North America shivers in an Arctic freeze….biting, bitterly cold breezes….brutal, potential, record-breaking low temperatures….Polar Vortex - that arctic cyclone that’s swept down from the North Pole ….what’s next? It’s been so cold in Pennsylvania this winter that I’m surprised that Phil even ventured out to check his shadow this week. Olympic Alert: It’s warmer in Sochi!
So far, this has been one cold winter. It’s definitely time to warm up. Leave Old Man Winter outside to shoot the breeze with Jack Frost, and head to your kitchen to make a piping-hot pot of chili.
Chili recipes have taken on a life of their own, and there are as many chili recipes out there as there are chili-making contests. There’s beef chili, turkey chili, vegetarian chili, white bean chili, black bean chili. Chili made with bacon, beer, wine and chocolate. The possibilities seem endless.
Although we think of chili as a Mexican dish, it is not of true Mexican origin. Supposedly, chili was formulated in frontier times in what is now Texas, but what was then a province of the wild and woolly republic to the south of the United States. Spanish priests sermonized that chilies were evil aphrodisiacs, and they called chili “The Soup of the Devil.” When the United States took over Texas, it took “chili” with it. Some Texas prisons made such good chili that former inmates missed eating it after they were released.
Although Native American and Mexican spices were the basis of the recipe, chili is considered more of an American concoction. Back in the day, some key ingredients that we use today may not have been handy. Tomatoes were seasonal, and cowboys couldn’t just open a can of beans. But they did use dried chilies – hot peppers to make the dish that was called a “Bowl of Red.”
When I make chili, I use a jalapeno pepper. A word of caution, if you have not used these peppers: Be careful not to touch your face or eyes when handling and seeding them. Wash your hands afterwards. They are powerful little peppers.
Watching the Olympics? Let a bowl of chili warm you up!
1½ lbs. ground beef or ground turkey (Use 1 Tbls. oil, if using ground turkey)
1 large onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 can tomatoes (28 oz.)
1 can stewed tomatoes (14 oz.)
1 jalapeno pepper, split in half, discard seeds and chop
(For a milder chili, use only half and freeze the other half)
1 bottle of beer (12 oz.) – your choice
2 Tbls. minced parsley
3 heaping Tbls. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. whole coriander seeds (crush finely with rolling pin)
1 tsp. oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
3 cans (15 oz. each) kidney beans, rinse and drain well
- In a large pot, saute beef or turkey, breaking into pieces.
- Remove meat and pour off excess fat.
- Saute onion and garlic until limp and translucent.
- Return meat and all remaining ingredients except kidney beans.
- Stir together and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add kidney beans and simmer until beans are thoroughly heated, about 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle a little shredded cheddar, chopped scallions and/or chopped cilantro, if desired, atop each bowl.
- Serve with crusty bread or rolls and a green salad or cornbread would also be good.
In keeping with the spirit of the Wild West, chili takes you home to your range. When our north winds start howling and it’s getting chilly, find your home and the range and make a big pot of chili. Seldom is heard a discouraging word after a good chili dinner, even if the skies have been cloudy all day.
With the guitar gently strumming in the background, and the sun slowly setting, I’m on my way home to my range now.
(Questions or tips can be sent to Donna Zitter Bordelon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Northeast Times, 2512 Metropolitan Drive, Trevose, PA 19053.)