Easy Recipe – Winner Chili

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Temperatures have cooled off a bit here in Dallas/Fort Worth.  By cooled off, I mean dipping into the 50s and 60s – that’s solid autumn weather for us, especially considering that we had triple digits within the last week!  Cooler fall temperatures always make me crave my “Winner Chili”.

Winner Chili so named because I experimented with variations on chili for years until I made this one for an election return watching party in November 2008.  (A friend suggested I call it “Obama Chili” but I think this has nonpartisan appeal!)  Its now a great recipe I cook up for watching football on Saturdays and Sundays – I feel like it helps my team play better, but always a winner regardless.

The beautiful thing about Winner Chili is that it can (and really should) cook all day in a slow cooker (crockpot).  That infuses the flavors and makes it rich and hearty.  But it also makes it a great recipe for busy jetsetters who need to get a ton of things done but also want a home-cooked meal.

I’ll make up a batch of this before I head out today to drive for UberX since it’s a busy college football day in town.  When I get home, it will be ready for me to curl up on the sofa and watch football.

Do not fear the veggies in this.  The all day cooking caramelizes them and you won’t notice them.  This Winner Chili has a mild kick but my friends still let their kids eat it (then again, we are in Texas!)

 Jetsetter’s Winner Chili

  • 4 slices thick cut bacon
  • 1 large bell pepper, finely chopped (or 2 small – I have used green or red, or sometimes a combination of each)
  • 1 purple onion, finely chopped (may substitute red or yellow onion, but the colored gives a bit more flavor)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • chopped fresh oregano (or substitute dried if necessary) – I grab this straight from my garden so it’s usually the leaves from 3-4 sprigs
  • chili seasoning packet (Jardines or Cin Chili are two I like that I can get a my local specialty grocery, but you can use what you like including more basic grocery story varieties like McCormicks)
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce (I like Hunts w/ garlic)
  • 1 can/bottle of beer (I have used IPAs,  porter,  stout, even chili beer – whatever you use, make sure it has a bit of flavor as this will carry over towards into the overall seasoning – this is NOT a Coors Light kind of recipe)
  • 2 pounds ground chuck or other ground meat (I sometimes mix ground venison or ground turkey in)
  • sea salt
  • ground pepper
  • Cajun seasoning mix (Essence or any of the others on the market)

Fry bacon in pan until crisp.  Remove and crumble/chop into very small pieces.  Do not drain pan drippings.  Place crumbles to the side.

Bacon for Winner Chili

Bacon for Winner Chili

Saute chopped pepper, onion, garlic, and oregano in pan drippings until softened.

Sautéing garlic first.

Sautéing garlic first.

And then the other veggies.

And then the other veggies.

Add chili seasoning, tomato sauce, and beer.  Stir thoroughly as ingredients are added.  Transfer mixture to slow cooker.

The chili base is complete.

The chili base is complete.

Brown ground chuck in same pan used for bacon/vegetable saute, adding liberal amounts of sea salt and ground pepper while cooking.

Browning the meat.

Browning the meat.

When it is browned and crumbled, drain off excess fat and then add the browned meat to the slow cooker and blend thoroughly with the existing ingredients.  (At this point, the mixture in the crockpot might be soupy – that’s the desired consistency as the liquid will cook off.)

And now it cooks for 7-8 hours.  This slow cooker was a housewarming present from Flyer Talk's kokonutz.  I'm sure he would approve of this recipe.

And now it cooks for 7-8 hours. This slow cooker was a housewarming present from Flyer Talk’s kokonutz. I’m sure he would approve of this recipe.

Cook for 3 hours on high or 7 hours on low in covered slow cooker – low and slow is better for a more flavorful chili!

Open, stir, and taste about an hour before the end of cooking time.  At this point I usually add more salt and pepper as well as a liberal dose of Cajun seasoning for “kick” (cayenne pepper or garlic salt also work for flavor).  If the chili seems dry, add a bit more beer.  Cook for one additional hour on low.

I like to serve in bowls with Fritos, shredded cheddar, sour cream, and chopped green onions. It’s great accompanied by warm apple cider, a hearty beer, or a nice red wine (I’ll be enjoying mine with a Zinfandel).

You will note that my Winner Chili contains NO beans (I’m a Texas girl so that’s how I like it) but if you are from another part of the world and “don’t know beans about chili” as we say here and therefore want to add them, I would recommend a can of red kidney beans, drained, added during the last hour of cooking.

I find that this recipe will serve anywhere from 4 very hungry adults all the way up to 8 adults and children if portioned into bowls and served Frito Chili Pie style.  This recipe freezes well and can easily be doubled for a crowd.

This is one of those base recipes that I often tweak – and some of my friends have adapted it over the years to fit their taste. One uses chopped celery instead of onion. Another subs out fresh peppers (Hatch, Anaheim, Jalapeño) for the bell pepper. I have one friend who instead of the tomato sauce uses a can of tomato paste and a can of Rotel – and then skips the beer subbing in a tomato paste can of water. Experimenting is good… that’s how people win chili cook offs!

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last eighteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Although she averages 200 days a year on the road, she loves to return to “the homestead” in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and cocktail mixology.

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