Rob Iracane’s Chili, recipe coming tomorrow in Part 2
It’s A Family Affair
Sarah: I was thinking about what Hulk said about being late to the chili game. How many of you grew up with chili and consider it a comfort food? Because even though we lived in Wyoming when I was a kid for years, we never made chili at our house. And as an adult, mostly because I had an aversion to ground beef until I was much older (when I was young I got it in my head that ground beef was not the good meat, even though my mom ground her own), I didn’t start messing with beef chili until I was in my late-twenties.
Do your recipes reflect what your family made?
Flubby: Chili was a staple at my house growing up. My mom, as country as they get, has a really simple recipe that’s infuriatingly impossible to recreate. Tons of chili powder and nearly a whole bottle of ketchup. The ketchup sounds gross, but she’s swears it’s indispensable. She’s won more than one cook-off with it.
Andrea Hangst: My chili is generally way different from what my mom made when I was growing up. But I certainly had an idea of chili. I started making it regularly when I was in college and have using and slightly tweaking the same basic recipe. I’d say my chili is straightforward American and while simple and maybe predictable it’s very good. I’ve only messed it up once: Never ever cook angry.
Michael Felder: Not a staple in my house. My mom was a hell of a cook who whipped up so many thing from scratch and startedmy love affair with southern food. But alas, she was not much for chili. When we had chili, it was the little packets that were “add ground beef” type deals.
She makes a hell of a pound cake, the best fried pork chops with rice and gravy and collards that I’ve ever had but chili wasn’t her thing.
Jeb Lund: We had only very basic chili. Chopped onions carmelized, ground beef, chili powder, cumin, canned diced tomatoes, broth, cans of beans. It was cheap, quick to make and went far, but it was far from “proper” chili or anything frou frou—this, despite growing up in the Bay Area. In fact, the only places I ever regularly saw chili on the menu were dive bars, greasy burger places, and the chili was pretty much the same there too.
It wasn’t until college that I got into traditional chilis and more experimental ingredients, and that was largely a function of a culinary intolerance of friends who said, “You make chili how???”
Celebrity Hot Tub: We actually had a vaguely chili-like dish called “Spanish Something,” though it wasn’t quite the same as chili. And, no, I am not of Iberian heritage.
It was the sort of recipe you submitted to a school cookbook. Why those were a thing, I don’t know.
Old James: It was a staple — in fact, my family still has chili for dinner every Christmas Eve. But I come from a very midwestern meat & potatoes upbringing, so it was pretty much just ground beef mixed with a Lawry’s packet. This might explain why I’ve always preferred a heartier, meat & bean heavy, chili.
Plus, I’ll never forget the look on my dad’s face when we spent one Christmas Eve at my Aunt’s house and he saw corn in her chili. Vegetables are for soups, dammit!
Unsilent: I don’t remember a lot of homemade chili as a kid. However, my mom’s family has a tradition of serving spaghetti on Christmas Eve that is basically chili over pasta. Tomato paste, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce etc. crazy goyim. It sounds horrifying to most, but I still love it. What’s especially weird is that we treat it like actual tomato sauce. Ever had Parmesan on your chili?
Ted Berg: Chili was definitely in the regular rotation in my house growing up. The type I make at home most frequently is vaguely similar to my mom’s, but also based on a recipe from a More Bear Cooking, a cookbook aimed at guys cooking for their bear boyfriends/husbands. It’s a pretty handy cookbook and it’s filled with hilarious and juvenile euphemisms.
Stephanie Stradley: Basic chili was a regular staple in my house. Quickly done without fancy stuff. My mom had seven kids, so chili was a food that everybody would eat without any bitching.
I still do basic chili. I think judging chili cookoffs has given me a bit of aversion therapy to some *fancy* chills. Some of those go way off the rails, and then at the end of the cook off, you’ve eaten too much bad chili and drank too many beers.
