Chili is signature dish for Super Bowl

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Chili is to Super Bowl Sunday what king cake is to Mardi Gras. It's the signature dish at game-day gatherings and will be served in thousands of homes across the country Feb. 3 when the nation's two top pro football teams face off in the New Orleans Superdome.

While there are several good chili mixes on the market, chili isn't that difficult to make from scratch.

Maybe the preceding statement needs to be qualified. A basic chili is a simple, uncomplicated thick soup or stew composed of meat, chili powder and usually tomatoes in some form. It's fairly easy to mix together.

A world-championship chili is another dish altogether. World championship-bound chilies are complicated recipes with dozens of ingredients, no tomatoes or beans and multistep-preparation instructions.

Most cooks aren't searching for the ultimate chili recipe. They just want a good, filling chili that will warm up a cold day or cheer up a fan whose team isn't winning.

Food historians trace the roots of chili to Texas. According to "The American Century Cookbook" by Jean Anderson, early chili was likely a melange of dried beef and chili peppers carried by cowboys in their saddlebags. The dish was lightweight, imperishable, and when boiled in water became a filling stew.

Anderson's cookbook says another theory holds that in the 1820s the San Antonio poor stretched their meat by lacing it with chili peppers and perhaps dried beans as well. Commercially mixed chili powder, a blend of dried chili peppers, and various spices began appearing in San Antonio around 1835.

Chili parlors sprang up in San Antonio in the 1880s, and colorful pushcarts managed by flamboyant female chili cooks, dubbed chili queens, paraded the plaza in San Antonio selling their unique versions of the popular Texan stew.

Cowboy Chili

3 1/2 pounds boneless round roast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 medium bell peppers, diced

2 medium onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

Two 28-ounce cans tomatoes

12-ounce can tomato paste

1/3 cup chili powder

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons dried oregano

3/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 cups water

Shredded Monterey Jack cheese and sliced green onions for garnish

Pat beef dry with paper towels. In 8-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add beef, one-third at a time; cook until browned. Transfer beef to bowl as it browns.

Add bell peppers, onions and garlic to drippings in Dutch oven; cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Return beef to Dutch oven; stir in tomatoes with their juice, tomato paste, chili powder, sugar, salt, oregano and black pepper, breaking up tomatoes with back of spoon.

Stir in water; heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 1/2 hours, or until beef is tender.

To serve, spoon into bowls and garnish with shredded Monterey Jack cheese and sliced green onions.

Makes 12 servings.

(Recipe adapted from "The Good Housekeeping Step-by-Step Cookbook")

Speedy Chili

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped bell pepper

1 pound ground round or extra lean ground beef

Two 8-ounce cans tomato sauce

1-pound can kidney beans

1/2 teaspoon salt

Chili powder to taste

Saltine crackers

Cook onion, bell pepper and ground beef in hot oil in a deep skillet until vegetables are softened and beef is browned.

Add tomato sauce and cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Add kidney beans and salt. Simmer covered for 10 minutes or until beans are heated through.

Stir in 1 teaspoon chili powder or more, to taste. Simmer to blend the chili flavors.

Ladle chili into bowls and serve with saltine crackers.

Makes 6 servings.

(Recipe from "Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cookbook")

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