And the savory result: chili. The first Saturday of college football invariably brings out the chili cook in me. I know. Temperatures in the South were steamier than the chili pot and there was (initially) just my husband, our beagle and me to tackle – and down – the gallons of peppers-infused, beef and bean soup-like product.

Lacking logic, as is the case when lupus-inspired steroids kick off a cooking frenzy, I proceeded in hazy haste (hazy being the operative word here as Prednisone creates the dichotomous desire to hurry somewhere you don’t have the strength to go). At least a large pot of chili renders freezer leftovers, which is ultimately more useful than, say, four dozen steroid-hopped up Rice Krispie bunnies with Chiclet teeth and licorice whiskers, which I have created during sleepless, steroid-propelled holidays. Undeniably, the chili is more highly regarded as man-food for football.

A quick review of Saturday’s SEC results might also suggest some steroids at play on other fields. Given the scheduling of ego-boosting, sacrificial opening opponents, the walloping scores could render a false headiness about the future of the rest of the SEC teams’ respective seasons. For instance: Tennessee buried my Alma mater, Western Kentucky University (63-7); Mississippi decimated Memphis (45-14); Kentucky trounced Miami (Ohio) (42-0); Auburn destroyed Louisiana Tech (37-13); Arkansas crushed Missouri State (48-10); and the cruelest of all? Florida’s annihilation of Charleston Southern (note redundant name) – (62-3). What could be crueler? The likely burning, plundering and conquering massacre of the Gators over the Troy Trojans to come next Saturday. (Admittedly, only a “girl” or Homeric-fanatic would describe it as such.) Just Georgia and Oklahoma State appeared somewhat evenly matched, despite the downing of the Dawgs (24-10), along with Alabama vs. VA Tech (20-13) and S. Carolina vs. N. Carolina State (7-3) on the previous Thursday.

Back to the man-food and my husband’s willingness to allow me to watch football with him. I’m even allowed to speak on occasion (during commercials). It’s simple. None of his other football-viewing pals will cook for him. Much less do the dishes, or the grocery getting. There’s also this: I drink less beer than they do. Besides, he gets to pontificate on coaching and play calls without too much rebuttal from me. I know just enough to allow him to believe his gridiron armchair intellect is not entirely wasted downfield on a blonde receiver who might just catch his wisdom, but would surely fumble an attempt to form her own opinion on these matters of man. Nor does my companionship threaten his masculinity when he occasionally watches with his eyes closed, despite professing to be otherwise wide-eyed.

My presence does not even threaten the beagle who snores oddly open-eyed at his feet. On Saturday she was torn between being at his feet, or mine – I was in charge of the chili. She loves, and recognizes the scent. She simply does not understand why it takes so long. Good chili comes in good time.

This is my SEC recipe. “Some” believe it ranks pretty high, although other football regions have their own worthy contenders. I realize people take their chili recipes pretty personally (one un-named friend, a guy who cooks a great pot ‘a chili, yet rarely watches football comes to mind). This recipe is a good place to start if you lack a beloved guide of your own.  I would never suggest it is undefeated but I do believe it has Bowl potential, even without the steroids.

College Bowl Chili

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 large white onion, diced (reserve a couple of tablespoons of onion for garnish)
  • 1 small, fresh finely-diced jalapeno pepper
  • 2- 3 lbs of ground beef (not lean, in this case-where’s the fun in that?)
  • 1 – 42 ounce jar of Spicy Hot V-8 vegetable juice (trust me on the spicy version – it’s a good place to start, and control the other heat to come)
  • 1-12-ounce can of beef broth
  • 2 cups of water (I like to get mine from partly refilling the V-8 bottle, and shaking it to get the last of the tomato juice-no waste here)
  • 2 tablespoons of Worcestshire sauce
  • Chili powder to taste (that means at least two tablespoons to start with)
  • 1 tbsp. of cumin (you may end up adding more to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. cilantro (or 2 if fresh-dice)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh ground, black pepper (potentially more later…)
  • ½ – 1 tsp. of salt (depending upon taste and blood pressure)
  • 2 – 15.5 ounce cans of red beans (I prefer Goya, and like to use one can each of small and large beans)
  • 1 – 15.5 ounce can of pinto beans (Goya again)
  • 2 – 10 ounce cans of ROTEL “original” diced tomatoes with green chilies (I don’t buy the “hot” version – prefer to control the heat with my own hands)
  • 1- 5 ounce can of chopped green chilies
  • 1 beer (not “lite,” but domestic in this case – nothing exotic or sweet)
  • ½ tsp. of mace
  • 2 tbsp. of cornstarch (optional*)

In a large, heavy stockpot, add the olive oil, garlic, onions and jalapeno. Heat on low until the onion softens. Add the ground beef, chopping it up with a wooden spoon (if you’re a boy, I suppose you could do this with clean hands, to be more thoroughly cleaned after touching the raw meat). Add the V-8, beef broth, water and Worcestshire sauce. Bring to a boil. While the basics are coming to a boil, stir in the chili powder, cumin, cilantro, ground pepper and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover with a lid such that the broth cooks down by about one-third – (about a half an hour). Do not drain the beans – add the entire cans of each, followed by the chilies. Continue cooking for another 30-45 minutes, or so on medium-low. (This is a good time to begin to taste for additional seasonings, spice it up with more chili powder and pepper, or a dash of your favorite hot sauce. Add more cumin, if you like. It’s also a good time to dip a soda cracker or chip into it and toss to the dog that is now standing on your feet.) At this point, you are roughly 30 minutes away from the final product. Open two beers – one for yourself, and one for the chili. (Remind your fellow viewers that there’s still plenty enough to drink and that the beer really enhances the chili.) Stir in the beer and the mace. Continue cooking (without the top) for another 30 minutes, or longer, on low (if you wish to torture the dog). Taste again to determine final spice sprinkling and thickness – this is a fairly “brothy” recipe, but again, it’s about control. I’d rather start with a too soupy rendition, and invariably will ladle out a half cup of hot broth and whisk with the optional* cornstarch. Pour it back into the pot, give it a couple of good stirs and let it go another 5-10 minutes. Garnish with grated cheddar and Monterey jack cheese, onions and sour cream. Share a bit with an old beagle then lock them in their own room.

Terri Evans

Terri Evans

Terri Evans is 25+year marketing communications professional, a partner at LeslieEvansCreative and Bcauz marketing (cause-related). She has been a food columnist for Atlanta Intown and Atlanta Buckhead newspapers, and a contributing writer for Georgia Magazine, the Atlanta Business Chronicle and other publications. Evans was also a finalist in a Southern Living cooking competition. She is (and has long been) at work on a novel set in the South (of Georgia) and the South (of France). She's always cookin' up somethin'.