For years and years I was taught that simple is better. There is even that saying, “Keep it simple, stupid” that was called the “Kiss” principle. I’m not sure I like the stupid part, but I do like the concept. Last Friday I found out, for the second time, that simple wins!
Our church had a chili cookoff for the first time in its history last week. Wow, we thought, let’s make a big pot of chili and see what happens. Whenever I can I make my chili the day before we eat it, but that particular day I was on trip with my daughter to see the UDel Andy Warhol photographic exhibit. Since my R wasn’t interested he got the job of putting the chili together. However, I cautioned him, it had better be to my mom’s simple recipe. No fooling around with as he was wont to do! Last time he put bacon fat in it and another time he put Worcester sauce and green peppers in it. Yuk!
He promised to be faithful to that simple recipe and when I came home that evening around 9:30 p.m. all was together simmering away on the stove. He assured me he hadn’t messed with the recipe. I turned it off and tasted it. Too bland. However, I decided to let it sit overnight and see how it tasted in the morning when the flavors had married each other.
Late next morning it was time to fire up the stove and get the chili simmering again to be ready for the 5:00 p.m. judging time at church. I stirred and tasted and knew that it needed something. So, I boldly threw in another tablespoon of chili powder and ½ teaspoon of salt. Putting it on simmer I left it continue to boil down. Several hours later I came and the three of us tasted the chili. It was well, just on the edge of either needing a tiny smidgeon of something more or leaving it alone. We collectively decided to leave it alone.
When we got to church there must have been 20 other pots of chili waiting to be tasted. They all looked wonderful and tasty and were even made in much larger batches than ours. We had no hope of winning, none, zip. So, after the blessing we sat down with our salad, cornbread, and a bowl of our chili. I knew what was in it and that it wasn’t too hot for my. R was bold and tried someone else’s creation. I tried someone else’s on my second time around, but it was so hot I gave it to R to finish.
As we were finishing up the last of our meal they announced the winners. There were three categories and they awarded those winners first. Then it came to our category. The rector announced the comments of the judges of the winner saying the flavors blended well, it was of a good consistency and had a wonderful texture. Wonder who’s it is we mused to each other. And the winner is “Mr. R!” OMG! Mom’s simple recipe won! We were stunned and shocked. The prize was a very nice crockery pot, some pot holders, and three bottles of hot sauce which our daughter will love!
Now, this was the second time our simple chili recipe had won. In 2000 at another 1st annual church chili contest it also won first place! We were stunned then too! So, simple is better and for you cooks out there, here is my mom’s two-time award winning chili recipe. It tastes best if you cook it some the day before and finish it off the next day.
Mom’s Award Winning Chili
1 pound of ground beef (80/20 mix)
1 14.5-oz can of stewed tomatoes (undrained) Do not use plain tomatoes.
1 15.5-oz can of dark kidney beans (undrained)
1 medium onion chopped finely
1 rounded teaspoon of salt
2 well rounded tablespoons of chili powder. (Note: If you increase the recipe add
1 Teaspoon extra chili powder for each additional pound of meat).
Brown the meat in a skillet and break into small pieces. Combine the meat (with the fat) into a pot with the stewed tomatoes (and juice), kidney beans (with the juice), salt, and chili powder. Bring to a boil, stirring to prevent sticking.
Cover the pan and lower heat to simmer. Simmer for 3-4 hours, stirring frequently to keep chili from sticking on the bottom. Turn off heat and let stand on stove overnight.
The next day bring the chili up to a simmer, adjust the seasoning, but don’t overdo it, and simmer uncovered for about five hours or until reaching desired consistency (not too juicy not too dry). Let the chili cool down for about fifteen to twenty minutes before serving. Serve with a tossed salad and cornbread. Enjoy!