Chilly weather calls for spicy chili to warm up tailgating time

By Ann Thrash

It’s going to be downright chilly at Williams-Brice when the Vols come to town on Saturday night – the afternoon high is supposed to be in the upper 50s last we heard. That means it’s time to break out the jackets, and also time to break out the chili recipes.

Chili might not have been on your game-day menu yet this year, but with the weather being so mild, that’s understandable. A hot bowl of spicy, beefy chili on Aug. 28 might have ratcheted up the misery index even before Texas A&M took the field. But it sounds just right now, as November arrives, with the team wearing black and looking, as DT Gerald Dixon Jr. put it, “to try to get the W back” that they gave up at Tennessee last year.

Just as with last week’s recipe for short ribs, you can turn to your slow cooker not only to prepare this meal, but to keep it warm while you’re tailgating.

Spicy Slow-Cooker Chili

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large sweet onions, medium dice
1 large red bell pepper, medium dice
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pickled jalapenos or green chiles, drained
Optional toppings: shredded cheddar or Mexican-blend cheese, sour cream, thinly sliced green onions

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and bell pepper, season with a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.

Add the garlic, chili powder and cumin. Stir to coat the vegetables in the spices and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add the ground beef and about a teaspoon of salt and cook, breaking the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the beef is no longer pink, about 7 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker. Add the diced tomatoes and their juices, the tomato sauce and the beans. Stir to combine. Cover and cook until the chili thickens and the flavors bend, about 5 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Stir in the jalapenos or green chilies. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve with the assorted toppings of choice. Makes about 6 servings.