Throughout January, leading up to that great American holiday, Super Bowl Sunday, many of us are glued to our televisions, watching the ferocious action of our country’s most popular sport. Making a pot of chili fits the occasion perfectly, being available to enjoy during commercials and at half-time. A fun Super Bowl party idea is host your own “Chili Cookoff” with guests bringing their favorite chili recipe, everyone sampling, then judging the entries, with a prize or trophy going to the big winner. Grilling sausages or hot dogs and using the chili as a topping is another super variation.
Chili can be made in a multiplicity of ways. Beef, either ground or cubed, is the most common meat ingredient. Chicken, turkey or lamb can also work well in chili. Vegetarian chili is increasing in popularity. Beans of all varieties can be used. Spices are integral – whether cumin, chili powder, cayenne, chipotle peppers and all other varieties of peppers. This array of possible ingredients is what makes chili so different, unique and individualized.
Also, the chili needs to be thickened. Masa harina -the traditional corn flour used to make tortillas and tamales - makes a great thickener when added towards the end of cooking. It imparts a slightly sweet, earthy corn flavor to the chili.
Like many stews, chili improves after an overnight rest, as the flavors blend and mellow. If you can, cook the chili a day ahead, then refrigerate. The result is worth the wait.
Doug’s Super Bowl of chili
Makes 8 to 10 servings
2 pounds lean ground beef
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
Crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 cups diced tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
8 cups beef stock
3 tablespoons masa harina flour
6 tablespoons water
1 14-ounce can dark red kidney beans
1 bag tortilla chips
2 cups grated Monterey jack cheese
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Brown the ground beef in a large Dutch oven. Drain the fat and reserve the browned beef in a bowl. Heat the vegetable oil in the emptied pot, add the onions and sauté until translucent. Return the beef to the pot. Season with salt, cayenne, chili powder, cumin, crushed red pepper, oregano and garlic. Heat briefly until the spices become fragrant. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and beef stock. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Mix the masa and water together to make a slurry, making sure to dissolve any lumps. Slowly stir this into the chili, then add the beans and cook another 30 minutes. Taste and re-season with salt and cayenne.
Serve in bowls with guests adding the garnishes of their choice.
Doug Seed was raised in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. and has lived in Morada since 1984. He is a non-denominational clergyman, specializing in research and teaching of the Bible and is also co-owner of A Moveable Feast, a Lodi-based food truck. He is married to Carole and they have four sons. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing bridge and golfing.