If you are looking for an elegant meal, particularly if you need something for a Super Bowl party, think chili. Oh, I know what just crossed your mind. Chili? How unexciting can that be?
How did chili get such a confused reputation? It’s more than just an issue of spelling: “chili” versus “chile.” There is real ambivalence about this dish, measured in the often unhappy reactions you receive if suggesting chili for anything but a cheap microwave lunch. Why?
It may begin with image. If you just look at the cans of chili in the supermarket, they tend to be so unattractive that you just want to hustle on down the aisle. If you do have the nerve to pick up one of those cans and read the list of ingredients, that should send you down the aisle.
And there are those Trekky-style, weird chili festivals. You’ve seen them on TV. Suzen and I actually went to one, at a local motor cycle dealership — I think that act truly defines doubling down. The dealer’s asphalt parking lot was already soft from summer heat. There were forty different booths, ranging from little gas burners to something that looked like it could put a new layer of asphalt down. And there was a variety of contesting chefs, ranging from gargantuan types to razor thin ones.
We did sample each offering, mostly spiced to alter the roof of your mouth, some okay, and a few so bad I had to force a smile at its confident creator while my eyes searched for the nearest private spot to just spit it out. I could not correlate chef body size with chili quality or cooking apparatus. The festival simply deepened the mystery.
For me, I know when chili crossed to the dark side. I earned free lunches in junior high by working in the kitchen as a dishwasher. Every two weeks I had to scrape half-eaten chili off four hundred lunch plates. That was a life altering experience.
Yet with all the interest in chili, all those festivals and books and recipes, there has to be some deep urge in humanity to find the goodness. What if there were a really wonderful chili recipe? Chili with the class of beef bourguignon. Julia Child’s beef bourguignon. What if there were chili you could serve your best friends or family with complete enthusiasm and pride?
It exists. Suzen has made it. I have eaten it. I have even frozen, defrosted and eaten it again. It is wonderful.
Tom Valenti is one of New York City’s most gifted and altruistic chefs. A few years ago, with co-author Andrew Friedman, Valenti produced a remarkable book, Tom Valenti’s Soups, Stews, and One-Pot Meals. Suzen and I have actually under-used this book for years: there is one recipe there that we love, the lamb pasticcio, and we just never get beyond it. We would open the book and only cook that one recipe. In retrospect, this was not our best culinary behavior.
It’s a rich chili, balanced in flavor, thick, with a deep dark red color that is unlike any chili you’ve ever seen. You can serve it by itself, on rice, on noodles. If as suggested you adorn it with some grated cheese, some diced scallions or cilantro, and some sour cream, you have the most fragrant and tasty rainbow of your life.
The recipe is simple to execute and scales perfectly. Yes, there are lot of ingredients here, like a recipe for hot and sour soup, but the payoff is exceptional. We made a triple batch, ate some and froze the rest. You want extra because you can put it to many uses. In my next blog, I’ll suggest using some of this chili as part of the best Super Bowl Nachos you can imagine.
Texas Style Chili
Yield: Serves 6+
- 2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch chunks, trimmed of fat
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Chili powder
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
- 1 large Spanish onion, peeled and cut into small dice
- 1 stalk celery, cut into small dice
- 2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into small dice
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
- Pinch of sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
- 1 quart store-bough reduced-sodium beef broth
- 4 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus more to taste
- 1 ancho chile, seeded, stemmed, and minced
- 2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- Sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, Tabasco sauce, and minced onion or scallions, optional.
Put the meat in a bowl and season with 1 tablespoon each of salt pepper garlic powder and chili powder. Set aside.
Warm the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook until browned all over, 7 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a plate and set aside.
Drain off all but a few tablespoons of liquid from the pot. Add the carrots, onion, celery, bell peppers, and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about five minutes. Add the tomato paste and sugar and stir to coat the vegetables.
Return the meat to the pot sprinkle the flour over the meat stirred in, working quickly to keep it from browning.
Add the vinegar and stir to loosen any bits of flour or meet stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add the broth in small increments, stirring to prevent lumps add the tomatoes proven, and showed chili stir. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat.
Cover the pot, reduce the heat so that the liquid just simmers, and cook for one hour. Add the beans and continue to cook until they are very tender, about 15 minutes. If not serving immediately, but cool, cover, and refrigerate for a few days or freeze for up to one month. Reheat before conditioning very
To serve, divide the chili among six bowls and pass garnishes at the table in individual bowls, inviting everyone to doctor his or her chili to taste.
Source: Tom Valenti’s Soups, Stews, and One-Pot Meals by Tom Valenti
Here’s an elegant way to serve potatoes and tomatoes in a tart with with a crust that adds the flavor overtones of Parmesan and chili. “Tart” is, for me, a special word. It always seems to denote something special, something personal, something with a twist that will make me smile. This tart is exactly that lovely treat. There is a dash of richness from the creme fraiche, overtones from sea salt, and a chile hit.
This tart consists of a tomato base topped with potato slices. You can artfully arrange those slices in different patterns and perhaps top with some additional chili flakes or herbs.
This tart takes a bit of effort, but you’ll truly appreciate the results. It can be a side dish, but has the substance of a main course. Try this on a Sunday afternoon. Let the ballgames play out on television while you focus on something sure to be a success. [This blog was written by a New York Giants fan after three consecutive losses. I need, and deserve, serious comfort food.]
Chile Potato Tart
Yield: Makes 6 servings
- 1 ½ pounds ripe red plum tomatoes halved lengthwise and seeded [or cherry tomatoes]
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 1 large red chile
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt flakes
- 1 tablespoons sugar
- 1 pound waxy potatoes boiled in their skins for 15 minutes then peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 ¼ cups crème fraiche lightly whipped and seasoned with salt and pepper
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ⅓ cups all-purposes flour
- Pinch of salt
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced,
- ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 red chile, seeded and very finely chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350° F.
To roast the tomatoes, lightly brush a baking tray with some of the olive oil and arrange the tomatoes cut side up. Add the garlic and whole chile and sprinkle with the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle the salt and sugar evenly over the tomatoes and bake in the preheated oven.
Remove the garlic after 10-15 minutes when soft, and squeeze the flesh into a bowl. Remove the chile after 15-20 minutes when the skin is blistered and slightly charred. Leave the tomatoes for 45-50 minutes until very soft and slightly charred. Cool the chile a little, then peel, seed, chop finely, and add to the garlic. Scoop the tomato flesh into the bowl, discarding skins [with cherry tomatoes, simply mash the skins]. Mash the flesh. Season to taste.
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the Parmesan and chile, if using. Add enough cold water to make firm dough.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface and use to line a greased, 10-inch fluted art pan. Lightly prick the base with a fork. Chill for 30 minutes, then line with foil and baking beans. Heat a baking tray on the middle shelf of a preheated oven at. 400°. Put the tart shell on the tray, bake for 10-15 minutes, then remove from the oven and remove the foil and beans. Increase the oven heat to 450°.
Spread the tomato mixture evenly over the tart base, then over with concentric circles of potato slices. Pour the crème fraiche over the potato. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the top is golden.
Potatoes: From Mash To Fries by Annie Nichols