As a New York football fan, I could not give a Chinese New Year rabbit’s foot about this Sunday's game. Packers or Steelers. Who cares? All I know is that 2010 marked the second year in which the Giants spectacularly imploded in the late season.
Luckily, I’ve got Cooking With Jeanne’s Chili Swan Song to save me from crawling into a womb of self pity.
Even to football fanatic Mom, the Super Bowl was really just an excuse to eat ridiculous amounts of snacks and try out new chili recipes. Over the years, these versions included Cincinnati, vegetarian, and a five-alarm chopped steak one that remains tattooed in my memory.
Mom chose a good canvas upon which to experiment since chili is typically a pretty forgiving food. A member of the stew family, chili tends to incorporate new ingredient like a relaxed hostess welcomes uninvited guests; shrugging graciously and finding room at the table. As my cousin Christine once told me: “You really can’t screw chili up.”
Christine should know. Her chili placed first in our family’s legendary 1998 Chili Cook-Off. By some stroke of inspiration, my aunt and uncle decide to host a Sunday night dinner in which all guests were encouraged to bring their favorite chili recipe. We were then asked to blindly rate each entry based on a series of qualities, like spice, texture and overall flavor. The variety was staggering. One came loaded with sausage, another was ruthlessly spicy, and one was just really bland. When this lame version ranked poorly in our taste test, my 65-year old Aunt Betty Ann began to giggle like a preteen at a sleepover. “It’s from a mix!!!!” she confessed. All in good chili fun. In addition to chili, the table was well stocked with beer, salad, cornbread, and –mercifully—Bean-O.
Experimentation sounds fine and dandy, but I had no intentions of messing around with my swan song chili. After all, it’s the SUPER BOWL. So I turned to my go-to recipe, a loose interpretation of Silver Palate’s Chili for a Crowd. Usually, I remove several ingredients (Silver Palate is notorious for going overboard with ingredients), and add a bottle of beer instead of wine for bitterness. I also replaced the beef and pork with ground turkey and chicken sausage.
As I was mindlessly chugging along, I realized something horrific: I had browned the sausage but forgotten to add the meat. Quickly, I threw the meat into the pot of onions and sausage simmering in beer and canned tomatoes. Bad call. Now the meat would not brown at all, but would simply stew in the chili’s liquids. Taking a deep breath, I remembered a line from (let’s just say) my Mom: “It’s just dinner.”
I then proceeded to throw any ingredient imaginable into the pot. This included: a cup of wine, a heavy dose of Tabasco sauce, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and some dried chili peppers. I went to bed wondering if Christine had steered me wrong. You can mess up chili, and I had three containers worth to prove it.
The next morning, I sent Jeff to work with a container of the dreaded chili and the following instructions: “Eat this, then tell me if it sucks.” He walked out the door wondering aloud if I was trying to kill him. But, apparently, I wasn’t. Jeff came home with rave reviews; I enjoyed it for lunch today; and, now, I am eagerly awaiting the response of our SB party guests.
Maybe I will forward this post to Eli Manning. Perhaps he’ll take comfort in knowing that there are some things you can’t mess up.
Swan Song Chili
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 large onion (Vidalia)
- 4 lb ground turkey or chicken meat
- 1 ½ lb of turkey sausage (1/2 sweet, ½ spicy) in casings
- 1 Tbsp ground pepper
- 2 small cans of tomato paste
- 4-5 medium cloves of crushed garlic
- 1-2 Tbsp Chili powder, depending on heat of chili
- Dried chilis
- ¼ cup Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp cumin seed
- 2 Tbsp salt
- 1 Tbsp dried basil
- Pinch of oregano
- 1 large drained canned tomato
- 1 small diced tomato can
- 1 bottle of beer
- 1 cup of red wine
- Worcester sauce to taste
- Tabasco sauce to taste
- 1 can of kidney
- 1 can of black beans
1. Heat oil in very large pot, until glistening. Add onions and cook over low heat until tender (10 minutes or so)
2. Remove sausage from casings and crumble, cooking over medium-high heat. Stir often until browned. Remove excess fat.
3. Reduce heat and add pepper, tomato paste, garlic, chili powder, mustard, salt, and basil. Add drained beans, drained tomatoes (both kinds), and beer. Stir well and simmer, uncovered, for 15 more minutes.
4. Taste and correct seasoning.
5. Cook over low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
NOTE: Chili always tastes better the second day.