By George J. Tanber
What! Another chili recipe? And you’re going to tell us it’s the best ever, right?
It may not be the best ever in your book, but I tell you this is a superb chili with a unique ingredient that sets it apart. More on the surprise ingredient in a minute. First the story of a dish we call Wing’s Chili.
For more than 30 years a group of friends of mine gathered twice a year at a log cabin in the western Pennsylvania mountains – in early summer and mid-fall. Golf and poker were the main activities. But eating well was also a priority.
Like clockwork, the first arrivals on Day 1 started a late afternoon card game while the cabin’s co-owner, Bill Shader, set to work making chili for the evening’s meal. No one paid Bill any attention. At least until we were hungry. Well, the chili was always a hit. And it never lasted long.
It took me maybe 10 years to finally start taking notes on how Bill made his chili. It was time I started making it for my hometown friends and family because it was so good. I did and it was an immediate success. I’ve been making it ever since. The demand for the recipe is always high, so there’s little doubt Bill knew what he was doing.
The surprise ingredient, by the way, is hot Italian sausage. Compared to often-used ground beef, the sausage elevates the dish to a far tastier level. [Much as it does when you add it to your lasagna recipe.]
And why Wing’s Chili if its originator is named Bill? That’s simple. Bill’s nickname was Winger and we all shortened it to Wing. Even the name Winger has its origins — Bill always wore winged-tip shoes in high school. Those were the days!
This recipe yields around 20 servings, good for 8 to 12 people [with some left over]. If you’re having a party with 20 or more people, double the recipe.
8-quart pot + lid
A good knife
6-8 hot [or mild or mixed] Italian sausage links [preferably from a good butcher]
3 garlic cloves
1 yellow onion
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 package, mushrooms [approx. 1 lb]
1 can black beans [15.5 oz]
1 can light red kidney beans [15.5 oz]
1 can dark red kidney beans [15.5 oz]
1 can diced tomatoes [15.5 oz]
1 can tomato sauce [15.5 oz.]
1 can whole peeled tomatoes [28 oz.]
1 can tomato puree [15.5 oz]
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt [to taste]
½ habanero or jalapeno pepper [optional] or Habanero pepper sauce [also optional]
Cube onions and chop garlic. Sauté in pot with olive oil on medium heat. Cut up sausage with kitchen shears in one-inch[ish] pieces. Place on top of onions and garlic. Stir until sausage is browned. Either while cooking the sausage – or before – cut up the red and green pepper into cubes and the mushrooms into medium slices.
Add the veggies and mushrooms to the pot. Stir. Add the beans. Stir. Add the four varieties of canned tomatoes. [I suggest cutting the whole tomatoes into 3-4 pieces.]
Add the hot peppers or habanero sauce. [Less is better at first. You can always add more heat later, but once it’s hot you have to do some serious tinkering to take it down a notch or two.] If you are all in on the hot Italian sausage this also will add heat.
Stir again and turn the heat down to simmer. Place lid on top of pot and simmer for 30 minutes or so. Occasionally stir.
Like most chilis, this dish is better when made a day in advance.
George J. Tanber is a video producer and content writer living in Ohio with family ties to Chicago, which he frequently visits.