Comments and Commenting (Feedback is appreciated)
Human nature dictates that we, as human creatures seek praise in many forms. Sometimes it’s just a simple smile we seek and sometimes it’s that big trophy cup to put on a mantle…clichés like ”you get more flies with honey than you do vinegar” are plentiful, as well. Constructive criticism can be quite helpful, particularly when there is a consensus of opinion, versus some individuals subjective input. Constructive criticism can be quite helpful, when it is, in fact, constructive. It is important to note that for that successful interchange to happen, the provider of the appraisal should not bring ego, vanity, or self-motivation to the table; and, the recipient of the constructive criticism should come to the same table stripped of any defensive nature, have an open mind, and be willing to acknowledge that change is a never ending happenstance of life. OK?
So, in the blogging world, a blogger is interested in constructive feedback, and, yes, praise, too. Consequently the blogger is faced with some decisions regarding how they might obtain some of that feedback. Also in the blogging world, there exists a standard that says you have an option of allowing comments to be placed on your articles, by your readers, and in many cases, a “thread” of comments develops and opens a, sometimes, healthy chain of editorial regarding the article.
When I first started “Comfort (Able) Foods”, I utilized the commenting option that was embedded in my blogging software template. Unfortunately, most of what was being commented on was being provided by spam surfers attempting to infiltrate the site with their links to their trade sites and, quite often, also unfortunately, many of these spammers pointed to sites that supported and touted pornography. “Comfort (Able) Foods” is not that kind of site. Dammit. It’s about comfort food. There are plug-ins (software utilities) that are supposed to filter spam comments, but I have yet to find one that isn’t resource hungry and doesn’t make my blog act quirky. So, I turned off the commenting; I continue to keep my eyes open for a good spam filter; and, from time to time, I yearn for some feedback.
Feel free to comment: black/white, good/evil, up/down, and, yes, even democratic/republican. You know, I am one of those that say, nowadays, if I want to find any disrespect, I don’t have to go very far. I’ll go through the drive thru of any fast-food restaurant. Before I even get to give them my hard earned for an unidentifiable meal that has been sitting under warming lights for a little while, there it is, some disrespect. Or, go hang out a home improvement store for about 10 minutes, it won’t take long.
Anyways, I am constantly on guard against the declination of today’s social values. I think one of the wonderful aspects of writing about and sharing of comfort food recipes is that it might help, somewhere, somehow, a collection of human beings endeavor to interact, preferably around a kitchen table somewhere; and share warm, comfortable things with each other, including food. I’d like to know how you feel about this. What do you do to engage with your fellow species members and interact with foods that give everyone comforts? What foods do you go to when you, usually subconsciously, feel the need to find some comfort, by whatever metric you use to define the nature of the comforts you seek?
Please send any comments you might have, any opinions you may want express, or, any recipes you may want to share, to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks! Happy Cooking!
Chili (For the love of…)
I have often thought that if you were to put 100 people, of mixed gender, and ask them to indicate whether or not they preferred chili, you would get about an 89% return in favor of the spicy stew. The dissenters, of course, would be those of the vegan, or purist, ilk, and, who would inherently not be in favor just because of life-style choices.
Now…fill that same room with 100 guys, you know, males, ages 18 to 88, a purely random sampling of typical American guys. Ask them how many of them like chili. I think you are liable to get back a favorable return of something like 96-98% in favor. Although my Mom makes one of the best pots full of chili that I know, I think that just about any guy, regardless of his cooking ability, can throw together a batch of palatable chili. Most likely, as well, his batch of chili will be based on a recipe that comes from somewhere comforting in this guy’s past; a memorable moment, or moments, that are either punctuated, or accentuated, with a big, steaming, spicy, pot of chili.
