When the air nips and the wind whips, thoughts of cold salads and outdoor campfires turn to deep, steamy bowls of hearty chili–perhaps cooked right in the fireplace.
With its origins hotly debated for years, one account says that prisoners of the Texas penal system in the mid- to late 1800s were fed a cheap stew of tough beef, spices, and chilies that was boiled in water to a semi-palatable consistency. The stories say over time the recipe got better. In fact the aptly named “prisoner’s plight” reportedly became a status symbol of the state’s prison system, with inmates known to rate facilities on the quality of their chili, and even writing for the recipe following their release.
Throughout history, chili cognoscenti have included presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Barack Obama. West Hollywood’s famous Chasen’s restaurant (1936-2000) was celebrated for its chili that Elizabeth Taylor couldn’t live without, reportedly having it flown to the set in Rome where she was filming Cleopatra in 1962.
Counting chili among the quintessential tailgating foods for ballgames, and with regional and national competitions/cook-offs pitting chili masters against neophytes for blue ribbons, gold medals, and culinary immortality in the pages of a cookbook, recipes are limited only by one’s imagination. Maybe you crave the kick or embrace a milder mixture, topped with diced avocado, sour cream, red onion, and sharp shredded cheddar. Chili over spaghetti has become a specialty at some eating venues, with a choice of whole wheat noodles adding a nutty quality to the dish. Whether family members are card-carrying meat eaters, vegetarians, or turkey and chicken connoisseurs, these recipes for feisty autumn chili will endure through the long, cold winter ahead.
Obama Family Chili Recipe
Barack Obama has been known to brag about his chili, and Good Morning America ran his recipe. Here’s a copy of it here.
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
Several cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey or beef
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground basil
1 tablespoon chili powder
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Several tomatoes, depending on size, chopped
1 can red kidney beans
Cheddar cheese; onions; sour cream
Sauté onions, green pepper, and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add ground meat and brown. Combine spices together into a mixture, then add to ground meat. Add red wine vinegar. Add tomatoes and let simmer until tomatoes cook down. Add kidney beans and cook for a few more minutes. Serve over white or brown rice. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese, onions, and sour cream.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 red bell pepper cut into 1/2 inch pieces
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds ground chicken
2 (15-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree
Water, as needed
Sour cream. shredded Monterey Jack cheese, avocado slices, cilantro, chopped scallions.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until simmering. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, pepper flakes, cayenne and 1 teaspoon salt and cook (stirring often) until the vegetables are softened (about 10 minutes). Increase the heat to medium-high. Stir in half of the chicken, about 1/2 pound at a time, and cook while breaking up any chunks with a wooden spoon until no longer pink (about 6 minutes). Add beans, tomatoes and tomato puree and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for one hour. Press the remaining ground chicken into a ball, then pinch off teaspoon sized pieces and stir them into the chili. Uncover and continue to simmer; stirring occasionally, until the chicken is tender and the chili is dark and thickened slightly (about 40 minutes). If the chili begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, stir in 1/2 cup water and continue to simmer. Season with salt to taste. Serve with sour cream, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, and cucumber.
Easy Vegetarian Chili
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
3/4 cup chopped carrots
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with liquid, chopped
1 (19 ounce) can kidney beans with liquid
1 (11 ounce) can whole kernel corn, undrained
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onions, carrots, and garlic until tender. Stir in green pepper, red pepper, celery, and chili powder. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, and cook 4 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, kidney beans, and corn. Season with cumin, oregano, and basil. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium. Cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Garnish as desired.