For the first time in several years, northern California is experiencing the mythical season called fall. So when the mercury started to dip and my housemate wanted to host our mutual friends for an evening, chili was the obvious choice.
My mother’s recipe is decidedly simple, but tastes wonderfully complex. In fact, her recipe was awarded a blue ribbon and best in show at the New York State Fair in the 1980s.
It starts out like many other chili recipes. Brown three pounds of ground beef in a skillet with a green bell pepper, an onion and a couple of garlic cloves- all diced.
Drain the browned beef and vegetable mixture and pour it into a Slow Cooker. Add 28 ounces, each, of crushed tomato, pureed tomato and dark red kidney beans (drained). Add 4-5 tablespoons of chili powder.
Now it’s time for the secret ingredient. Kielbasa.
I’ve been obsessed with this tasty Polish sausage since I was a young girl. Oh how I love this stuff. Grandma Emily (my mom’s stepmother) would serve it sliced cold with spicy mustard as an appetizer for Easter Sunday. I love it grilled. I love it sauteed with beer and sauerkraut or baked with red cabbage. In fact, both my kielbasa obsession and my Kitchen Witch devotion come from Grandma Emily. This chili recipe was her’s before it was my mom’s.
Slice up at least one link of kielbasa and add it to the slow cooker along with the ground beef. Cook on high for four hours then serve with cheddar cheese and corn bread or corn chips. For the party in question, we had both.
Unlike many chili recipes, this one is based on flavor, not heat, so Tapatio can provide some extra kick if you want it. Cilantro-lime rice also makes an excellent pairing for this hearty, heartwarming dish.
Our friends devoured the slow cooker full of chili in no time flat. There’s no better feeling than sharing a family tradition with your friends- especially one that tastes as good as Mom/Grandma Emily’s chili.
What’s your favorite cold weather food?