Smile Politely

Feel Free to Mess with Texas: Brandon T. Washington’s Customized Chili

A long time ago, I had a girlfriend who was from Texas. Along with a healthy dose of Texas history, she left me with a taste for good Mexican food, including chili. But, at the time, my idea of chili was a seasoning packet, water, some red kidney beans, and hamburger. Little did I know….

She bought a chili kit at the supermarket, we made it, and I was converted. Then we broke up, and I didn’t make chili for awhile. I was always eating someone else’s, or it was canned chili over a hot dog, or, the absolute worst, cafeteria chili.

Fast forward a few years, and I decided to make chili for my (once, current, and future) sweetie. No seasoning packets, no kits, no training wheels. Since then I have tinkered around with this recipe, and have always changed one thing or another. This isn’t really the kind of recipe that calls for specific measures. What you’ve got are ballpark figures. So feel free to adjust things for taste, and like in any good relationship, experiment. You never know what you might like.

—Brandon T. Washington

Brandon T. Washingtons’s Texas Red Chili

  • 1 to 1½ pounds of beef stew meat, cut into ½ in. cubes

Brown meat (don’t cook all the way through!) on all sides, add to a big pot along with:

  • 1 large white, yellow or red (preferred) onion, chopped
  • 1 large (or 2 small) red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (you can use the chili-ready ones…I don’t)
  • 1 can beans (real Texas chili uses pintos, but I like red, kidney, or black beans)
  • 2 tbs. sliced jalapenos (or more depending on your heat tolerance)
  • Chili powder (start with ½ cup…you might want to add more)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped (or 2 tbs. garlic powder)
  • 3 tbs. ground cumin
  • 1 tbs. Kosher salt
  • 1 ½ tbs. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • enough water to cover it by about an inch

Cover and cook on medium-high heat until it starts to bubble, then turn it down to medium for about an hour, stirring occasionally. At this point add:

  • 1 to 2 handfuls of tortilla chips (restaurant style), crushed

Stir chips into chili and let it go for another ½ hour.

If the meat is cooked, the chili is ready to eat. But, if you really want it to be good, turn it down to low and let that bad boy go for another hour. You’ll be rewarded. (Tip: After you brown the meat, dump all the ingredients into a slow cooker, turn it on low and forget about it for 8-10 hrs. Magnifique!) Serve with cornbread, shredded cheese, sour cream, or over pasta or rice. Share this with friends. I often do.

Brandon T. Washington is a K-5 Music Teacher and a crooner who can be seen with funk purveyors Beat Kitchen, as well as by his damn self with his acoustic guitar.

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