If I’m doing time intensive food, I’m busting out the smoker and cooking up a pork butt, brisket, ribs, chicken or the like. If I can’t cook chili in 30 minutes or less, I’m not likely doing it. This may be blasphemy, but just give me some straight up chili with a nice texture, not dry, and a perfect blend of heat and salt, and I’m good. Foofoo chili doesn’t do anything special for me. Now, the perfect brisket, pork butt, ribs? That gets my attention.
Sarah: Unsilent, you realize your mom’s family basically serves Cincinnati Skyline chili but with parmesan in place of cheddar.
Stephanie, I like your practicality with chili. What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen in a Texas chili cook-off?
Old James and Unsilent do bring up good bring topics though, vegetables and cheese. I always put corn in chili even though some people think that is wrong. I’ve even put sweet potatoes in chili. Do you always put cheese on top, do you mix it in?
Unsilent: Fortunately it doesn’t have the warm spices or insane amounts of grease. I have done corn in chili. Drew’s recipe is pretty tasty.
RobotsFightingDinosaurs: I grew up with chili, but not in the house. I lived in DC, and I used to go out to Hard Times Cafe all the time with my family and friends. Chili wasn’t a meal we usually had in house a whole lot, but we found ways to get it in our system.
Ted Berg: We all agree Skyline Chili is an atrocity, right? I also think Hard Times is overrated, but most of my friends in DC swear by it. Maybe I’ve just had a few bad experiences.
For vegetables, I use canned corn almost always for color and sweetness, plus at least a bell pepper if that counts. Ideally I can get my hands on a pepper that’s both hefty and spicy, in which case I use a few of those. Not sure anyone’s ever had a mariachi pepper because they’re not that popular, but they absolutely should be. Please start demanding them by name so I can get my hands on them more often.
Sarah: My husband just woke up and saw me looking at your peppers to plant online, Ted. Sighed and went back to sleep.
I actually like a good green pepper or red pepper in my chili just for the extra texture. I also like to have some finely diced ones to add as a garnish. Just looks pretty.
Unsilent: I like pickled jalapeños on top. Also some kind of onion. Pickled red, raw white or raw green.
Flubby: Cincinnati chili is awesome. I don’t consider it traditional chili, but still nothing to sleep on. Other than the Collins brothers and Charlie Hustle, maybe the only good thing to come out of the Queen City.
Dan Pashman: Cincinnati chili is not chili.
Flubby: I like Cincinnati chili and agree with that statement. It’s a pasta dish.
Jeb Lund: It’s an abortion. AN ABORTION, MICHAEL. (My apologies to the estate of William Simmons.)
Andrea Hangst: It was a stew! A stew, Michael. It was a stew and I had it killed because this must all end!
Fesser: Sorry to be late to the party. Enjoying the conversation, except for how I keep trying to favstar emails.
The chili I make comes from family, but from a very inauthentic place, all at the same time. The first time I made it was for game 3 of the 1999 ALCS – the long-awaited Pedro vs. Roger matchup. I had a recipe from Craig Claiborne’s New New York Times cookbook, which was a present from my mom when I moved to Providence. It was hapless grad student cooking, so I subbed Korean chili powder for the stipulated chiles, and oatmeal for the flour Claiborne called for. The recipe calls for serving with pinto beans cooked from dry beans separately, and maybe the best part of the experience was getting the ingredients at the Stop & Shop, and a church lady saw me picking out a ham hock, and she said “Son, what do you plan to do with that thing?” I told her: “I am taking it home and putting it in a pot with some beans and an onion.” Church lady: “good.”
It worked out really well – my dad and my brother and my brother’s godfather and I all loved the chili, and Clemens gave up six runs before being chased in the third.
Since then this variant, known as Craig Claiborne’s Het Het Beef Chili Con Carne with meat, has been a staple at big gatherings. It’s one of the few things I cook almost exactly the same way as I did in 1999.
I am reluctant to touch off this powder keg, but it really comes into its own w/ the toppings – shredded extra sharp Cabot Cheddar, Cabot sour cream, and diced white onion.
I want more like this!
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