Chili con Carne

One of my favorite meals as a child growing up in southern Kansas was chili, crackers and apple pie for dessert.  In our small towns, churches and clubs were always having chili dinners for fund-raisers.  Huge pots of chili, baskets of crackers, and small bottles of vinegar on the table.  Yes, we added a dash of vinegar to our chili.  Usually, there would be carrot and celery sticks on the side. Always served on those heavy white china dishes — no paper or styrofoam! One particular fundraiser stands out in my mind.  It was in the early 1960’s and I was an unlikely member of Young Republicans—I was in 7th grade, so it must have been 64.  (Note: I am now a registered Independent — sorry, hon!) Robert Dole was just a young man running for Congress and had come to Winfield to meet the folks at our chili dinner.  I was cleaning up the tables as the crowd was getting ready for the after-dinner speechifying, and just as the man from Russel was being introduced ——  I dropped a big stack of dishes! Everyone in the hall knew who had caused the commotion, and these were people who knew my parents.  (sigh)   I later grew up and found out that people growing up in western Kansas, mostly of the Mennonite tradition, ate cinnamon rolls with their chili.  I thought that was a great idea.

Ironically, even though chili was one of my favorite things, my mom’s chili just wasn’t my favorite.  I love you, Mom, but you were a great seamstress! Here is the recipe I usually use now.

Chili

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds cubed beef chuck roast (you could use 1 # of beef and 1 # of pork)
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1large Anaheim chili, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 18 oz of beer —1 1/2 cans?
  • 5 1/2 Tablespoons chili powder — get a good brand
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed oregano
  • 1 large — 16 oz? — can diced tomatoes
  • 1 or 2 chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 large bay leaves: THESE ARE ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL! imho
  • 2 or 3 cans of dark red kidney beans, or pinto beans, or black beans, or all three (drain them)
  • about 1/4 cup of masa harina, if you like it thick

Note: Aaron, you had asked for a slow cooker recipe.  Brown the meat first, then put everything in the pot and set it for 6-7 hours.
In a large pot, brown the meat in the olive oil.  Do this in batches so that the meat will brown and not stew.  (Frankly, I think you could leave out the meat and just make vegetarian chili with beans and skip this whole browning thing.  And then you could just put everything in the crock pot and have fewer dishes to wash. But if you want to eat a dead animal — whatever.) Remove the meat with a slotted spoon to a plate or something, while you saute the onions and peppers.  (Saute: Cook them at a low to medium heat, so that they tenderize but don’t necessarily brown.) Add the garlic and cook some more — add more olive oil if you need to. Add the tomatoes, spices, and the meat, and the beer.  Cover and cook it for about 2 hours at a simmer, til the meat is really tender.  If you like, you can add a handful of masa harina to thicken it up.

Serve this with — you guessed it — carrots and celery sticks, sour cream and cheese for a garnish.  Try the vinegar, it really gives it a nice tang.  (I quit doing this when I moved north to Lawrence; seems everyone there thought it was strange.) Cornbread, corn chips, tortillas or just plain saltines are good accompaniments. Apple pie makes the best dessert.

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