Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Makin' it look easy

Would you trust this woman to make your Superbowl chili?

How about this one?

I did!

Life has been busy. I work 10 to 12 hours a day. I count myself lucky if I get 5 hours of sleep. I work out about 7 hours a week. Sometimes I cook, sometimes I eat. Occasionally I manage to put on my hot jeans, do my hair, and have a social life. Managing all this ain't easy.

As I'm learning from my venerable boss, it's all in the delegatin' -- and as we're learning from the primaries, it's all about the delegates.

Last week, I asked my roommate Jane to assume Superbowl chili duty. She's from Kansas City; she knows a thing or two about meat, spice, and a bubbling stockpot of comfort food. In my mind, there was no second choice: she was the woman to take on Lady Bird Johnson's Pedernales Chili, named for a river in Texas and the ranch that she and Lyndon Johnson bush-whacked back in the day. (The recipe was published in 2004 in The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh.) Happily, Jane was thrilled to both cook AND blog about it!

I'm off on two trips, one business, the other pleasure. Next you'll hear from me I'll be in Dublin, making Moroccan tandoori chicken for my devastatingly glamorous Irish girls. Until then!

And now, a few words from my very own "Super Delegate," Jane ....

For those of us not naturally blessed with the cooking gene, chili is a simple and easy way of covering those potentially embarrassing flaws.

Nora entrusted me with preparing one of the recipes from American Food Writing, and wisely chose Lady Bird Johnson’s chili as my debut into the cooking/blogging world.

We decided that the Superbowl would be a perfect time to make a little chili to spice up a potentially boring game (who knew the Giants could pull it off?!). With the best of intentions to follow the First Lady’s recipe to a T – I discovered, while perusing the meat department at the grocery story, that 4 pounds of ground chuck is a lot of beef, even for four Midwestern gals.

I reduced the beef to about 2 ½ pounds but kept the other ingredients true to the original recipe -- although I must admit I spiced it up with a little extra chili powder while Nora wasn’t looking. I think I probably shouldn't have added the full 2 cups of water, which made the chili a little more liquid-y* than I'm used to. Letting it simmer uncovered helped a little with the consistency and in the end I think it turned out pretty tasty -- for a chili with nothing but meat, onions, and tomatoes. T

Personally, I like my chili with a little more fixins. I think the best thing about this dish is making it up as you go – it’s virtually impossible to ruin (except perhaps when the chili powder top is loose, dumping a mound of the fiery stuff into the mix – but that’s a story for another time). Using Lady Bird’s recipe as a base, my “perfect chili” recipe would include doubling the cumin and chili powder, adding diced celery and carrots to the sautéed onions, and, of course, beans. For a standard chili like this I would probably use 2 cans of red beans.

And of course, no chili is complete with a full buffet of toppings, including shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and corn bread. Another surprisingly delicious addition is vinegar-marinated diced onions, which are as simple as they sound. Set aside about ¼” cup of diced onions and cover with vinegar. Allow the mixture to marinate while the chili is cooking and enjoy!

*Please excuse my lack of proper cooking lingo.

Lady Jane Ehinger's Kansas City Chili

2 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck or beef chuck cut into ¼” dice
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (or regular oregano)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 ½ cups canned whole tomatoes and their liquid
2 cans of red beans
2 to 6 generous dashes of liquid hot sauce

Sauté the meat, onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook until lightly colored. Add the oregano, cumin, chili powder, tomatoes, hot sauce, 1 1/2 cups hot water, tomatoes, and red beans. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for about 1 hour. Skim off the fat while cooking. Salt to taste.

Makes about 14 cups.


Dave, 'LunaPierCook' said...

Good-lookin' chili there, Jane! I wonder how the vinegar-marinated onions would be with a chopped sweet onion marinated in a good balsamic vinegar? Chili's always good, especially in the wintertime. I currently have a gallon or so of chicken-noodle soup in the fridge. I think as soon as that's gone, there will need to be some chili ... :-)

Anonymous said...

That picture reminds me of the movie Wallace and Gromit...