhance the tomato-based flavor of this chili. I discovered San Marzano tubed tomato paste [aff. link] a few years back, and now I don’t use anything else. It’s got amazing flavor, and tubed tomato paste means you can store it in the fridge.
So no more opening a can of tomato paste, using a tsp, and then seeing the rest go to waste in the fridge! You can find my favorite San Marzano tubed tomato paste here on Amazon [aff. link].
Jimmy Stewart Beyond Meat Chili Cheese Toast
For the chili:
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion, diced
- 2 bell peppers, or 3 small, chopped to ½ inch pieces (use different colored bell peppers to make this chili gorgeous)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
- 28 oz diced tomatoes
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 3 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion salt
- 1 15 oz can corn, drained
- 1 15 oz can pinto beans, (don’t drain! We will use the juice)
- 1 15 oz can black beans, (don’t drain! We will use the juice)
- 1 15 oz can dark red kidney beans, (don’t drain! We will use the juice)
- ½ tsp serrano pepper, minced (use more or omit depending on spice preference)
For the Beyond Meat:
- 16 oz Beyond Meat, I used Beyond Beef Plant-Based Ground (feel free to use whatever your favorite meat substitute is)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp onion salt
- ½ tsp sea salt
To finish the chili:
- 1-2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- ½ cup fresh parsley, minced (or ¼ cup parsley and ¼ cup cilantro)
To make Chili Cheese Toast:
- 1 loaf good bread, thinly sliced (I prefer French or ciabatta)
- Freshly grated cheddar cheese, to preference (I usually use about 2 cups)
- Parsley, minced (to garnish)
Cook the Beyond Meat
- Add the olive oil and the Beyond Meat/your favorite meat substitute to a skillet, and cook over medium heat.
- Once the Beyond Beef starts to break down and brown, add the salt and onion salt. Use your spatula to incorporate the seasonings. (Note: if you use a different meat substitute, you may not need to season it with salt and onion salt.)
- Cook until the Beyond Beef gets to your desired color of brown. I like mine pretty cooked through to a golden brown, which ends up being about 5-7 minutes.
- The Beyond Beef is done, set aside while you prepare the rest of the chili.
Cook the veggies
- To a large soup pot, add the olive oil, onion, and ½ tsp sea salt. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
- Now add the bell pepper, garlic, and 2 Tbsp of parsley. Cook for an additional 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, beans, and corn
- Turn the heat down to medium-low, and add the diced tomatoes, pinto beans, black beans, and dark red kidney beans. Be sure to add all the juice from the beans to the soup pot as well!!!
- Now add the corn (be sure you DO strain the corn). Stir everything together.
Add the seasonings
- Add the remaining salt, paprika, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion salt, and chili powder. Stir so the spices are completely incorporated.
- Turn the heat back up to medium, and bring the chili to a boil. Keep the chili at a boil for 2 minutes, then bring the heat down to low, cover, and let the chili simmer for 10-15 minutes, until when you taste a bite, the bell pepper is cooked through but still has a bit of a bite to it.
Add the lime juice and the parsley
- Let the chili sit for about five minutes, uncovered.
- Now add the remaining ½ cup parsley (or ¼ cup parsley and ¼ cup cilantro), and 1 Tbsp lime juice to the chili. Stir, then taste. Add an additional Tbsp of lime juice, if desired.
- Chili is done! Serve as is, or make chili cheese toast. (Dave Chasen always believed his famous chili tasted better the next day, once it thickened and flavors had more time to develop. And I agree! I think my chili is even more delicious the next day.)
To Make Chili Cheese Toast
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
- Lay out as many pieces of bread as you can on a baking sheet. (This will of course depend on the size of your bread. I usually get 8 slices of bread on the baking sheet.)
- Now spoon a generous amount of chili on top of each slice of bread.
- Sprinkle a generous amount of cheddar over the chili.
Bake the bread
- Bake at 375 degrees for 4 minutes.
- Now turn the heat up to broil, and broil the chili cheese toast for 2 minutes. Check on the toasts, and broil for an additional 2 minutes if desired. (I broil until the cheese and the bread are slightly browned. In my oven, this is always 4 minutes total broiling time.)
- Be careful that you don’t burn the toast if you decide to broil for the additional 2 minutes!
- Remove the toasts from the oven, and sprinkle with parsley.
Serve and enjoy!
- Serve the chili and chili cheese toast together for a hearty meal, or serve just the chili cheese toast as a showstopping appetizer.