I recently posted on a recipe from Draft Magazine for bison and beer chili I’ve made several times. It was very good, but it included several ingredients I don’t normally associate with chili such as honey, lime juice and cinnamon (yes yes I know, Cincinnati chili has cinnamon in it, but IMO Cincinnati chili is spaghetti sauce. Don’t be hatin’ on me Cincy people; it’s my blog and you can write about Cincy spaghetti sauce on your own sites).
This weekend I decided to kick it old school and go with the familiar and comforting Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm Chili. This has been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember, and it didn’t disappoint. Before adding this post, I decided to read up a little on Wick Fowler and his bio was quite interesting. I already knew he was a journalist and fellow Texan, but I had no idea he went with Ross Perot to Vietnam in 1971 to seek the release of U.S. POWs. If you want the full story, here’s a link.
I follow the recipe with just one addition. And no, it’s not adding beans.
Start with two lbs. of browned coarse round beef. I sometimes used cubed beef stew meat, but the ground meat gives the “classic” chili texture. It’s very important to drain the beef after browning. If you don’t, you’ll get a chili that is literally swimming in grease. I’m not naming names, but there is a certain well known chili joint here in the DC area that I suspect is using a very similar recipe for one of their four chili varieties but not draining the browned meat. It’s tasty, but it’s an utter grease bomb and usually gives me gastrointestinal distress.
Next I add the spice packets (chili powder, cumin AKA comino for my “Eses”, dehydrated onions and garlic, paprika and salt). I typically don’t use the cayenne pepper as I find the “false alarm” version hot enough. I add an eight ounce can of tomato sauce per the recipe, but I also add a 14.5 oz. can of whole stewed tomatoes. I really like the flavor and texture of the whole tomatoes.
I like to cook chili in a crock pot so I can walk away without worrying about a simmering pot on the stove. I just set it on low and let simmer for several hours. After several hours of low temp simmering, I add the masa packet mixed with water to give the chili a little extra thickness.
In a perfect world, I’d put the chili-filled crock in the refrigerator and let it sit overnight like Wick recommended. But it was Super Bowl Sunday, and we were hungry so we dug in. My personal toppings for this chili are grated sharp cheddar cheese, chopped onions, and crackers. I also like to pour the chili over a bowl of white rice. Chili and rice was my favorite cafeteria food when I was a first grader at Fredonia Elementary School in Nacogdoches, Texas and every time I eat chili and rice it takes me back to the good ol’ days.
If you’ve never had this mix, by all means try it. It’s super simple to make and incredibly tasty. I’ve found it at local Giant supermarkets, but if you can’t find it locally, you can order it from Luzianne Foods here.
Oh and it was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of my former Congressman Charlie Wilson yesterday. Congressman Wilson gave me my nomination to the Air Force Academy way back in 1980 and put me on the path to a career in public service. Charlie was a great advocate for his constituents, and he was passionate in his beliefs. But more than anything, he cared deeply for his fellow man, whether it was an elderly veteran in his district or an Afghan tribesman suffering under Soviet aggression. He was memorialized in the book Charlie Wilson’s War as well as the movie version that starred Tom Hanks as Charlie. That is the only movie I can recall where the actual person was a more imposing and commanding presence than the actor who portrayed him. Godspeed Charlie!