When Chris was a sprightly twenty-two year-old man about to turn twenty-three, I fretted over what to do for his birthday. This was the first birthday of our young relationship so the pressure was on. I decided to make a surprise dinner of the spiciest chili I could find. This was a huge concession for me because I was at the point in my taste bud journey where I almost cried every time I split a Chipotle burrito bowl with Chris, and I accidentally ate the tiniest bit of hot salsa. After searching for the perfect recipe, I found the
I invited all of Chris' friends that still lived in South Bend. David was going to go with me to the grocery store and let me into the apartment to cook and get everything ready while Chris was at work. He was going to be so surprised!
In the middle of his birthday, I got a text from Chris that he had a break from work, and he was on campus. I went to see him, but only for a short bit! I had a surprise to pull off, after all! I remember being on the rugby field behind my dorm when I told him that I had to go.
"What are you up to the rest of the day?" he asked with an annoyingly knowing smile.
"Oh ... just a lot of stuff." Teasingly, he prodded further. The jig was up. He knew. He knew! How could my surprise be ruined?! Chris laughed and confessed that he was accidentally included in a group text from
(Hi, Jaime!) that reminded all of the friends about Chris' surprise chili birthday dinner that night.
So the surprise was foiled, but the chili was not. The recipe was a hit according to Chris, which is a
feat as I have come to learn as his wife. Over the years, I've tweaked it to make it my own. We noticed that every time we got a bite of ground beef or stew meat was a let down since it wasn't a bite of sausage - so now I make it only with sausage! Pre-kids, I also use to roast the peppers myself, but now I just chop up a bunch when my mom visits and brings me bags of peppers from my parents' garden, divvy them into appropriate amounts and then toss them into the freezer so this staple meal that involves a lot of chopping is easier on me.
Oh - and it does call for a lot of ingredients - which really surprised my mom who always made chili with a packet of spices, ground beef, some beans and diced tomatoes. I still love the chili I grew up on! It's comforting; it reminds me of coming home to the scent of chili on cold winter days. But I remember the first time I made my chili recipe for my family, my mom exclaimed, "This is the most expensive chili I've ever made!" It's not steak and lobster, but it does cost more than your average chili. Hear me out though - this chili lasts us at least three dinners, a lunch or two, and it would last for more if both Chris and I would stop snacking on it between meals. I think it tastes even better on the second day and so on. The first night we normally eat it as is; the second night, we eat it over rice; the third night, I serve it over pasta.
For the record, I've converted my mom to The Best Chili Ever.
So! This is my go-to meal. I hope you enjoy!
(I apologize in advance for the excessive amount of notes in the recipe).
The Best Chili Ever
5-6 tablespoons of butter, bacon grease or canola or olive oil
. (I normally use butter, but I will mix bacon grease in if I have it on hand. If I have been out of both, canola and olive oil have both been great in a pinch)
2 poblano chiles, diced, with seeds
(I keep the all seeds because Chris loooves spicy. I made this recipe to a T the other night, and it produces a decently spicy chili. A good spicy. 10-month-old Conor ate it, but our kids come out of the womb liking spicy so ... )
2 Anaheim chiles, diced, with seeds
2 bell peppers, diced
os, diced, with seeds.
(if I want to kick it up a notch, I add a couple more)
1 yellow onion, diced
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced.
3 pounds of ground sausage
(My favorite mix is 1 lb hot Italian sausage, 1 lb Italian sausage and 1 lb country/breakfast sausage. Sometimes if I don't have sausage I just throw a bunch of
powder, garlic powder and cumin into the raw beef or turkey so it gives it something else)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp cayenne
(I do this to taste ... sometimes the seeds from the peppers are enough)
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup tomato paste
12 ounces lager beer
(I double the beer if I want to stretch the chili. We somehow normally have a lot of cheap beer around and that is what I use. Save the good stuff to drink with the chili).
1 cup chicken stock
2 cans of beans, undrained
(I normally go with 1 can pinto beans and 1 can black beans. If you want to stretch the chili even more, add another can of beans)
Add the butter to a large stockpot over high heat. Add the Anaheim chiles, poblano chiles, jalapeno chiles and onions, and cook until caramelized. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute longer. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the sausage and brown, about 4 minutes. Stir gently, trying not to break up the ground meat too much. You still want nice chunks of sausage. Cook until the meat is nicely browned and cooked through. If you would like to drain some of the fat, do it now. (Confession: I normally don't). Add the
powder, cayenne, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and black pepper, and cook until fragrant.
Add the tomato sauce and paste, and stir to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beer and stock. Add beans; lower the heat and simmer, about 2 hours.
Serve with cornbread as is or over rice, pasta or French fries. Top with grated cheese, green onions and/or corn chips.