Growing up in northern Wisconsin, I used to think that chili was made with kidney beans, hamburger, tomato sauce, and onions seasoned with salt, pepper and a little chili powder. People from Texas might have confused it with tomato soup.
As a child I liked the stuff, and Mom cooked chili for us at least a couple times a month in the winter. But one day long after I had left home, I was served a bowl of real chili. I have never looked back.
There are a great many variations in chili recipes, and this is just one that I prefer. There are no beans and it does not taste like tomato soup. It is spicier than most of the chili served at church suppers or cafes in northern Wisconsin, but it is mild compared to many bowls of chili I have enjoyed over the years.
If you are nervous about using three jalapeños, start with one or two. You may surprise yourself and decide to make it with four or five of those flavorful peppers next time.
2 lbs. round steak, chuck steak or other inexpensive cut of beef
1/2 lb. pork sausage
3/4 cup shallots
1 medium onion (about 3 1/2 inches in diameter)
4 cups beef broth
1/2 cups dry red win
4 cups chopped fresh, frozen or canned tomatoes
1 small (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
3 jalapeño peppers
1 1/2 T chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 T brown sugar
1 T flour mixed with 2 T water
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the beef into 3/4 inch cubes. In a large Dutch oven or heavy kettle heat a teaspoon of oil and brown the pork sausage until it turns gray, breaking it into pieces with a wooden spoon. Add the beef and continue cooking the meat. Season it with with a half teaspoon salt and a quarter teaspoon black pepper.
Peel and chop the onion and shallots. You should have about two cups of onion and shallots in total. Add the onion, shallots, beef broth, wine, tomato paste and tomatoes. Simmer for an hour.
Wash and cut the peppers in half and remove the stems, seeds and white membranes. Dice the jalapeño peppers fine and the green and red peppers medium and add them to the chili. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, thyme and sugar. Simmer for about an hour. Mix the flour with the water and stir it into the chili. Cook for three or four minutes, then taste and adjust the spices.
Serve with buttermilk cornbread, butter and honey or jam and shredded cheddar cheese or sour cream that guests can add if they wish.
OPTIONS: If you like your chili hotter, add some cayenne pepper, hot sauce or one or two more diced jalapeños. For really spicy chili, add one or two minced habanero or Scotch bonnet peppers.
NOTES: If you don’t have any shallots on hand, mince 5 or 6 cloves of garlic and increase the amount of onion so you have a total of two cups. Be sure to wear gloves when working with hot peppers.