After writing about chili, and tasting various versions of it, this past week, I was itchin’ to make my own. And when better to tend to a large pot of chili then with 20 inches of mother nature’s finest outside the door?

The only problem with making chili is that you can’t totally improvise the dish. You must have certain ingredients, you know, like chili peppers and meat. Perhaps tomatoes (don’t start with the tomato-hating, all right?) and onions and cheddar cheese, too.

So I walked the streets like The Omega Man to our local Co-op, where I ran straight into the politically correct buzzsaw. There was no 80-20 ground beef or even a lean chuck cut to be found. (Hell, I couldn’t even get my hands on fresh peppers, so went with the jarred version and powdered cayenne instead.) I settled for a grass-fed organic strip streak and andouille sausage for the proteins, which perhaps is not settling at all. The issue for me was cost. I was not going to shell out a ton of cash for chili meat. So I stocked up on dried kidney beans and veggies instead.

You can see most of the chili ingredients in the photo above, including a couple of peppers from Morou Ouattara‘s new spice line. (The alligator peppers, perhaps, weren’t the best fit for the stew, since they had a cooling, pine-needle, Szechwan peppercorn-like quality about them. I used them sparingly.) 

 Once I had the ingredients, it was a pretty simple process:

Here’s my mise en place for the chili. Judge away, all you chefs!

The proteins, ready for browning, then the pot.

The dried kidney beans, rinsed and ready for the slow simmer.

The pot of chili, just starting its long, slow braise. There are few things better than the smell of chili cooking in your kitchen.

The final dish, with shredded mild and sharp cheddar cheeses and diced onions. It was, alas, too heavy on kidney beans, but the spice was right. I drank a glass of milk afterward to cool down the palate.