Because of the important role that chili can play in our comfort food lives, I wanted to ensure that this article gave the dish the justice that it deserved. Below you will find some history, some shared “chili” moments, and, because of the true diversity of the dish, and you’ll also find more than one recipe, too. This could be one of those blog articles that can grow. There is a plan afoot to include my Mom’s recipe as the first one, because, in tribute, it is the chili that I grew up with. I have a personal chili recipe that is affectionately called “$40 Chili” that is next. A purely basic “starter” type of recipe and after that, and completely dependent upon when I actually get to post this, I have asked three or four friends or family members for their chili recipes, which I would also like to include. If I get their recipes before I do the original post, I will include them. If I get them later, I will add them. If, after reading this article, you think you would like to share your favorite, comforting, chili recipe with us, please email them to me and I will add it, with the appropriate credit. A non-cooking cook-off, if you will…
In The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico, by Bernal Diaz del Castillo, the first documented recipe for chili appears, dated September 2, 1519. The dish consisted of boiled tomatoes, salt, chiles, and meat. Castillo, who was a Captain for Hernan Cortez, claims that the Cholulan Indians, who were allied with the Aztecs, would be so confident of victory in a battle that they would prepare large pots of this preparation the day before a battle. All but the last ingredient was set on the fire to stew and after the battle the Conquistadors were the ones who supplied the “meat” for the dish…their own flesh.
American settlers wrote of a recipe that was made up of dried beef, suet, dried chili peppers (often chilipiquenes), and salt. These ingredients were mashed together, formed into bricks, and then left to dry. On the trail the “chili-bricks” were then added to pots of boiling water to make the chili. Often referred to as “chili con carne” (with meat), this spicy stew was thought to have first been introduced to a wider, general population in 1893 when the San Antonio Chili Stand dished out the savory wonder at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. Since then, the city of San Antonio, Texas, which is always a popular tourist spot, has been an ambassador to the world in terms of spreading the word and sharing their love for their Texas-style chili. In 1977, the 65th Texas Legislature, during its regular session, made chili con carne the official state dish of Texas, as set forth by the House Concurrent Resolution Number 18.
In an attempt to avoid the word “controversy” because of its negative connotations, it is fairly said that there is a wide variety of healthy, competitive, opinions regarding not only the basic ingredients of a good chili, but a wider still variety of opinions surrounding the matter of ancillary ingredients that are at the core of chili personalization. Beans, originally substituted for meat for economic reasons, or no beans. Meat or no meat. Tomatoes or no tomatoes. Not only does it get personal, it gets personal regionally. Texas-style (often bean-less), Cincinnati Chili, (often heavily spiced with cinnamon and clove, and often eaten with pasta), and Kansas City Chili (reputed to be basically chili meat to which you can add your own combination of favorites: onions, cheese, jalapeno puree, ketchup, chili powder, hot sauces, and maybe even a homemade red chile vinegar) are just a few of the different forms that locals are so fiercely proud of.
Where I come from, food is taken pretty seriously and chili is not exempt. That would be Western New York; the City of Buffalo, and its surroundings. On any given weekend, you and your buddies might find themselves at their favorite local “Texas Hots” stand (usually around the time of early morning when the clubs start to shut down) (back in the day, of course). At these establishments, locals belly up to the window, only seriously considering quantity and nothing else, because they are all there to get some “sliders”, or more formally, some “Texas Hots”, or “Texas Red-Hots”.
What’s a slider? Thanks for asking. Take a boiled, all beef hot dog, put it in a steamed white-bread bun, sprinkle some fresh onion on it, smear a little yellow mustard on it, and last but certainly not least, a small ladle full of the establishment’s chili goes on top. This is predominantly a bean-less chili, with variations of spice and consistency. This all “slides” into one of those paper trays that are hot dog sized and the tray “slides” into one of those aluminized paper bags that is hot dog tray sized. You “slide” the treat out of the bag and carefully devour your dog and it “slides” down your throat. It was nothing for any one of us to chow down 6 or 8 of these things and a dozen in one sitting was pretty common for a big eater. Many are the debates prior to deciding which establishment to visit; all based on personal preferences for the favorite chili recipes that top those dogs. Good stuff, fun stuff, good food, good friends, and yes, quite comforting.
