Do you like onions, chili powder and juicy ground chuck? Can you handle peppers so spicy they’ll make you insane? Are you the “pope of Chilitown?”
Then grab your wooden spoon carved out of a bigger spoon, it’s time for us to take a trip to Springfield’s Annual Chili Cook-Off. Featured in the season 8 episode “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer),” the cook-off features lots of supporting characters and lots of chili. Marge uses various means to try and keep Homer away from the competition (cuts up the newspaper, vacuums up the phone cord, smokes in the house), but as soon as he gets a whiff he dons his chili boots and heads for the door. Marge makes Homer promise not to have any beer this year, since he’s embarrassed her at past cook-offs with his drunk antics (“Everything looks bad if you remember it”).
The Simpson family arrives at the cook-off and we discover that Homer is a much-feared chili connoisseur. He tries each entry, including Ned’s chili, who “just wanted to be a big man in front of his kids,” and declares them all unworthy. Then he comes to Chief Wiggum’s chili, which is glowing bright red in a giant black cauldron. The Chief dons protective gear and serves Homer a “merciless pepper of Quetzalacatenango,” a Guatemalan Insanity Pepper grown deep in the jungle by inmates of an insane asylum. You know, typical chili cook-off stuff. One touch of the pepper to Homer’s tongue and he runs screaming, pouring beer all over himself just in time for Marge to see him breaking his no-beer promise. Humiliated, he decides to drink hot wax to coat his mouth and goes back to try again. Mmm… hot wax. To everyone’s surprise, he swallows pepper after pepper and tells Chief Wiggum “don’t quit your day job. Whatever that is.”
Homer’s stomach revolts, and he stumbles around the cook-off hallucinating. A real trippy trip follows, and Homer takes a psychedelic journey through the imaginary desert with a space coyote voiced by Johnny Cash. He is sent on a voyage to find his soul mate, and with Marge mad at him, he decides that maybe she isn’t the one. But after no luck with Moe’s, personal ads or a lighthouse robot named E.A.R.L., he smashes the lighthouse beacon in despair. Marge finds him, and he realizes that she does in fact understand him and that they are in fact soul mates (duh). And even though they change the giant light bulb, the ship still crashes, leaking hot pants for all of Springfield (“we like short shorts!“).
Back to the chili. I know you can’t believe this, but I couldn’t find Guatemalan Insanity Peppers. It made me wonder if they even exist. But no need to lose faith, there are plenty of hot peppers that you can find at a local market or grocery store. This recipe sports whole, charred peppers just like in the cartoon (grill them if you have that capability). If you’re nuts and are willing to risk a literal hole in your esophagus, use ghost peppers in this recipe (please don’t do that). If you love hot burning spice but like your throat in one piece, try habanero. If you like spicy but don’t like to feel like dying while you’re eating, try serrano, pasilla and/or jalapeño. If you just can’t handle any of this, leave out the whole peppers altogether and that should put you in Flanders’ 2 alarm chili territory. If you’re not into spicy stuff at all, you can also reduce the jalapeños to one or none and you’ll be closer to Moe’s “bland, timid entry, suitable perhaps for patients recovering from surgery.” Boring, but at least you won’t go on any hallucinatory, life-changing trips.
Chief Wiggum’s Chili*
Loosely based on Ree Drummond’s very popular chili recipe
Grapeseed, canola or vegetable oil
1 poblano pepper, split in half lengthwise and seeded
2 medium jalapeño peppers, split in half lengthwise and seeded
An assortment of small hot peppers, whole: habanero, pasilla, serrano, etc.**
1 small (or ½ large) onion, diced
1 pound lean ground beef
½ bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1. Rub the poblano, jalapeño, and other peppers with a light coating of oil and place them on a pan. Broil, flipping halfway through, until charred on both sides. Set aside the whole peppers and dice the poblano and jalapeño.
2. Add a glug of oil to a large soup pot and heat over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and stir. Cook for a few minutes and then add the beef, bell pepper, and garlic. Break up the meat and stir the pot until the meat is cooked through. Add the poblano pepper, jalapeño, chili powder and cumin and season with salt and pepper. Stir and cook one minute more.
3. Add the tomato sauce and 1 can’s worth of water. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce the heat, simmering for 30 minutes.
4. Stir and add the beans, covering and cooking for 10 minutes more. Add water if needed and more salt and pepper as needed.
5, To serve, ladle into bowls and stick in as many charred peppers as you (or your loved one) can handle. Keep a glass of milk nearby.
**Proceed with caution. Leave these out for a mildly spicy chili that won’t totally kick your butt. I highly suggest wearing gloves while handling peppers, including jalapeño.
Laurel Randolph is a food and lifestyle writer hailing from Tennessee and living in Los Angeles. She enjoys cooking, baking and candlestick making. Tweet at her face: