MeatLoversChiliI’m a bit of a chilihead. Living in Southwest Colorado for 10 years, (not to mention southern California for a while when I was a kid, and traveling in Mexico for 9 months in my 20’s) has given me a serious appreciation for a well-balanced bowl of red.

When I arrived at my childhood home to help clean out the estate, I consolidated all of the various homemade and store-bought “chili powders” into an empty Hershey’s coco powder container, filling it to the top.  (Turns out my Dad and step mother had a taste for chili as well – though I suspect it was more about what to do with all the peppers they had grown and not being able to remember what was already in the back of the cupboard while at the store than anything else.) It only took about a year to work our way through what must have been 2 cups of fairly hot chili powder.

I grew up eating ground beef chili made from a Lowry’s or McCormick’s seasoning packet. That kind of simple chili has a flavor which still says “comfort food” to me today, despite how mild it is. I’ve tried out about 100 recipes for chili over the years, from vegetarian – with chunks of zucchini and corn, to one with roasted winter squash and black beans, not to mention classic Chili Colorado (Adovada) – a stewed pork or beef simmered for hours in a from scratch dried red chili sauce. Many recipes, from sources I trust, have been discarded (the Alton Brown chili recipe using crushed corn chips and a pressure cooker…meh).

But 20+ years ago, when I was first learning to cook, I clipped a recipe for “Kick-Off Chili” from the Sunday paper. Based on the ingredients, the recipe was sponsored by S&W canned goods. And over and over, I’ve returned to it as one of my “go to” chili recipes, because, well, it’s just damned good. Not too spicy. Absolutely ambrosia served with saltine crackers or corn chips (sometimes I don’t even bring a spoon to the table), and the ultimate “shades of my childhood” comfort food. (It also goes great with eggs or nachos). And it comes together pretty quickly, which is nice if you suddenly find out the “boys” are coming over to watch the game. So in honor of Super Bowl Sunday, here’s the recipe.

Of course, I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit over the years. I’ll note the original recipe here, along with nods to my more “from scratch, vote with your fork, food awareness” version. (Remember when you could just go to the store and buy stuff, before every decision had this long chain of health and environmental consequences attached to it? Sometimes I long for those care free days.)

Meat Lovers Chili
Serves 12. Takes about an hour from start to finish (40 minutes of which is simmer time)

  • 1 lb Ground Beef (I use lean grass finished if at all possible)
  • 1 lb Ground Pork Sausage (sometimes I’ll just use fresh ground pork – locally sourced, and up the spices a bit to compensate. Recipe does not specify what kind of pork sausage, so go with your own tastes. Breakfast sausage… maybe not so much – but hey, it might be fabulous.)
  • 1 large Onion, large dice
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 large Bell Pepper (I use green), cut into 3/4″ chunks
  • A few Green chiles, jalapenos, poblanos or other fresh chiles with a bit of heat to them (optional – not called for in the original recipe).
  • 1 lb Smoked Sausage, cut into 3/4″ chunks (Kielbasa, German…something that is already cooked – you want it to hold together in the chili, not fall apart).
  • 1 tbsp Ground Oregano (I use Mexican Oregano, and just crush the leaves as I throw it in the pot)
  • 3 tbsp Chili Powder (I usually use my own homemade chili powder – see this post for recipe)
  • 1 tsp ground Coriander (because I grow cilantro every year, and some of it always goes to seed – because it bolts, in like, 5 minutes – I always collect and grind some of my own coriander seed. Did you know that that’s what coriander is – the seeds of cilantro? Makes you feel less bad about all that bolted cilantro now doesn’t it? It tastes nothing like cilantro by the way, it has a lemony almost citrus taste).
  • 1 tsp Cumin (the original recipe didn’t include cumin – but COME ON!)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Celery Seed (I actually grind mine in a spice grinder before I add it – to bring out the flavor and not have little seeds that get stuck in everyone’s teeth. It’s about the only thing I use celery seed for. I keep it on hand just for this recipe.)
  • 2 28-oz cans Diced Tomatoes (organic BPA free if possible, or two quarts home canned)
  • 2 27-oz cans Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed (organic BPA free if possible or 1 lb dried, then home cooked.  Use whatever bean you like/have on hand. Kidney’s tend to have a bit of sweetness to them that I like in this recipe).
  • 1/3 cup Corn Meal (organic no GMO please, or masa, if you happen to have some on hand)

In a large (they aren’t kidding – large – it makes a lot) heavy pot or Dutch oven, over medium heat, brown ground beef and ground pork sausage with onions and garlic. Add bell pepper and other fresh chiles if using, and smoked sausage chunks; continue cooking 5-10 minutes longer. Reduce heat to low; drain fat if necessary. Blend in spices – cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, then add tomatoes. Simmer 5-10 minutes. Stir in kidney beans. In a bowl, blend 1/3 cup water with cornmeal to a consistency similar to pancake batter; mix with chili, simmer another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning.

You likely won’t need salt because of the “already salted” products in the mix.  Serve with saltines, corn chips or corn bread. It’s better, of course, the next day. All chilis are. This can easily be made in a crock pot. Just brown off the meat and onions, then dump everything into the crock and simmer on low for 3-4 hours.

Miles Away Farm Blog © 2013, where we’ll be eating this chili for days, and probably freezing a bit of it too. Fresh cornbread anyone?

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