Monday, October 25, 2010

FOOTBALL CHILI COOK OFF'S KICK OFF: Cincinnati Style

When it comes to blood lust, I plead guilty. I love nothing more than spending Sunday afternoon watching a group of oversized men brutalize each other with military precision. That’s right I am an avid football fan. Blame it on The Jeanne.

Football was a matrilineal tradition in my house. My grandmother spent most fall weekends perched in front of the game, cold beer in hand. She raised Jeanne to do the same. And thanks to Mom, I too savor a finely-executed pass or a sweet sack.

While Jets fans permeate our ranks (Joe Namath still holds some serious sway over my Aunt Bet and her clan), I was raised a Giants fan. This was a glorious thing in the 1980s. Every Sunday, Phil Simms, Mark Bavarro and Lawrence Taylor (the namesake of our ill-behaved dog) would work their magic, and Mom would yell. Loudly. Her voice rose about five octaves, taking on the feverish pitch of blood lust. Come fourth quarter or OT, she usually let loose with her favorite catch phrase: “The opera ain’t over to ‘til the fat lady sings!!!!!!” At this point, brother and I would shrink with embarrassment. Surely the neighbors could hear. So be it, said The Jeanne. Unbridled enthusiasm is part of the fun.

Chili was also an integral part of our fun. Mom’s chili repertoire was vast and delicious, ranging from chopped steak to vegetarian. The recipes varied, but Mom’s symphonic timing remained the same. She spent early afternoon chopping and mincing ingredients, calmly commenting on the game at hand. As the day progressed, the house would gradually take on a spicy scent, hitting an aromatic crescendo by the fourth quarter. The chili --and Mom's yelling-- was usually finished by dinner time.

To honor this long standing ritual, I introduce to you: The Official Football Chili Cook Off 2010, a series of chili recipes introduced sporadically throughout the rest of the NFL season. Why bother kicking off midseason? One word: Texas. Tonight at 8:30 pm ET, the NY Giants will meet their age-old nemesis, the Dallas Cowboys. I detest the Cowboys. One of the Jeanne’s Golden Rules of Fandom was to hate the Cowboys, and I learned it well. Call it Blue State elitism, but that’s how we gals roll.

Given that Dallas is 1-4 and G-men are not as hot as I had once hoped, a milder chili seems fitting. (Save the five-alarm for when the season really heats up.) I can think of no better than Cincinnati Chili.

Unbeknown to many, Cincinnati joined the chili pantheon in 1922 when a Greek restaurant owner introduced his Mediterranean-inspired version. The Kovers have been devotees ever since Dad brought the recipe back from a business trip in the early Eighties.

Mulled in cinnamon, Worcestershire sauce, and pickling spice, Cincinnati chili feels more comforting than electrifying. Because the texture is smoother than traditional chili, Cincinnatians can eat theirs over pasta or on a hot dog.

Toppings vary widely. As The Jeanne will detail below, you can choose from a combination of cheddar cheese, kidney beans, chopped onions or crushed oyster crackers. Opt for all of the above and you’ve got a “Four-Way.”

But the best thing about CinciChili? It's not from Texas. Death to the Cowboys. Go Blue.


CINCINNATI CHILI

Ingredients:

1 quart of water
2 lbs lean hamburger (NO joke. A fattier cut adds way too much grease.)
4 medium onions, chopped fine
2 cloves, garlic
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp cumin seed or ground cumin
2 tsp salt (or according to taste)
1 can of tomato paste
Placed in tea ball:
1 tsp red pepper
3 bay leaves
2 Tbsp pickling spice (I had no idea what this was. Thanks to Amy Bodiker, I came up with a blend of all-spice, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and celery seeds. Next time, I would do cloves too)

Directions:

• Crumble raw hamburger (not browned) into water. Add all ingredients. Bring t a boil, then simmer for 3 hours.
• Serve over hot dogs

o 2 Way: Spaghetti topped with chili
o 3 Way: Spaghetti topped with chili, grated cheese and topped onions
o 4 Way: Same as others but with kidney beans


NOTE: Stay tuned for Butternut Squash soup later this week.

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