It’s pretty crazy; the varieties of different chili dishes are amazing! There is a “white chili” that is made with turkey or chicken as the protein, white cannellini beans, green chiles, and chicken stock. Yum! There’s a “green chili” that is like a Chili Verde with pork cooked in it. Don’t forget Frito Pie, corn chips with chili poured over them, and topped with cheese. I suppose the point being that if you can master a basic chili recipe, it’s not too far-fetched to imagine your very own personalized, comforting, spicy stew.
Two of my most favorite singular chili memories are a sort of near and far kind of remembrance. One of them is from many years ago and one from just last weekend.
1) While travelling through Southern Vermont, in another life and time, we had stopped in Bennington and while there it is a must to visit the Bennington Pottery Company. In their little restaurant there, we had ordered some chili for lunch. What came to the table was this wonderful presentation of their “house” chili. Steamed white rice was put in the bottom of the bowl; over which was poured a healthy serving of their chili. It’s important to understand that if they had just brought out the chili in a bowl, it would have stood on its own merits. It was a dark, sweet, chili, with kidney beans and ground beef, and it was perfectly spiced and delicious. Over the rice, and presented with a tray of grated cheddar cheese, chopped red onion, and a small bowl of sour cream, this dish was ridiculously delicious! Warm, homemade corn muffins with soft butter were also served. Ever since that meal, I have always served my chili with sour cream “dolloped” on top, or, offered on the side.
2) While attending a small family get-together last weekend, our hostess served us a chili casserole of sorts. It was awesome! Sarah had taken a 9 x 13 glass casserole pan and layered it with some mashed potatoes, next she generously spooned on some of her own chili recipe, over which she poured a corn-laced cornbread batter. She then popped it in the oven just long enough for the cornbread to cook (perfectly) and to heat the casserole through. It was served with sour cream on the side and the combination of the potato, the chili, and the cornbread simply took chili, for me, to a whole new level of appreciation. Good job, Sarah! In fact, her recipe for her chili is below and well worth looking at.
Just as “Nan’s Ginger Crème Cookies”, or “Hungarian Goulash” (as prepared by my Mom), can take me back to my childhood in a heartbeat, so can my Mom’s chili recipe. One whiff is all it takes. Instant, built in comfort…here it is…
*When Mom and Dad published their family recipe “Red Book” cookbook, way back when, this recipe was one of the first recipes that were added and the introduction reads:
“(This) Recipe came from Mac and Dub Durkee, friends when Jack (Dad) was in college. Mac’s mother ran a diner at one time and featured this chili which she called a “vegetable chili”. Considering the name against the contents, the dish does not seem to have been named correctly. (Carne=meat) Maybe Mac got creative and changed the contents, but not the name.”
The recipe, verbatim, from the “Redbook”:
4 onions (I assume that they are chopped medium or fine, and could be white, or yellow, onions)
½ – ¾ lbs. hamburg
1 green pepper, coarsely chopped
1 small bunch of celery, chopped
1 can tomato soup (Campbell’s) and one can of water
2 cans kidney beans (dark red)
(handwritten on Mom’s recipe page: 1 can tomatoes (I would choose 28 oz./chopped/diced))
ADD APPROXIMATELY: (i.e. to taste)
1 cup sugar [or less-it’s your taste]
2-3 TBSPS cider vinegar
salt & pepper
2 TSP oregano
1 TBSP paprika
(handwritten on Mom’s recipe page: chili powder (I would start with 1 TBSP, taste, adjust)
Simmer until it reaches desired thickness (Mom would make this mid-morning and let it simmer all day…mmm)
That chili was a staple of my childhood and to this day, Mom is still making it. There are so many other senses that are critical components to the architecture of what comfort foods mean to each of us. I can call up the smell of her chili just about at will, and, when I actually do get to smell it cooking on the stove, it is an instant validation, or guarantee, of all things that make you feel good. The sight of it, bubbling, in the cast iron Dutch-oven it was made in, the feel of the same spoon that has been stirring the same recipe for decades, as it passes through a known thickness of the chili; the smell of the sauce with its own blend of spices and sweet and meat and vegetables. All of those senses combine to create a sense of well-being before it has even hit your tongue!
