Chili cook offs and firefighters go hand in hand. In fact, even the Lakeland Fire Dept. participates in one. They host the Tigertown Chili Throwdown in April alongside the Flying Tigers. Now, they won’t give me any of their award-winning recipes, but I’m happy to share one of my family’s favorites. I discovered this while I was living in Texas and it’s been a staple in our house ever since. There are no beans in it, which I understand can be quite controversial so add them if you’d like. You can’t really mess this one up.
2 1⁄2 lb. ground beef
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tbsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. dried oregano
2 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1⁄4 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. paprika
1 1⁄2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
2 bay leaves
3 cups cups whole peeled canned tomatoes in juice, pureed
1 (10.5-oz.) bag Fritos-brand corn chips
Shredded white and orange cheddar cheeses, sour cream, sliced jalapeños, minced red onion, sliced scallions, and cilantro leaves, to garnish
Make the chili: Working in batches, add beef to a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring, until browned, about 10 minutes. Drain beef in a colander, and return pan to heat with oil. Add onion, and cook, stirring, until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add garlic, season with salt, and cook until garlic is soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add cumin, chili powder, oregano, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, and bay leaves; stir until smooth and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add reserved beef, tomatoes, and 1 1⁄2 cups water, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 45 minutes.
Divide chips among 6 serving bowls or individual bags of Fritos and top with some of the chili; garnish with cheeses, sour cream, jalapeños, red onion, scallions, and cilantro, if you like.
Recipe from Saveur Magazine, 2013