When I met my wife, let’s just say I was dense. Maybe I’ll tell that story later when she can tell it with me. We tell two different versions and it’s much more humorous when you get both versions together. When I did wake up to the fact she was interested in me, I wrapped up my recovery with the question, “Is there any chance you would like to find out how well I can cook?”

There was, she did, and my first culinary feat was chili that was good enough she bragged about it to my friends and later urged me to enter our church’s Super-Bowl Chili Cook-Off with it two years later. She took first place at the cook-off – I didn’t even get honorable mention, but that is yet another story. I’ve learned in the twenty years since and what follows is my current chili recipe.

NOTE: This is bachelor cooking – not haute cuisine. It’s about food easy enough for the untried “chef” to make without being overwhelmed and still make a dish his guests want to eat more of after the first serving. Feel free to use the Tennessee Pride sausage, the ready made cans of Bush’s chili beans, the cans of Del Monte already diced tomatoes, and the jar of banana pepper-rings from the condiment aisle. You don’t want to be frazzled from kitchen-stress, you want to be ready to play host!

What Goes In It

  • 4 15-16 oz cans of chili beans (mild, medium, or hot, your choice – I use medium)
  • 2 28-32 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 lb sausage (regular, hot, or whatever you choose – I use hot) (Use Turkey or Beef if there are religious restrictions – you and God need to stay tight!)
  • 1 15-16 oz jar of banana peppers (tamed, or hot, your choice – I use tamed)
  • 1 box of chili mix (Brown Box, Carroll Shelby’s, 2 alarm,… – my favorite is Little Brown Bag)

Stuff You’ll Need

  • Long handle wooden spoon
  • Long handled fork (no, your grilling fork is too big)
  • Cutting board
  • Knife (any kitchen knife)
  • 8-quart stock pot (or if you really hope to impress someone, go on the internet and buy a nice-looking 8-quart crock pot or slow cooker – I’m serious, this is a presentation master-stroke.)(YES! It has to be 8-quart! The beans and tomatoes alone are 4 quarts, and food expands as it cooks.)
  • Medium or large frying pan
  • Can opener (Girls, stop laughing! If I don’t mention this he’ll be stuck and he’ll open the cans with his pocket knife… I just know.)
  • Soup ladle – you won’t need this until it’s time to serve your masterpiece.

What To Do

Break up the sausage and brown it on medium heat, stirring and breaking it up occasionally, until it’s all brown. While the sausage is browning, open the beans and tomatoes and dump all into your 8-quart whatever-you-have. Open the box of chili mix and throw out the masa flour.
-“But, I like thick chili!”
Trust me, throw out the flour. After this, if you think I’m wrong, you can keep the flour.

From the box of chili mix, put the powder from the largest bag in with the beans and tomatoes – this is the chili powder. The rest of the smaller little packets are various peppers and a bag of salt. Unless you or one or your guests are a blood-pressure patient, add the salt. It’s your choice which, if any, of the little packets of pepper to add. I use them all.

Open the banana peppers and fish out the peppers onto a cutting board with the fork – SAVE THE JUICE. Cut the banana peppers into smaller bits, about an inch to two inches long at the longest. Anything longer than that will annoy the female chili eater – even if she likes chili. Put the cut up peppers into the 8-quart.

TURN OFF THE STOVE. Drain the grease from the meat and add the meat to the 8-quart – the wooden spoon is handy for this. Now, add enough liquid from the banana peppers to make the 8-quart easy to stir and mix thoroughly – the spoon is good here too. Consider adding all of the pepper juice to the mix – I do. If you cheated, don’t try to impress yourself with how much of the juice you can make a smaller pot hold, the mess will not impress your guests.

Set your creation on low heat (this is where the crock pot really shines) and let it cook a while – a few hours to overnight is good. If you got the crock pot, you are golden! Go set the table and get ready for your guest(s)!
If you have a pot you have to put on the stove to heat, use enough heat that it actually cooks but not so much it boils or burns and be sure to check it often to see it doesn’t stick to the bottom – here again the spoon comes in handy.

TIP: Here is where thick chili is a bust, the thicker the chili the worse the heat transfer. Stuff on the bottom is burning while the stuff on top is cold – especially if you are slow-cooking by stove-top. If you experience this problem, do three things next time; save the pepper juice, throw out the flour, and use a crock pot!
Chili shouldn’t be soup, but it should be wet. Add water if you need to.

Now it’s time to learn from the experience! You may want to add another pound of meat and another box of chili mix to get a meatier chili. You can choose different beans (mild or hot), different banana peppers (tamed or hot), different sausage (maybe chorizo mix!) and so on. Maybe you want to add an 8 oz jar of sliced jalapenos (of something even hotter) if you work at a fire-station. Stick to the basic recipe the first time – its best to learn from a known base-line – and welcome to bachelor chef-hood!

TIP: My wife and I like meatier chili and we find that half the tomatoes, beans and peppers in a 4-quart crock pot works awesome for just the two us. I still use all the little chili-mix packets except the flour.

NOTE: I told my not-yet bride that I knew several recipes and had cooked for friends before. This was true. The first culinary feat I mentioned is this was the first time I did it with anything riding on it. I told her I was good and now I had to live up to that!

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