My Mama’s Chili – the process

Let me get something out of the way right out of the gate: stews, soups, and chili aren’t something you can really put into a recipe. They’re like a good story. The basics stay the same but a few details get changed in each telling. All those little embellishments can make the stories and the chili better, but if you go too far – well, someone is going to call you out for being a liar.

So, when I introduced myself and my style of cooking I talked about watching my Mama make chili in her big red pot. To me, watching was always like listening to a great story being told. It felt planned out – like she had everything under control. Then I called her, as she was writing a sermon, to talk about writing up this recipe.

My Mama – ex-English and writing teacher, poet, and chaplain – told me that chili was about finishing off all the half empty jars of salsa that my siblings and I had left open in the fridge and to make something that was cheap and nutritious for the whole family. Good thing too. Because my brother had a whole lot of friends who were hungry. My Mama’s philosophy on cooking goes like this: a dish should taste like it took the cook hours of slaving in the kitchen and several virgin sacrifices to perfect, but should, in reality, have only taken 15 minutes or so of effort. Her’s are the sort of dishes that are perfect for big families with lots of goings-on because they are easy and make a whole lot of tasty, tasty food.

So, how do you make Chili like the Reverend Mama Limehouse? Read on:

Beef and Bean Chili

  • 2 16oz jars of medium chunky salsa
  • 2 14oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 3 14oz cans of black beans, opened and drained
  • 1 14oz can of kidney beans, opened and drained
  • 2 lbs of ground beef
  • 2 medium bell peppers, diced
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 1 bag of frozen corn
  • 4-8 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 boxes of Fantastic’s Vegetarian Chili mix
  • a few tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2-4 teaspoons of ground cayenne pepper, if you like a spicier chili
  • salt and pepper to taste

It’s quite the list but an ambitious cook can improvise more or less fancy versions by substituting fresh pico de gallo, or dicing up a few farmers market tomatoes, or even using dry beans instead of canned. The point of this process is to get a big pot of great chili going on the stove.

  1. In a large red pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat until a drop of water spits.
  2. Add the onions and garlic to the pot, stir until coated in oil; sauté until the onions become translucent.
  3. Add the beef and cayenne pepper – thoroughly brown the beef with the onions, garlic, and pepper.
  4. Add the Fantastic’s Vegetarian Chili mix to the pot and stir in until it has coated everything in the pot.
  5. Add the salsa and the cans of tomatoes and the cans of beans, now stir.
  6. Add enough water to the pot so that it just covers everything – keep stirring.
  7. Add the diced peppers and the frozen corn to the pot – stir some more.
  8. Bring the pot up to a simmer and then turn it down to low heat.
  9. Cover and let it stew for anywhere from, at least, 30 minutes to 2 hours stirring periodically.

When your hungry, ladle into a bowl, sprinkle some shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and enjoy.

This particular recipe will feed 2 people about 6 times – it freezes quite nicely.

This has made me hungry for chili – be on the look out for pictures of my next pot of the good stuff.


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