Friends who’ve asked for recipes of things I’ve cooked in the past have learned that I’m terrible at recipes. I don’t follow them, and I don’t record (or usually remember) what I do to alter the recipes from which I wander.

I am your grandmother. I cook by sight and taste, and whatever recipes I can recall use a mysterious measurement system with units such as, “some” or “enough to make it look/taste ________.”

In short, I am your grandmother. That’s a lot nicer than Queen of Bastard Recipes, right?

I’ve had a hankering (grandmotherly term, natch) for chili lately, but I didn’t want chili from Wendy’s, and I’d never made my own. I’d heard accolades for my dear friend Emily’s chili, so I asked for the recipe.

Upon reception, I glanced, yup-yupped that I had most of what I needed and made a short list of ingredients to complete my stores. When I pulled everything out to start yesterday morning, I realized I was so, so wrong about what I had on hand.

The recipe called for two 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomates and an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce. I had one 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes and one 28 oz. can of tomato puree.

Oops. Bring on the bastard.

I googled, “Homemade tomato sauce,” and ended up pureeing the whole tomatoes with two pinches of salt, about 1/2 tsp. of freshly ground pepper, three cloves of garlic and 2 oz. of chopped basil. (I use Dorot products – they make my kitchen life so easy!)

I added my homemade tomato sauce to the slow cooker with the plain tomato puree and went to work on transforming it into chili.

The original chili recipe I started with wanted 3 Tbs. chili powder.

Dump. Taste. Um, spagetti sauce with a hint of something smokey.

I kept adding chili powder till it started tasting more like chili and less like Ragu. Eight tablespoons in, I was pretty pleased, but it needed more.

Beer! People add beer to chili. I would have loved a dark beer, but we were out. A bottle of Yeungling would have to do.

Better, but not quite there.

It was about here that I started browsing various slow-cooker chili recipes to see what else was out there and available in my kitchen.

A few shakes of red pepper flakes. A teaspoon of cayenne. A tablespoon of cumin (wanted more, but I ran out).

Hmm. Still missing something.

“FOOD NETWORK PEOPLE!” I proclaimed to Rob, who sat on the couch watching Muscle TV and eating popsicles. “THEY USE COCOA POWDER.”

Cocoa powder, a bit more salt, the meat and beans – bingo, bango, dunzo. Happy, I let it sit to bubble and get happy, to develop the masterpiece I threw together, praying my instincts wouldn’t fail me and land us all with a vat of dog food.

It worked! Bastard Chili was a success! And now, so I can recall it in the future or in case you have a hankering for some homemade chili, I give you my recipe, best as I can recall:

Bastard Chili

  • Dried kidney beans – 1 lb. bag, soaked in 4 cups of water overnight then brought to a boil and simmered in water for 60 minutes
  • 2 lb. ground beef, browned before adding to slow cooker
  • 6 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 oz. chopped basil
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz. can tomato puree
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s frozen fire-roasted bell peppers and onions (or 1 bell pepper and 1 onion)
  • 1 whole onion, diced
  • 8 Tbs. ground chili powder
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 pinches red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 12 oz. beer

1. Puree the whole tomatoes with garlic, basil and defrosted bell pepper/onion mix.

2. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on high 4 hours or on low 6-8 hours. Top with corn chips, sour cream, shredded cheddar and chopped green onions.


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3 Responses to Queen of Bastard Recipes

  1. I just leave my whole tomatoes, well, whole! I use two huge-o cans of the whole tomatoes and leave out the puree. With the liquid in the can and the bottle of beer, there is plenty of liquid. YUM!

  2. Sarah-Anne says:

    i think i enjoyed this post more than i would actually eating the delicious chili. you are too funny!

  3. Tena says:

    My husband’s not-really-secret ingredient for his Chiliski (last name is Polish, hence the “ski”) is cocoa powder. YUM.

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