My dad was an offshore oil rig worker for the first part of my life.
He worked in the Gulf and would be gone for weeks at a time. We’d drive down to the coast to pick him up: my mom and little brother and me. It’s funny – I don’t remember missing him while he was gone, but I do remember being so excited when he was back.
Every time when we got down there, he would have a bag of M&Ms in the pocket of his green windbreaker with the oil rig patch on the arm. That was before M&Ms started using space age plastic-paper to make their packaging; they were just made of good old paper-paper. My dad would tear the package in half and then Travis and I would each have a little paper cup of candy! Just like magic! I was always amazed that no M&Ms were ever spilt. Well, never spilled during the division; I’m sure we spilled plenty in the back seat of the car.
Once he was home, it was really fun. There was fort building and swing-pushing and there was lots of chili on the table. I think I’ve mentioned before that chili (and its delicious brother: chili-mac) was my dad’s specialty. I remember him telling me how to make it when I was pretty little. We would pick chile petins from the yard. Sometimes, he’d use venison. I heard all about how Texans don’t put beans in chili. He measured all the spices in “palmfuls”. I thought that was just incredible. I still do think his chili is incredible.
- 1 pound ground beef (or 1 pound stew meat chunks)
- 28 ounce can whole tomatoes or 1½ pounds (4 cups chopped) fresh tomatoes
- 16 ounce can tomato sauce or 2 more cups fresh diced tomatoes
- 1 big old onion (softball-sized)
- 6 cloves garlic, minced (2 tablespoons)
- 2-5 jalapenos, chopped (depending on your taste)
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Optional (for thickening if desired): 1 corn tortilla, torn up
- Optional: 15 ounce can kidney or pinto beans; for more heat, add a couple of chili petins (similar to bird-eye peppers)
- Chop the onion into about 1 inch chunks, mince the garlic, and dice the jalapenos.
- Break the ground meat up into a large pot and brown over medium-high heat. If using stew meat, sear the chunks on all sides.
- Add everything else (except the beans if you decide to use them) and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 hour if using ground meat, 2 hours if using stew meat.
- Add the beans (drained and rinsed) if you want. Taste and add more salt if it needs it. If you’d like it thicker, stir in the corn tortilla pieces.
- Simmer another 30 minutes.
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