Chili is one of my ultimate fall/winter foods. It wouldn’t feel right to make it in summer, but I start to crave it as soon as the temperature dips. When I was growing up my mother only made one kind, called Betty Phillip’s Chili in our house for the woman who shared the recipe. And now, it’s the only kind I ever make. Maybe I’ll branch out someday–to a white chicken chili, perhaps?–but this one is just so good, and it t tastes like home to me. It’s hearty, spicy, relatively healthy, and such a comfort food. I’ve made it for myself (with tons of leftovers), for my roommates in college, and once for a group of eight on a Catskills vacation when I cooked it in a giant cast iron pot that could accurately be described as a cauldron. It’s a recipe that doubles beautifully and I imagine you could halve it easily as well, but why would you?
This is also a really pleasantly simple recipe. You chop some onion and garlic, fry sausage, open a bunch of cans, measure some spices, and then enjoy 30-45 really good smelling minutes as you pause whatever else you’re doing to occasionally stir and congratulate yourself on making something so tasty.
When I was a little girl I always had my chili over rice or a baked potato. I’ve since graduated to egg noodles, or just eating it with tortilla chips. Always with grated sharp cheddar cheese on top. And always always always with a Jiffy corn muffin on the side. I know, of course, that there are better cornbreads out there. Still, from the weirdly retro packaging to the actual taste, I think Jiffy is where it’s at.
I’ve always known this recipe as Betty Phillips’ Chili, but haven’t thought much about the actual Betty Phillips, though she has a strong connection to my family. Betty and her husband were big into horse racing, especially point-to-point and steeplechase, something they shared with my grandparents. My mother thinks of Betty as a “tailgater extraordinaire,” and says that she and her husband, Sonny, were always “nice as could be.” She remembers having this chili at Betty’s house once, and liking it so much that she asked for the recipe. I don’t have any strong memories of Betty, though my mother tells me I would know her to say hello to and that she would probably recognize me as a Taylor (my mother’s maiden name) if we bumped into each other. I should probably send Betty a thank you letter.
betty phillips’ chili
1 lb hot bulk sausage
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small onions, chopped
1 large can (28oz…but less is ok, too!) diced tomatoes
2 8oz cans tomato sauce
1/2 to 1 green pepper, chopped
2 cans kidney beans
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 1/2 tbs chili powder, or to taste
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp cumin
(A note about meat. The original recipe actually calls for a pound of sausage AND a pound of hamburger, which my mom and I now agree is kind of insane. Usually I just do the pound of sausage, but sometimes when I want to bulk it up and make a ton I add in one of those cute little half pound things of hamburger. Do whatever sounds tastiest to you.)
Fry sausage (and hamburger, if you’re going for it), onion and garlic over medium heat in a large pot until meat is no longer pink; drain fat. Add in all remaining ingredients, crushing the spices, especially the basil and oregano, in the palm of your hand before adding. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes.
My mother tells me that this is a great crock pot meal, tho I’ve never tried that. I do know that it freezes really well, so it’s worth making a whole batch even if the amounts seem a little excessive. I have four servings in ziplocs in my freezer right now that I’m already looking forward to.