I don't know why I chose yesterday - a beautiful 94 degree early summer day in Louisiana - to make a pot of chili. But it was probably the best chili I've ever made, so take that, conventional sense!

The base recipe I use is Mom's. I'm sure you have it somewhere. But I always do my own thing with the seasoning, the way I usually do - I cook it down, then taste it, taste it, taste it. I add a little more of this, a little more of that, until it's exactly where I want it. This is a crucial step in cooking for me - I never, never follow the seasoning instructions of any recipe exactly as written. Please keep that in mind, because you can't really write down a recipe for chili seasoning. No you cannot.

Here's the best I can do!



• 2 lbs lean ground beef
• 1 tbs flour
• 3-4 minced garlic cloves
• 2 medium onions, chopped
• 1 chopped green pepper
* 1 chopped jalepeno pepper (scrape out the seeds for milder chili, leave some in for hot)
• 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
* 1 can light or dark (doesn't matter) red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
• 2 cups water (plus more, as needed)

SEASONING - a rough guideline on where to start. Work your way from there.

• 2 tsp salt
* 1 tsp black pepper
• 3 tsp chili powder
• 1 tsp whole cumin seed
• 3 dashes Tabasco sauce
* A couple generous shakes of Tony's

I ended up adding MORE of all of that, a little bit at a time.

In a big stew pot, brown the ground beef. As it cooks down, add the flour. When it's well browned, drain the meat well and add all of the other ingredients EXCEPT THE BEANS. The water level should be just enough to cover everything comfortably.

Simmer the pot (either covered or uncovered, I don't think it matters) over medium-low heat for 2 ½ hours, while you sip some iced tea with your feet in a kiddie pool on the patio. Go inside frequently to get another popsicle, and stir the chili. Add more water if it cooks down too much. Turn the heat down if it starts to boil - you just need it to simmer happily along all afternoon.

After 2 ½ hours, add in the beans. This is when you can taste and adjust the flavor to get it just perfect. This is also a good time to make cornbread muffins.

Keep the pot simmering until everyone is ready to come inside and eat. I like to eat mine with a little sprinkle of cheddar cheese on top, and a Dust Buster in one hand to catch the cornbread crumbs your nephew spreads all over the house.

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