For this you will need:

  • A pound of meat.
  • At lease a side off a yellow, red, and orange bell pepper.
  • A poblano/pasilla pepper and an Anaheim pepper.
  • One or two jalapeno peppers – but don’t slice them up.
  • An onion with a couple slices left to it.
  • A can of tomatoes, maybe Mexican or chili style.
  • A can of beans – I use black beans.
  • Mushrooms, if you like ’em.
  • Chili powder, cumin, crushed red pepper, garlic, cilantro, and whatever other Latin spices you like.
  • Salsa.

Now, some people are purists about chili. Your Grandpa is not. They’ll say, no tomato base. Or no beans.

To me, chili is Southwest stew. I mean, maybe there’s some chili trade group somewhere that has rules for these things, but to my thinking, you can’t put rules on stew. You can just put it together.

I love chili. It tastes great, with complexity, it tastes and feels nutritious, and especially on a homophonic chilly day, it’s wonderfully warming. So let’s make some.

I figure a pound of meat will feed about four or five reasonably hungry people, so using that for a batch will last both Grandma and me for about two meals, plus maybe a nighttime snack and a lunch.

I pour some olive oil in a deep skillet and start browning the meat. Sirloin chunks are mighty tasty, but ground beef works fine. For me, the leaner the better. In fact, after the heart attack, I switched to ground turkey, and to my surprise, no one really noticed it. Unless I told them, of course.

While the meat’s browning, I chop up two or three slices of onion and throw them in. I don’t much care if I use yellow, white, or red onion. If you have a favorite taste, use that one.

About this time, I figure I better start spicing it up, so I’ll sprinkle (when I say “sprinkle,” I mean, “powder generously”) chili powder, crushed red pepper, cilantro, maybe lemon and black pepper on it. And cumin. You can’t forget the cumin, kids. Chili powder has the chili name, but it’s cumin that has that special chili taste. I’ve also got this spice bottle that’s called “Latin spices.” I’ll grind that on there too. Oh, and garlic.

Then I start slicing up the chili peppers and bell peppers. For the chili peppers, I use pasilla/poblano, about one good-sized one, and Anaheim, about one good-sized one. For bell peppers, I like the orange, yellow, and red. That variety of color just adds a nice like to the dish. I slice off about a side of each one.

Now, if you like your chili spicy, and I do, you can use jalapenos, serranos, or habaneros. Just remember two things: 1) The smaller you slice it and the more seeds you leave in, the hotter it’ll be. And 2) If you’re cooking for others, cook to their tastes in temperature, not yours. I’ve learned that I get a lot more compliments as a cook if I don’t overpower the audience. So I don’t use these peppers at this stage.

Despite all that, I will put aside one or two jalapenos. I don’t slice them up. You’ll see.

So I chunk up the chili and bell pepers, throwing the chili pepper chunks in first because they’re more noticeable if they don’t cook enough to get tender nad blended, and then work on the bell peppers. The meat’s pretty brown by now, and the onion is nicely cooked.  If it’s looking dry, I’ll throw in some water. The water helps the ingredients stay tender as they sizzle. Then I throw in the peppers. Not the jalapeno, though. Not yet.

Next, a regular can of tomatoes. If you think tomatoes are a hideous aberration to proper chili, then tell me your alternative. But I like my chili, my family likes my chili, and I’m sticking to it. I like to buy canned tomatoes that are Mexican style or chili style or something like that, because I figure some extra seasoning from the packager can’t hurt. So throw in the tomatoes. Well, not the can. Pour them out of the can. Then put the can aside.

Next, a can of beans. I used to use chili beans. Now, because of that danged heart attack, I use black beans, which the heart people said were healthier. And you know what? They taste just fine. However, I do like to drain the fluid off and then throw the beans in. Again, keep the can itself out of the skillet.

So now you’ve got a nice-looking pot of chili fixins. I then take three or four fresh mushrooms, slice them, and throw them in. If I have green onion, I’ll chop some of that up too – can’t hurt.

Then I put in those one or two jalapenos, whole, and cover them up with the chili mixture. That way, that good jalapeno taste can leach subtly out into the chili but without getting a big dose of heat to go with it.

Next, I grab some picante sauce and throw it in. How much? Oh, I grab the jar and make it a couple glops.

Add water if you need to, stir it up, and then taste-test. Keep seasoning or adding picante to taste. I’m often conservative starting out with the chili powder and have to add more in. Don’t forget to wash off the spoon after taste-testing, just in case someone saw you.

the chili on simmer

If you’re cooking to eat quick, crank up the heat. If it’s going to be a while, tone it down and let it simmer some.

And that’s Grandpa’s chili, kids. Grab a spork and cup or bowl, and dig in. And when you put it in the fridge, then it tends to blend more, and the reheated chili the next day often tastes better.

Oh, yeah. I like to melt cheddar or pepper jack on the top of my bowl. Grandma likes sour cream on hers.

One more thing I like about chili. You can drink anything with it. I love a slug of cold milk with it. Or a beer. Or a robust red wine.


— Grandpa


  1. rwwebsite says:

    This recipe sounds sooo good, Grandpa. Since I’ve ditched that pesky gallbladder, I’ll be moving this recipe to the top of my list! Thanks a’Bunch! — and keep ’em coming please :)))


  1. […] liked the chili enough that she asked for the recipe, which I’m pretty open with (hint:, and she told me later the chili was delicious, and since by then I’d forgotten that I gave her […]

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