As a child, going to my grandpa's house meant a couple of things: a semi long car trip from Rockford, Ill., to Stoughton, Wis., my brother and I rocking out to CDs on our Discman players, and passing the largest can of Chili I, to this date, have ever seen. You see, there's a Hormel factory in Beloit near I-90, the highway we would take to get to Stoughton, and I'm pretty sure that to this day, the large holding tank facing the highway is still painted to resemble a Hormel Chili can.
Well as the saying goes, "Mom's is always better," and there is no doubt about that when it comes to chili. In junior high school our cafeteria had a vending machine that dispensed soup, kind of like one of those old fashion cigarette dispensers you would find at car repair shop back in the early 90's. Well-lo and behold-nestled between Campbell's Chicken Noodle, and Chef Boyardee Beefaroni was Hormel Chili. I remember pulling the lever to release the already warmed can, of course no one would ever get the chili because of the adverse side effects, but for a 14 year old who had grown up seeing the giant Hormel Chili can, I could not let the golden opportunity pass me by. I'm pretty sure I only had the chili once, but I remember it being very thin, unlike my mom's, with only kidney beans, my least favorite, and little bits of ground beef.
Now chili is one of those recipes that can get as specific as a person's genes. It seems every family has their own take on the dish, adding a dash of this, and a pinch of that. While my mom's might not be the most adventurous chili out there, it is a great place to start if you've never tried your hand at the dish. It's definitely something that can sit and stew for a while, chili is perfect for fall or winter potlucks, Super Bowl parties or-if you make it in the slow cooker-something you can leave cooking all day while your at work.
Of course no chili is complete with out some fixings. My dad and I would start with hot sauce, which would add enough heat to clear out any sinus, then the table would be set with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped green onion, and oyster crackers. If there were lots of people to feed, my mom would boil some elbow macaroni, creating chili mac, which really makes the chili last.
Michael-my boyfriend of over three years who is originally from Dallas/Fort Worths-has opened my eyes to some Texas-born treats, such as Texas Champagne, a cayenne pepper hot sauce, and ranch-style Beans, pinto beans in a blend of spices. Only available in the South, Michael's mom sends us care packages with the goodies. Now when I set out to make chili both make their way into the pot, if I have them on hand. By adding my own spin, it is no longer my mom's recipe, but that's one of the joys of cooking, each recipe can be a reflection of your life, and each can be modified accordingly.
Chili is best shared on a cool day with cornbread and a nice hoppy beer like an IPA, or a big red wine like Zinfandel.
1 lb ground beef
1 yellow onion, chopped medium
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped medium
1 ( 15 oz ) can of chili beans, with sauce
1 ( 15 oz ) can of baked beans, with sauce
1 ( 15 oz ) can Ranch Style beans, with sauce ( optional )
1 ( 14.5 oz ) can of diced tomatoes, with juice
1 ( 15 oz ) can of stewed tomatoes, with juice
1 ( 6 oz ) can of tomato paste
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp chili powder ( chipotle chili powder for spice )
2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper ( optional )
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp white sugar
salt and pepper to taste
hot sauce to taste
2 cups grated cheddar
1 tbsp sour cream per serving
1 tbsp chopped green onion per serving
2 tbsp oyster crackers per serving
1. In a large skillet over med-high heat, brown ground beef and drain excess fat.
2. Add chopped onion, garlic, and green pepper to the skillet and cook until slightly translucent.
3. In a large pot, or slow cooker, add the ground beef mixture, chili beans, baked beans, ranch style beans, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika, white sugar, salt and pepper, and hot sauce.
4. Stir together, and cook over low heat until flavors are blended, one hour. Or set slow cooker to low and let cook, five to eight hours.
5. Serve in bowl and top with cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onion, and oyster crackers.