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Add Trevor's chili to your spring tailgate menu

It's spring in Wisconsin which means that the first couple of ball games can be a bit chilly. Plan ahead and whip up this tasty recipe for your early-season tailgate parties! 

I spent time traveling the great state of Wisconsin producing a travelogue show in the past. In every town I would grab a cup of chili at one of the local establishments. It’s really hard to screw up chili and I found some of the best cups at the diviest bars in northern Wisconsin. You'll find variations of the classic: some have spaghetti noodles, some throw in last night’s prime rib leftovers and some just flat out go for the hotness 🌶️  factor.

Personally, I love giant chunks of meat that fall apart after hours of cooking. Ground beef is fine, but I really enjoy carving up several pounds of chuck roast to start a good chili. For good measure and lots of flavor, I brown the meat in bacon fat.

The following recipe is adapted from America’s Test Kitchen. This chili is more Tex-Mex than you'll usually find in Wisconsin.  It’s got corn tortillas in there to add to the thickness and you hit it with cilantro and lime juice at the end to brighten it up. I think the real beauty of this recipe is that you can prep it in the morning, throw it all in the slow-cooker on low and finish it when you get home from work. And it makes a ton of chili!

ProTip: Throw together some corn muffins.  It's the perfect combination.

Slow-Cooker Chili Con Carne (Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

Serves: 6 to 8

Advance Prep Time: 1 hour

Slow-Cooker Time: 9 to 10 hours on low or 6 to 7 hours on high

  • 8 slices of bacon, chopped medium
  • Vegetable oil
  • 5 pounds of boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed, and cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped medium
  • 3 jalapeno chilies, minced (leave in the stems and seeds if you want it hot)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cumin powder
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 6 corn tortillas (about 6-inches in diameter), torn into 2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups of beef broth
  • 2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped medium
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 cans of dark red kidney beans (15.5-ounces each)
  • ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, 5-8 minutes. Add the bacon to the slow cooker, reserving the bacon fat separately.

2. Dry the beef with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Add 2 teaspoons of the bacon fat to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat until simmering. Brown half of the beef, about 10 minutes, then add to the slower cooker. Return skillet to medium-high heat and repeat with more bacon fat and the rest of the beef.

3. Add the last of the bacon fat to the empty skillet and return to medium heat until simmering. Add the onion, jalapenos, chili powder (the stuff you got!), cumin, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook until the onion has softened, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 15 seconds. Stir in the crushed tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and then pour into the slow cooker.

4. Combine the tortillas and 1 cup of the beef broth in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until mushy, about 2 minutes. Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth, about 1 minute. Stir into the slow-cooker.

5. Add the remaining 3 cups beef broth, chopped chipotle, and sugar to the slow-cooker.

6. Cover and cook, on either low or high, until the meat is tender, 9-10 hours on low or 6-7 hours on high. Stir in the beans during the last hour of cooking. Before serving, stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Salt and pepper to taste.