Food Columnist Judi Leaming tests out three recipes for the perfect winter comfort food: Chili.
My research reveals that the fourth Thursday in February has been designated as National Chili Day. The website www.freerepublic.comsupplied this researcher with a number of “chili tales and suppositions” as to the origin of this spicy, stew-like food that is sometimes referred to as “the Soup of the Devil.” Texans tend to promote the idea that early setters into the San Antonio region brought with them the basic recipe for chili. In 1893 a Texan introduced chili at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Today there are many chili competitions held around the United States and great debate as to whether chili should be prepared with or without beans. The “heat” of chili is certainly debatable and is determined by the spices and types of pepper that are used. If you go to the website www.allrecipes.comand type in “the best chili recipes” you’ll quickly realize how varied the ingredients are and I’ll leave it to you to test some of these recipes. At least read through them to see how varied the ingredients are — one even calls for “a 1-ounce envelope of hot chocolate mix.”
At our age we are far less adventurous in our chili eating than are our grandchildren and so the recipes that I share here tend to be on the mild side. Feel free to add additional spices if you like beads of sweat to pop-out on your forehead as you savor your chili.
Slow-Cooker Chunky Chicken Chili was featured on the Kraft Foods website (www.kraftrecipes.com) and Spicer was a little leery of chicken in chili but quickly changed his mind when he tasted this. The most challenging part of this recipe is cleaning off the fat and membrane that is a natural part of the chicken thighs. I recommend partially thawing your meat before attempting this but even this labor is well worth the trouble.
Slow-Cooker Chunky Chicken Chili
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cleaned of excess fat and membrane and cut into bite-size pieces
1 (15-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups Thick ‘n’ Chunky mild salsa
1 (16-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce*
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup Kraft Mexican style finely shredded four cheeses
Coarsely crushed Premium saltine crackers
Combine beans, salsa, tomato sauce and chili powder in crock of slow cooker. Top with chicken, onions and corn. (Do not stir.) Cover with lid and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours. Stir before serving. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the cheese, sour cream and/or crushed Saltine crackers.
*I misread the list of ingredients and used only a 6-ounce can of tomato sauce and a can of water and Spicer liked it this way.
Aunt Wanda’s Chili
1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
Dash of salt and pepper
1 (10-ounce) can condensed cream of tomato soup
1 (10-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 1/2 soup cans water
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chili powder
Brown ground beef and onion with salt and pepper in a 3-quart saucepan. Pour off any excess dripping. Stir in remaining ingredients, mixing well. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Beefy Cowboy Chili
1 pound boneless beef top sirloin steak, trimmed of fat and cut into small bite-size pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
1 heaping teaspoon chili powder
1 (15-ounce) can ranch-style beans
1 (14.5-ounce) can Hunt’s diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (10-ounce) can diced Rotel tomatoes and green chilies, undrained
1 (6-ounce) can Hunt’s tomato paste
1 cup water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
Sliced green onions, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese and corn chips for garnish
Sprinkle steak pieces evenly with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 6-quart saucepan over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add steak pieces, onion and chili powder. Cook for 5 minutes or until steak is browned on all sides and onion is tender, stirring frequently. Add beans, both diced tomatoes with their juice, tomato paste, water, sugar and red pepper; blend well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with optional garnishes. Serves 6 to 8.