Chili warms the belly and soul

02/26/2014 12:00 AM

02/25/2014 2:24 PM

I really do enjoy a nice bowl of chili.

Rarely, though, do I make it at home because there is really no such a thing as a recipe for a single serving of the stuff. During the week of the most recent ice storm, I rustled up a small pot of chili using some ground goat that I had bought from Hannah Hands Farm and I did eat all of it. But after the fourth day ...

Anyway, I speak of chili because The Palladium Society’s 16th Annual Chili Cook-off is 5-8 p.m. Saturday at the Ellison Building on the State Fairgrounds. And I get to help judge the entries this year!

I’m looking forward to the contest. Chili is one of those dishes that allow the creativity of the cook to shine through.

I’ve had some really good chicken chili and some vegetarian chili when dining with friends. Some recipes that I’ve tried have beans, some do not. Some substitute a portion of beef for pork sausage or take the meat out entirely and use tofu.

To get some idea what it might take to create a winning chili recipe, I contacted Scott Cann, a winner in last year’s cook-off.

This is what he told me: “there is no secret recipe, just add what you like to eat.”

His story goes like this: He and his buddies decided to enter the Palladium Society’s cook-off on a whim.

They sat around one evening trying to decide what to put in their chili. Scott and the others finally decided to just use what they liked to eat: one friend wanted Italian sausage, another put in roasted peppers and onion, a third added a bottle of home-brewed beer. Everything went into the pot.

The day of the contest, they set up their table. Cann had to leave the area for a bit and when he came, back his buddies were grinning and telling him that they won. The only problem then was that they had to try and remember the recipe.

So his message is, “Don’t sweat it. Have fun.”

What I’ve made for this week is a variation of a traditional Texas-style chili. All meat and tomato, no beans.

Using the basic recipe below, the substitutions that I made are these: instead of 2 pounds of cubed beef chuck (stew meat) and 1/4 pound of bacon, I used 11/2 pounds of beef stew meat and 3/4 pound of Italian sausage. I also added a bottle of Yuengling lager (Cann must be influencing me).

If you’re using beans: soak the dried beans overnight in water then drain and add them to the chili and simmer for 1 to 11/2 hours. Canned beans can be added as well.

Texas Chili

serves 6

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 pound bacon, diced

2 pounds stew beef, cubed

3 yellow onions, peeled and chopped

6 cloves garlic, diced fine

6 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped

2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons plain powdered chile or chili powder (or more to taste)

1 tablespoon oregano

1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes

Saute bacon in a heavy 6-quart pot. Add stew beef and brown over high heat along with the onions, garlic and jalapenos.

When meat is browned and onions translucent, add other ingredients. Mash up tomatoes and add the juice as well. Simmer for one hour and then taste to adjust seasoning.

Is Cincinnati Chili really chili?

OK, it has a few more spices than “regular” chili and I get that. But ... with all of the add-ons (meaning the spaghetti), when (or if) does it cross a line? Discuss ...

Ordered plain, you get the meat and spices. Two-way gets the chili sauce on top of spaghetti noodles. Three-way adds grated Cheddar cheese. Four-way adds onions. Five-way adds beans.

Cincinnati Chili

Serves 8-10 (without spaghetti)

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 pound lean ground pork

1 pound hamburger

4 yellow onions, peeled and chopped

6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds

4 tablespoons hot chili powder

3 whole bay leaves

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons Tabasco

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons Worstershire sauce

4 tablespoons white vinegar

1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes, pureed

1 tablespoon oregano

2 pounds kidney beans, soaked and cooked

Salt to taste

Heat a 12-quart heavy stockpot and add the oil. Saute the pork, hamburger, onions, garlic, cumin seeds, chili powder and bay leaves until meat is barely browned and the onions are clear. Drain off the fat.

Add the remaining ingredients, including the beans, and bring to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 11/2 hours or until the beans are very tender. You may need to add water to this dish as it cooks.

If you want to go different ways, have bowls of cooked spaghetti, grated Cheddar cheese and chopped onion on hand so that you can customize your bowl.

Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American


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