nicholas hopkins


This chili recipe took years to refine and is one of the reasons my wife Linda married me. On our very first (blind) date, this recipe and I won a friendly cookoff following a friendly softball game and Linda fell in love. With the chili. It took several years of my endearing and enduring charm, plus an exceptional and well earned bowling handicap to seal the deal for me. But enough about that.

If you like a meaty chili with a little bit of twist and a good bite, this one's for you. This recipe has won or placed in each and every cookoff in which it's been entered - with one tragic exception. (It's come to be known as The Great Salt Debacle and we don't speak of it. Ever. Yes, that means you Paul.) 

A word about the name

LOTCM is the acronym for Layovers To Catch Medlers. It's something my mother used to say. For years, we never knew what it meant. All we knew was that when we'd come into the kitchen and ask what was for dinner, she'd say, "Layovers to catch medlers, now get out of here!" We asked repeatedly what it meant but she'd never give us a straight answer. Usually she just kicked us out of the house with instructions to, "Go play tiddlywinks with man-hole covers." Well after all of these years, I finally found out this is one of those common, old-time sayings that gets passed down. It turns out a Layover is a trap. You lay branches over it, to disguise it.  So now we know. We were apparently meddlers and were lucky to avoid the layovers.

The Music 

As everyone knows, The Allman Brothers Band is clearly the best musical choice for making chili. For this recipe, you don't have to worry about the particular album, just hit your Allman Brothers playlist and you're good to go. (If you want an extra kick - stick with the Allman Brothers for the meat, but switch to a Stevie Ray playlist for the sauce and final touhes. I know. Crazy, right? Don't knock it till you've tried it.) 


This picture captures some of the ingredients I used in one of my favorite batches. It is not all inclusive and shows more meat than is generally required, so don't use this for shopping purposes. It's just a cool picture of some LOTCM ingredients, okay?

Before you head to the grocery store, an Important Note. This is a tri-meat recipe. One pound each of three different types of meat. The three types vary, but I always use some form of pork. It adds a truly unique flavor that compliments most other meat types nicely. (Either that, or I just like pork.) I've used pork chops and tenderloin, even ground breakfast sausage, but lately, my favorite is boneless pork rib. The other two meats are often chicken breast / thigh and beef stew meat. My favorite batches though are the ones using something unique. I've tried alligator, elk, moose and of course venison. (One was a pork tenderloin, elk and moose combo. That's the meat shown in the picture here. Wow. Best. Batch. Ever. And Special Thanks to everyone's favorite Alaskan, Alan Grenville for the elk and moose meat.)

But if you prefer to go meatless, this recipe works very well as a veggie chili. Just bump up the beans and veggies a bit.

The list

  • 3 lbs of Chili Meat (See Important Note above)
  • 2 fat cans of tomato sauce
  • 2 cans Mexican stewed tomato's
  • 2 cans red chili beans
  • 2 cans black chili beans
    • Yet Another Important Note: Chili Beans are not allowed in many Chili Cookoff contests and certainly not in any of the big ones. If you plan to compete with this recipe, do yourself a favor and check the rules before you go shopping.
  • 4 cans chopped chilis
  • 5 fresh Jalapeno peppers - finely minced. (Any time the skin of a hot pepper has been pierced, handle it with gloves and don't touch your face during the whole process. No kidding. You'll thank me.)
    • One or two habeneros might be substituted for most of the Jalapeno's. Or come on - throw caution to the wind. Use some Carolina Reapers or Ghost Peppers. If you're curious, let me know. I've got some home made Nuclear Pepper Powder containing Habenero, Jalapeno, Ghost, Scorpion and Carolina Reaper. It's good. Trust me. Hmmbwahahaha. 
  • 2 Big Ass Onions
  • 3 healthy tomatos
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 lb shredded cheese (a mix of medium cheddar and monteray jack works well.)
  • Minced garlic (It's best to get a good garlic press and mince your own, but yes. I have cheated and used the bottled minced garlic. Sue me. I dare you. No. Wait. Never mind. I'd just as soon you didn't.)
  • Chili powder - quite a bit
  • Cumin - a lot but not as much as the chili powder
  • Garlic salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Beer (C'mon. It really has to be a Mexican beer. Dos Equis amber is good. Corona is okay and all right, even Bud will do in a pinch. I generally stick to the lighter brews though. The really dark ones are good for drinking, but to my mind, not so much for cooking.)
  • Sour cream (for serving the finished product)
  • Optional: Turkey-sized aluminum roasting pan (We'll get to that in a bit. Be patient already.)

Now We're Cookin'

Pop open a beer, take a healthy swig, a deep breath and survey your Kitchen Kingdom. Make sure you’ve got all of the ingredients ready. 

