November 2nd, 2012

Fired Up With “Hotly Contested Election” Chili

OK. I’m tasked with stepping up to the plate for Food Fight this month, with the theme of “Presidential Favorites.” More specifically, as a shout out to the election, a candidate-inspired entry.

I’ve picked the 44th president, Mr. Barack Obama, as my inspiration. But … which way do I go with this? The Democratic mascot is the donkey. Er … that’s a solid no. Maybe something Hawaiian or Chicagoan, perhaps?

But after some Internet research, I came across a bajillion references (okay…a few references) to the fact that Obama’s favorite meal (to prep and eat!) is chili. I found several pics of the president at D.C.’s iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl,  and with the cold months rolling in, what better meal to tackle than a nice warm bowl of this American classic? Chicago style chili it is!

The Huffington Post actually has President Obama’s own chili recipe online, so I decided to use that as my launching point.

I’ll digress here, loyal reader, to share that I’ve been a bit of a food wimp until recently. Not being big on spicy food was among many faults. However, since meeting a hardcore (and all around fabulous) foodie who’s introduced me to a world of amazing foods, my spice fear has been abandoned. Thus, my intention is to spice this chili up, much like the heated race and the fairly salty debates. In fact, I considered naming it “DEFCON 1” chili to warn of impending nuclear heat,  but decided to keep it topical with “Hotly Contested Election” chili.

Much like the Democratic candidate, Obama’s family recipe is tailored to the masses:  very … mild. There are no crazy, over-the-top spicy ingredients in the version on HuffPo, so I’m going to throw in some fire to help add some to our candidates’– and eaters’ — bellies.

I’m also trying to keep my process to around an hour. If you search around, many recipes call for four or so hours of simmering, and I just don’t have that kind of time!

To top it all off, I’ve never made chili from scratch (in other words, I’ve always had some “canned” assistance).

So, here goes:

Once I had made and tried the chili, I realized that I’ve had this style before — and that I actually prefer a more tomato-pasty type of chili.

Ingredients for the chili

I had considered adding tomato paste to this recipe to thicken it up, but decided against it, since that steers the dish more towards Texas than Chicago.

I start out by cutting up 5 tomatoes and dropped all that in a pot, along with dried oregano and  basil, chili powder, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, turmeric and a sizable jalapeno pepper.

I also chopped up a large onion, garlic and a green and red pepper (as opposed to the single green pepper in the President’s version), and start sauteeing with some olive oil. Once that’s been cooking a bit, I add in a little more than 2 pounds of ground turkey meat (I’m using turkey instead of beef, since I’m trying to keep this healthier) and brown it up.

Now, I’ll mention here that the recipe called for the veggies to be “chopped,” but I cut them all down pretty small — probably dicing more than chopping. But I’m not a big fan of giant veggie chunks in my chili, so modify  as you will.

Once the meat is close to browned, I start heating up the tomatoes and spices. When that’s cooking, I add in the meat, peppers and onions, two cans of kidney beans and the red wine vinegar.

Let it Cook While all that simmers, I heat up some water and cook some elbow macaroni (apparently, Chicago style chili is served on some pasta).

Well, I’ll tell you … this chili tastes good. It has some heat, but you won’t need ObamaCare to rescue you from the spiciness — I could even have brought it up a lot more. But there is something missing — that stick-to-your-ribs chili heft I mentioned just isn’t there. Now, if I recall, that’s just in keeping with this style of chili (or maybe that’s just how the Obamas like it). But despite the five tomatoes, there’s just no deep tomato taste. I think if I had used regular ground beef, that would have helped with some of the flavor.

That said, all in all, it’s pretty darn good for my first chili outing. If I were to take another swing at this, I might add tomato paste to thicken things up, and maybe a splash more hot sauce.

Well, this pot ‘o chili may not be the candidate with the most personality, but I’m pretty confident you won’t find an “empty chair” at the dinner table when you serve this.  This chili has got enough fire in the belly to give my Food Fight opponent a run for her money.

Hotly Contested Election Chili
Adapted from the Obama Family Chili recipe
8 servings

Several cloves of garlic, chopped (I used 2)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground turkey or beef
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground basil
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons of hot sauce
A splash (2 or 3 tablespoons) of Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Several tomatoes, depending on size (I used 5), chopped
2 15.5 oz cans red kidney beans 

Saute the onions, green and red pepper and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until they’re soft.

Add the ground turkey or hamburger to the pan and brown the meat, stirring occasionally.

In a large pot over low heat, combine the tomatoes, jalapeno and spices and bring to a simmer. Let the tomatoes cook down a bit, then add in the ground meat/pepper/onion mixture. Throw the kidney beans into the mix, add in the red wine vinegar, and let it all simmer at low to medium heat, stirring occasionally.

I served the chili over elbow macaroni, but you can also serve over rice. Try topping it with some shredded cheese. Green onions and/or sour cream would taste great, too.

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Posted in In The Blue Corner
One comment on “Fired Up With “Hotly Contested Election” Chili
  1. KGBates says:

    POTUS has to tread carefully: having spent time in Indonesia, he likes spicy. But the Missus and the kids don’t, so I guess this is the compromise. And Adam, I think you’re right–they do serve chili w pasta in many parts of the Midwest. I’ve even had a Chili Sundae, w spaghetti taking place of the ice cream, and the chili as the “sauce.” I was raised on chili over rice–something Texas friends find appalling: “it’s meat and tomatoes and spices, period. Pass the beans and onions and other junk in separate bowls. Rice? Why?” I like that we have a bunch of regional variations.