COLONEL WHITE CHILI
Colonel White was the name of my high school. Chili was a default item on the hot lunch menu every day. The food was cafeteria food, but the chili was terrific, so even if the hot entrée was terrible, there was something good to eat. (Actually, the Turkey Hot Shot was good, too, but the mashed potatoes tended to be gluey.) After I got married, I got so nostalgic for Colonel White chili that I figured out a recipe. My sister Melinda was really excited about it the first time she tried it—she knew right away without being told that it was Colonel White chili—so I guess I hit it pretty close. I still haven’t figured out the meat loaf, which was also really good.
1 lb ground beef, turkey, or crumbled Boca
½ small onion
Dollop of vegetable oil (optional, for sautéing onion if you’re using Boca)
1 large (28 oz) or 2 med (15 oz) or 4 small (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
1 large (28 oz) or 2 15-oz cans kidney beans (light, dark, or both)
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
½ tsp paprika
More onion, diced (optional)
Shredded cheddar cheese
You’re going to be simmering this in a 4-5 quart dutch oven or Crockpot.
Brown the ground beef or turkey (I don’t think Boca browns) with the onion and drain the fat.
Dump the meat, onion, and all the canned ingredients into the Crockpot or dutch oven. If you’re using Boca and you heat it in the microwave first, the whole stew will heat up faster, but if you’re not in a hurry, what the heck, just throw it in the pot.
We don’t drain the kidney beans at our house, and nobody’s died yet. Ditto the tomatoes. By the way, if it’s August in Illinois and you’ve got tomatoes out the wazoo, use those instead of the canned ones.
Add the spices. Figure on about ½ Tbsp salt to start with. Let it sit a bit, then taste and see what you think. If it’s not quite right, usually it needs either salt or cumin. Paprika adds more color than flavor, but sometimes a pinch more paprika is what does it. Get somebody else in the house to take a taste and see what it needs, but don’t believe them when they say garlic, it just confuses things. Chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper—those are their options, I say.
If you have somebody who can’t stand hot and spicy, the chili powder adds most of the zap, so set aside a bowl or two for them before you fire it up—but it doesn’t have to be fiery; the trick is to keep the tastes balanced.
When 2 people agree on the spices, let it sit, but they have to be fair people who won’t just bully everybody else in the house and make it too hot for some of the other people, because the idea is that this is going to be a really great thing for everybody to eat.
Once it’s all together, let it heat until it’s hot—on the high setting of the Crockpot for a couple of hours, on the low setting all day while you’re at work, or on the stovetop for 20 minutes or so, but be sure to stir it now and then, particularly if your stove has hot spots like ours, or there goes your enameled pan.
Serve it up hot, so that the cheese melts. If you don’t have cheddar, throw in Colby or brick or, I dunno, whatever you’ve got. We’re not American cheese fans at our house, but maybe you are. Better than nothing. Crumble in some crackers—better than croutons, I think, but that’s my opinion.
This reheats really well, so if you’ve got a big crowd or a couple of young guys, make extra. You will be happier at work the next morning if you know you’ve got a bowl waiting for you in the fridge. Don’t forget to pack some cheese. It’s also really good on nachos, but hell, everything’s good on nachos.