In my continuing effort to prove that I love to eat about as much as I love to write, here’s my family recipe for chili. I won’t ever be entering this in any Texas cook-offs; I’m sure “authentic” chili cooks will read it and faint with horror. But it’s hot; it tastes good; it’s filling; and it’s damned easy to make, particularly on cold December nights when you’ve got way too much else to do. You can put this together, walk away, wrap presents, have a bowl when you’re ready and leave the rest simmering for the rest of the household to grab whenever they show up. One batch will feed at least six people. It also keeps very well in the refrigerator and makes a great lunch the next day.
My version is adapted from my mom’s version which she adapted from her dad’s version. (His was legendary and involved little cut-up hot dogs – we’re not talking haute cuisine here.) My sister, Sarah, and her husband, Derek, have refined their own version that is much more sophisticated; if they invite you over to eat, by all means, go. Just don’t look for any beans.
2 pounds ground beef
2 tablespoons dried minced onion
3 cans light red kidney beans, neither drained nor rinsed (12 ounces, maybe? the ‘normal’ sized cans, not the great big ones)
4 cans tomato sauce (8 ounces, I think – the small cans)
4 tomato sauce cans water
1 generous teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin (if you have it – don’t buy it special for this; it tastes fine without it)
1 tablespoon mustard (like you’d put on a hot dog, not dried)
3 drops Texas Pete hot sauce (do buy this special – other hot sauce might work; I just don’t know how to measure it)
Sour cream, saltine crackers, pepper jack or sharp chedder cheese, all optional condiments
Start at least an hour before you plan to eat. Brown the ground beef with the minced onion in a large, heavy pot, drain the fat, return to pot. Add beans, tomato sauce, water, chili powder, cumin, mustard, and Texas Pete, stir until well combined. Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally.
My favorite way to eat this is to cut pepper jack cheese in 1/2 inch cubes, put a handful in the bottom of a deep bowl, cover with chili, garnish with a dollop of sour cream. Some of my family just add crushed saltine crackers. My husband, who had never had chili before he married me, likes both cheese and crackers.