Thursday, February 2, 2012

Flavor Profile: Chili Powder

With Super Bowl right around the corner, chili is on the minds of most party hostesses. Typically made in large quantities and kept warm all day in a crock pot, it features boldly in the middle of most buffet tables on Game Day. Why bother with chicken wings and potato chips? Chili is hearty enough to fill up the hungriest of football fans and can be as spicy or as mild as you like. But regardless of the heat level, chili powder is the ingredient that makes the dish.

Chili powder is sometimes known by the specific type of chili pepper used (such as cayenne) and is used in many different cuisines, not just American Tex-Mex, but also Indian, Chinese and Thai. Chilis come in a variety of blends but typically consist of dried ground chili peppers, cumin, salt, oregano and garlic.

The first commercial blends of chili powder in the U.S. were created by a couple of guys in Texas, where chili was the town's favorite dish. However, chili peppers could only be found at certain times of the year. When they took ancho peppers from Mexico and ground them through a small meat grinder a few times they ended up creating the first commercial chili powder in 1894.

I rarely use chili powder in my cooking, but I became a fan because of a single recipe I discovered in one of my cookbooks last year. It is my favorite chili, because I don't like chili too spicy. The recipe calls for beef chuck, but I use ground turkey or chicken instead because I don't eat beef. Vegetarians could use soy crumble. No matter what you add for protein, it's good.

Chili Con Carne
Chili for a Crowd

Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a very large soup kettle. Add 1 lb. of coarsely chopped onions, and cook over low heat, covered, until tender and tranluscent, about 20 minutes.Crumble 1 lb. of sweet Italian sausage (removed from their casings) and about 3-4 lbs. of either beef chuck (ground) or turkey or chicken and cook over medium high heat, stirring often, until meats are well browned. Spoon out as much excess fat as possible.

Over low heat stir in 1 Tbsp. ground black pepper, 1 can tomato paste, 2 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic, 1.5 oz. ground cumin, 2 oz. chili powder, 1/4 cup prepared Dijon mustard, 2 Tbsp. salt, 2 Tbsp. each of dried basil and oregano.

Add 2-3 cans of drained canned Italian plum tomatoes, 1/4 cup Burgundy wine, 1/8 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup each of chopped fresh dill and parsley, and 2 cans dark red kidney beans (drained). Stir well and simmer, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.

Taste and correct seasoning. Add 2 cans drained pitted California olives, simmer another 5 minutes to heat through and serve immediately.

If you want it spicier, add 1-2 minced fresh jalapeno peppers when you add the salt and herbs or some red pepper flakes when you add the kidney beans.

Makes about 15-20 portions.

My favorite chili. Hope you enjoy it!

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