There's a metric ass-ton, quite a bit of prep work to be done for this recipe / Masterpiece of Spicy Culinary Delight. You may want to consider a minion, or perhaps a food processor or veggie chopper for the onions and peppers. Perhaps for the meat as well - that depends on personal preferences. I generally dice up the meat into relatively small, bite sized pieces before I cook it. While really chunky chili is good, in a stew-ish sort of way, it'll cost you a lot of points in a cook off and make it more difficult to eat. Trust me. Small pieces, maybe half inch cubes. Ish. (LOTCM Tip: Meat is easier to chop into bite size pieces if it's partially frozen, or partially thawed depending on your point of view. You can also partially cook it in big pieces and cut them later, but I like to cut first. It exposes more of the surface area to the spices as it cooks.)

In the Biggest Dang Saucepan you can find, put at least a half-stick of unsalted butter. (Less artery-hardening alternative: several tablespoons of olive oil.) Pop open a fresh beer and add a half cup before the pan gets too warm. Add half of the canned chili peppers, half of the diced onions and a crushed clove of garlic. 

Enjoy the rest of the freshly opened beer as the mixture gets nice and toasty. Like, boiling toasty. Once it's good and hot, put the beer down and carefully add the diced meat. You're working with hot dang liquids here and you don't want any unnecesary messes to clean, or God Forbid, trips to the ER. (Hey. It happens. Again, trust me.) 

Once you've stirred all the meat into the pan and the sizzling has subsided, heavely dust the top of the meat in chili powder. Heavily. Completely cover the meat.

Add a layer of Cumin, but not as heavy as the chili powder. A complete layer but use a lighter touch. C'mon. Do I have to hold your hand? You know what I mean. 

Another even lighter layer of garlic salt is next. Followed by a light layer of plain old black pepper.

This is when you add the serious heat. If you're using the finely chopped fresh peppers, add half of them to the meat mix. If you're using my Pepper Powder, add like a 16th of a teaspoon. 

Mix it up again and keep it cooking over medium heat for a while, stirring occasionally to keep the meat from burning.

It'll start to smell great in just a few minutes.

While the meat’s cooking, get out a big ol’ dang soup pot.  (See the pic at the top of the page.) Open up a fresh beer and pour the whole thing into the pot. Open up another one for you.  

Add the tomato sauce, the stewed tomato’s, the fresh tomato, the rest of the chili’s, the other half of the chopped onion another clove of minced garlic and the beans.  Next, add the rest of your finely chopped hot peppers, or another 16th of a teaspoon of powder. Dust the top of the mess with another heavy layer of chili powder,  a light covering of cumin, and another dash of garlic salt and pepper.  

Set the heat to slightly over medium and stir it up, slicing the bigger chunks of stewed tomato as you stir.

Cut the cheese (Oh, stop giggling. How old are you?) into half-inch slices and add it to the mix. It'll start to melt after a bit. Stir it up occastionally to keep it from clumping. Soon, it'll dissolve into the mix and you'll hardly notice it.

Have another beer. By this time the liquid in the meat pan should be boiling off and the meat should be beginning to brown. You can continue to cook it in the pan until it's nicely browned or you could try the: 

BBQ Browning Option

This is where the aluminum baking pan in the ingredient list comes in. If you want to save your pan from getting too cooked and you'd like a a slight BBQ flavor to your chili, dump the meat into the the pan and put it on a covered BBQ grill over low to medium direct heat. (I will sometimes add a little beer if the mix is too dry.)   Keep a close eye on it and make sure to mix it up frequently until it's all nicely browned. This adds a nice flavor to the meat and you'll save your favorite pan from the heavy cleaning it would need if you browned the meat on the stove top. You can also do this in the broiler, but it won't have the outdoor flavor.

On a Musical Note: You'll need a boom box or outside speakers for this part. Or you could sing. Doing the Duane Allman or Dicky Betts guitar solo's might be problematic, though I'm sure your guests and neighbors would enjoy your efforts.

Regardess of your method, once the meat mix is browned and ready, carefully scoop it into the pot of liquids. Again, you're working with hot stuff here, so be careful. Stir it up good and set the heat to simmer.  Keep it there for at least an hour, if you can stand to wait that long, stirring occasionally.  You may want to cover it for some of that time, so it doesn’t boil too far down.  If it does, open another beer and split it between you and the chili. By then, it should be ready for the gang. 

Serve it in a Big Dang Bowl, with a dollop of sour cream in the middle, and a sprinkle of grated cheese over the top.

Enjoy your Cookoff prizes and the undying praise of all who are priviledged to taste your new favorite chili.

Copyright © 2018, Nicholas Hopkins. All Rights Reserved.