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!

Stuff You’ll Need

  • Long handle wooden spoon
  • Slotted spoon (not absolutely necessary, but very useful to separate the cooked meat from the grease)
  • Long handled fork (no, not your grilling fork)
  • Cutting board
  • Knife (any kitchen knife)
  • 6-quart stock pot (or if you really hope to impress someone, go on the internet and buy a nice-looking 5-quart crock pot or slow cooker – I’m serious, this is a presentation master-stroke.)(YES! It has to be at least 5-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 Goes In It

  • 4 x 15-16 oz cans of chili beans (mild, medium, or hot, your choice – I use medium)
  • 2 x 28-32 oz cans of diced tomatoes (go for no-salt if available)
  • 1 lb meat. You can use:
    • Ground beef (this makes a sweeter tasting chili)
    • Beef tips or beef strips
    • Pork
    • Ground pork (Use turkey or beef if there are religious restrictions – you and God need to stay tight!)
    • Sausage (regular, hot, or whatever you choose – I use hot)
    • Turkey
  • I suggest adding 1 15-16 oz jar of banana peppers (tamed, or hot, your choice – I use tamed)
  • Seasonings*
    • 3 Tbsp Chili powder – I suggest McCormick’s, readily available and reliable flavor – go ahead and heap those 3 tablespoons too
    • 1 Tbsp Red pepper seeds
    • 1 tsp Turmeric (Yeah, I said 1/4 tsp on the video. It’s really 1 tsp.)
    • 1/2 tsp Cayenne
    • 1/2 tsp Paprika
    • 1/2 tsp Cumin

*You can substitute 1 box of chili mix (Brown Box, Carroll Shelby’s, 2 alarm,… – my favorite is Little Brown Bag) for all the seasonings if you like.

What To Do

Break up the sausage and brown it on low to medium heat, stirring and breaking it up occasionally, until it’s all brown. While the sausage is browning, open the beans and tomatoes, drain them, and put them in your 5 to 6-quart whatever-you-have.

Add the seasonings.

If you are using a pre-packaged chili mix, open the box (or bag) 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. Do not use the salt – you don’t need it. It’s your choice which, if any, of the other little packets of stuff to add. I use them all when I go this route.

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. Add the cut up peppers to the mix.

TURN OFF THE STOVE. Drain the grease from the meat and add the meat to the pot – the slotted spoon is handy for this, but the wooden spoon will serve in a pinch. Now, add enough liquid from the banana peppers to make the pot easy to stir and mix thoroughly – this is where the wooden spoon earns its keep. Consider adding all of the pepper juice to the mix – I do. If you cheated and used a smaller pot, 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 wooden spoon earns its place in your kitchen.

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 more seasonings 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 (or 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 seasonings.

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 chili, it 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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