Let chili chase the chilly

There is noth­ing bet­ter than a warm bowl of chili on a cold winter day.

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.)

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