So, if you then grow up to be a somewhat adventurous cook, and you aren’t afraid to build a chili brand that is your own, you begin to experiment with every batch you make. You feel compelled to provide yourself and your loved ones with a version that will be handed down for generations. One of the chili discoveries you make along the paths of life, is that everyone has their own version of how much heat should be cooked into a pot full of chili. Friends and family alike have said: “Ooooh, you have got to taste my chili!”; and, when you take a bite of their chili, the top of your head comes off, you turn three shades of beet red, you can’t stop the stream of perspiration that is pouring off of your forehead, and you can’t taste a thing because of the Scotch Bonnet peppers that were added to the chili. This version attempts to address that issue with just a little tang from the pablano and the paprika, but can certainly be considered a “tame” version, compared to other levels of heat. Included is an adjustable recipe for Pepper Relish, a condiment for each person’s own comfort level of how spicy they want their own dish of chili to be. The recipe that follows is one of those versions that were created as I shopped for the ingredients and consequently became known as the:
2 TBSPS butter
3 TBSPS olive oil
2 large white (Spanish) onions, chopped, about 2 cups
2 green peppers, chopped, about 2 cups
1 large bunch celery hearts, chopped, about 2 cups
2-3 medium pablano chilies, chopped, about ½ cup
2 -2 ½ pounds pork roast, not too lean, coarse ground (here’s where you find out how friendly your butcher is)
1 ½ -2 pounds boneless dark chicken meat (thighs work great), coarse ground untrimmed
2 cups, loosely packed, dark brown sugar
1 bottle, 12-16 oz., Guinness Stout ale, or any good dark beer of your choice (optional)
6 TBSPS apple cider vinegar
2 TSP kosher salt
2 TSP ground black pepper
3 TBSPS dried chopped garlic/basil mix (or, 3 garlic cloves, minced, and 2 TBSPS dried basil)
1 TBSP paprika
2 TBSPS chili powder
2 cans each (approx. 14-16 oz.), un-drained, dark red kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans
2 cans (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
Peppers: (1) red bell, (1) green bell, (2) wax, (4) jalapenos, (3) finger hot, all loosely chopped
1 large white (Spanish) onion, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic
2 TBSPS granulated sugar
2 TBSPS cider vinegar
1-2 TBSPS preferred hot sauce, or tabasco
salt & pepper to taste
In a large stockpot, or Dutch-oven, over medium heat, add the butter and olive oil along with all of the chopped veggies and the pablano. Sauté them until they are soft and cooked through. Add the meat and sauté until just browned, and with some of the fats rendered. Add all of the other additions except for the beans and tomatoes. Simmer the chili base mixture for about 20 minutes to ensure proper blending of the flavors. Add the beans and tomatoes, remembering to include all of the canned liquids, as well. The thickness and consistency, at this point, will be dependent upon personal preference. My preference is to stand my spoon up in my chili after it has simmered on the stove all day. If you prefer a thinner version, moderate your consistency with either water, or some stock (chicken, beef, or vegetable).
A second version of this same recipe, speaking of consistency, calls for reserving ½ of the chopped vegetables, about 1 cup of each of the onion, green peppers, and celery, and stirring them in about 30 minutes before serving. This version instills yet another layer of flavors and texture to the stew.
Simmer over medium low heat for approximately 4-6 hours, to the desired thickness. Serve over steamed white rice with the pepper relish, grated sharp cheddar, chopped red onion, and sour cream on the side for personalization.
Pepper Relish Instructions
Loosely chop and seed (if preferred), all of the peppers and add to a food processor along with the onion and garlic cloves. Pulse the peppers to a fine chop of relish consistency. Care and caution should be exercised to avoid breathing any vapors from this relish and to avoid transferring any liquids from the peppers to your face and eyes. Glove up if you need to! Remove the relish base from the processor and transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine well. Prepare in advance of the time you serve your chili to allow the relish mixture to sit for 2-3 hours at room temperature. It is quite possible to adjust the heat levels of this relish by adding other peppers with a higher Scoville rating. The choice is entirely up to you. Your chili can now be personally adjusted by your guests by adding the relish to their own individual servings of chili.
