We Live in a Chili Nation

ChiliNationChili Nation caught my eye as I was perusing the food-book shelves at my local library. Chili is one of my husband’s favorite dishes and I’m always open to trying a new chili recipe. (Not that he is open to eating new recipes but, more about that later.) I took the book home, sure that I would find some gems inside.

Chili Nation is written by the (now ex) husband and wife team of Jane and Michael Stern. They have spent their careers traveling around the US and writing quite a list of books about the food they find wherever they go. I’m very fond of their books and have mentioned two of them to you on this blog. (500 Things to Eat and Road Food – click the titles for my post.)

In Chili Nation the authors focused on the various forms of chili they found in all fifty states. I honestly didn’t think there could be that many different variations. I think of chili as a mix of ground beef, beans, and other veggies like onion, tomatoes, green peppers and hot peppers. My youngest daughter makes a very good white chili with chicken and white beans, so I wasn’t surprised by that variation, but I was by some of the others. Here are a few:

  • Connecticut’s Herb Garden Springtime Chili:  lots of fresh herbs with scallions, chicken and potatoes
  • Georgia’s Pork and Peanut Chili – ground pork, shelled peanuts, spices, served over rice
  • Cincinnati, Ohio’s Five-Way Chili: five layers: spaghetti, meat sauce, beans, chopped onions and cheddar cheese
  • Virginia’s Apple and Nut Chili: pork loin, Granny Smith apples, peanut butter, onions and hot peppers
  • Kentucky’s Bluegrass Burgoo:  lamb, chicken, pork sausage, lima beans, corn, and okra

ChiliDo you get the idea? I liked reading about all the different ways to make my husband’s favorite dish. The only problem is this: if I put one of those dishes in front of him and called it chili, he would not be interested in eating it. To him, those dishes aren’t chili. What my husband likes is a middle-of-the-road, old-fashioned chili made  of beef, beans, onions, hot peppers, garlic and tomatoes.

One recipe that both he and I like is one given to me by a fellow blogger, Alex at The Children’s War almost two years ago. It’s called Chili a la Franey. We also like my own “throw-it-together” version. It’s not always exactly the same as I may have different items on hand. This week I made the chili you see in the pot above. Here’s what is in it:

Margot’s Throw-It-Together Chili

  • About 2 cups of leftover beef roast, shredded
  • Approxiately 1 1/2 cups of cooked hamburger
  • 1 cup of cooked sausage
  • About 2 cups of leftover pinto beans, cooked
  • 1 1/2 chopped onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1 Anaheim chili, chopped
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes

I put all that in a pot and then pulled out my spices. I didn’t measure exactly but I’m pretty sure this is what I did: 3 tablespoons of chili powder, 1 tablespoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of mexican oregano, 1 teaspoon of paprika. I didn’t salt and pepper it because the meats had all been seasoned previously. I did add a teaspoon of sugar to the pot – just because I always do. Then I let it slow simmer for a while so all the flavors have a chance to mingle.

This made for a very spicy, meaty chili, which my husband rated as Superior. My husband likes his with saltines. I put a few Fritos on top of mine with a little sour cream and shredded cheese.

That’s my version of a good chili. How do you like yours?

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature at Beth Fish Reads. Click the button below and it will take you there.


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14 Responses to We Live in a Chili Nation

  1. I never knew there were so many variations either. I’ll have to see if my library has this book for the next neighborhood chili cook-off.

  2. What? The Sterns aren’t married any more. Wow. When we were traveling all the time I always enjoyed reading and listening to them; obviously I haven’t been keeping up.

    If I tried any of those other varieties, I’d definitely just call them ‘soup’ or ‘stew’ or something. Chili is always the same recipe I’ve ever made. Although not so often any more because it’s sort of one of those fall dishes that we don’t crave so much nowadays.

  3. candice says:

    I never realized you put so many different kinds of meat in your chili. I like chili about once a year, not a favorite of my girls. Although, when I lived in New Mexico with Christopher, I ate chili A LOT! Christopher made a very yummy one that simmered on the stove for hours as we dipped bread chunks or tortilla chips into it and it was very spicy. He made his with tempeh, since we were all vegetarians…I wonder if he still makes it?
    You mentioned fritos in your chili, well, don’t get me started on the Frito Pie at the Atomic Grill in Santa Fe, NM!

  4. Staci says:

    I have never heard of any of those “chili variations” ever!! But now yours..yes, I could making that one! Mine is hamburger, packet of chili spices, can of chili beans with chili seasoning, diced tomatoes especially for Chili, a can of spicy peppers, onions, mushrooms…..let it sit in the crock pot all day. The following day is usually the best. I always add jalapenos, cheese, and a dollop of sour cream to mine!

  5. My husband and sons like chili the same way your husband does, they aren’t interested in any variations. There is a restaurant near us, JG Melons, that is noted for their burgers, but we get their chili for lunch. It is the best!

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Ex’s? Awww….

    I LOVE chili, and the variations you listed sound delish. I will be looking for this one!

  7. Beth F says:

    I like all kinds of chili. My very favorite is green chili — pork, no beans, green sauce. Mr. BFR’s is with ground meat and a red sauce. Either way we could eat chili every week. Your version sounds wonderful. Now I’m going to have to check out this book.

  8. JoAnn says:

    Most of the ‘variations’ wouldn’t go over well here (my husband is a chili traditionalist), but I have been on a quest for the perfect white chili recipe for years.

  9. jama says:

    Interesting to see some of the different variations. The Bluegrass Burgoo doesn’t sound like a chili at all. Doesn’t chili usually include chili peppers in some form? I guess I’m a traditionalist when it comes to chili. I also like sour cream and cheddar on mine :).

  10. Peggy Ann says:

    Lots of meat in your chili! My honey would love it! It is amazing how many recipes there are for chili!

  11. Chili is a winter-time favorite in my house. I never seem to make it the same way, but I love Cincinnati chili and have to follow a recipe for that version. I always stop at Skyline when we head south.

  12. Kaye,the sister, Cogdill says:

    Ah yes, good old Chili…. the dish that I cannot ruin! I do the basic version for Don and when he is not noticing we add the extra spices to give it some zest and spirit; sometimes I use cornbread as the side, other times it is good old Fritos. No matter what I do I absolutely can NOT mess this one up, so it has been promoted to a Crock-Potter meal. And Now I am really hungry! bunches of love, kaye the sister

  13. Ti says:

    I don’t think I’d consider those other variations chili but they do sounds good. I guess chili can be anything! I like a good chicken chili but I haven’t come across any decent recipes lately. Chicken tends to get so dry when cooked in chili and with reheating it’s just done by the time you sit down to eat it.

  14. kelley says:

    I do love a good bowl of chili! I liked my mom’s best. She’d soak the beans overnight and then boil them for hours. Her sauce base was campbell’s tomato soup, but was very thick and deep red almost brown in color so I’m not sure what all she put in there. She would add ground beef, green peppers, and onions but not so much chili pepper. Her chili was more sweet than hot. I loved it. I can’t duplicate it and I certainly can’t find it on a menu anywhere. I wonder if there is a recipe in that book similar to it? I make a good white chili.

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