Another version of this is to mix equal parts of Greek yogurt and sour cream to the relish to make a “creamy” heat adapter for your chili, to be served on the side, as well. Have fun with this and just don’t get any pepper juice in your eyes!
In reflection, I first recorded the above recipes in 2009. It’s now 2012 and who knows what $40 is worth today? If this recipe does get handed down, in 2050 it will be known as the $400 Chili!
Let’s say that you don’t have a lot of cooking experience. You’re one of those 98% who consider chili a life staple, but you may not be able to knock out a coq au vin, or a Beef Wellington. I am reminded of Mel Gibson’s character in one of the Lethal Weapon sequels. He is in his partner Murtaugh’s kitchen with Mrs. Murtaugh, telling the tragic story of how his wife was killed. Now, if you are familiar with the character, you’ll recognize that he is not much of cook; he’s too busy running around doing cop stuff. But, the whole time he is telling her the story, he is chopping onions and peppers, opening cans of beans, cooking meat, etc., in this big pot on the stove. Yup. He’s making chili. For those of you Martin Riggs’ out there, please consider the next recipe simply as a starting point for your own wonderful creations. (Thanks to www.allrecipes.com!)
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans
1 1/2 cups water
1 pinch chili powder
1 pinch garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the beef and onion and sauté until meat is browned and onion is tender. Add the stewed tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, beans and water. Season with the chili powder, garlic powder, salt and ground black pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.
It’s a start. Don’t be shy. Make it your own. In a single recipe article, I am often listing recipe options after the recipe. I really don’t have to do that here. You could take different flavor and spice elements from any of the other recipes on this page and add them to this Basic Chili recipe for a personal favorite. Chili keeps well, sometimes it will taste differently the next time you heat it up and the next time you make it. Don’t forget to take a deep breath (it’s only chili) and have fun with the experimentation(s).
Submitted Chili Recipes
Please see “Chili Memory #2”. Sarah has been kind enough to share her chili casserole recipe with us. Here it is and “Thanks!” Sarah…
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can great northern beans
1 can diced tomato
1 small can tomato paste
1 large can crushed tomato
4 tbs chili powder
3 tbs cayenne pepper
2 tbs chipotle powder
1 medium onion
1 green pepper
1 medium jalapeno
2 tbs chopped garlic
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (Worcestershire sauce)
1 lb- 1 1/2 lb ground chuck
3 tsp salt
2 tsp ground pepper
In frying pan, brown the ground chuck. Drain oil after browned, then add 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1/4 cup (Worcestershire sauce), 1 tbs chipotle, 1 1/2 tbs cayenne pepper, 2 tbs chili powder and mix well.
In large crock pot; add all can goods, onion (diced), green pepper (diced), jalapeno (seeds and all diced) and remaining salt, pepper, chili powder, chipotle, cayenne pepper, (Worcestershire sauce), garlic, and brown sugar. Then stir.
Add meat to crock pot, stir and cook on low for a minimum of 6 hrs.
Serves 8-10, we always have a ton of leftovers!
Sarah’s Chili Cornbread Casserole
Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with a 1” layer of mashed potatoes. Ladle some of the chili from the above recipe onto the mashed potatoes, leaving about a 1-1 ½” of space in the dish. Make two boxes of cornbread mix batter and add 2/3 of a can of drained sweet corn (not creamed corn) to the batter. Pour the batter on top of the chili/potato layers in the baking dish. Bake at 350°F until the cornbread is baked through and the chili and potatoes are heated thoroughly. If necessary, reduce the oven temperature to allow enough time for the cornbread to cook through. Serve with sour cream on the side.
The Call for Chili Recipes
What’s your favorite chili recipe? Send them to me at email@example.com and I will add them to this article. Don’t be reluctant to provide some background information with stuff about why it’s your favorite, what’s the history of it, why does it give you comfort? From life comes truth, yes, but from life also comes chili…