March 9, 2006


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Cooking up a big bowl of comfort
A hearty meal for a blustery March, chili has a hundred variations
By Susan Reilly

Will Rogers called chili a “bowl of blessedness.”

The heat of chili may make you think it is Mexican in origin, but it’s not true. Chili is an American dish, likely created in south Texas, and over the years many people have laid claim to inventing it.

Cowboys heading to California during the Gold Rush are said to have eaten chili along their journey. In order to be able to keep making chili, trail cooks planted patches of onions, oregano and peppers along the trail to be used on later trips.

When you order a bowl of chili in Texas, it will likely be called a bowl of red and there will be no beans in the stew.

If you order a bowl of chili in Cincinnati, you will likely get a three-way, a bowl of chili, spaghetti and cheese or a five-way, which is spaghetti topped with a layer of onions, a layer of beans, chili and then a layer of cheese.

In California, chili found on menus today will likely be made with ground turkey rather than beef and black beans. In New Mexico, chili is often meatless, with a focus on a wide variety of peppers.

In Boston, there is an official Boston Marathon chili made with boneless spare ribs, beef stew meat, red wine and black beans.

While New Hampshire might be thousands of miles from chili’s origins, the dish seems ready-made for our cold winters. The warmth of the chili and the heat of the spices brighten up frigid nights while the meat and beans make the dish perfect hearty fare to serve to someone who has just shoveled out a driveway or spent time on the slopes.

The dish is also easy on a cook. Chili only gets better as it ages, allowing for lots of simmer time on the stove or in the slow cooker and making it a wonderfully reheatable leftover. It is super-economical as the main ingredients are beans (Goya brand, available at just about every supermarket, offers high-quality canned beans at low prices) and meat, the cheaper the cut the better (cheaper cuts of meat stand up well to long cook times and collagen melts into a velvety gelatin as the meat cooks). The spices are easy to vary depending on personal taste and, because it almost demands a long cooking time, chili is easy to correct. (Too salty? Add some sweetness or, according to several Web sites, float in a few raw, peeled potatoes. Remove before serving and they’ll soak up some of the salt. Too spicy? Dilute with additional tomato sauce. One cook on even suggests adding crushed pineapple, which melts away, taking with it some of the heat.) Once you get the taste you desire, your chili is all set.

Dog breath Chili
Recipe by Doug Wilkey of Shoreline, Washington.
Wilkey won $30,000 last October for this recipe in the World Championship Chili cookoff. Judges said Wilkey’s recipe perfectly belnded flavor and fire. This was Wilkey’s 19th attempt at a chili cookoff prize

6 ounces regular breakfast sausage
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 pounds tri-tip beef, cut into small pieces or coarse ground
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) beef broth
1/4 teaspoon oregano
3 tablespoon cumin
7 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chile powder
1 tablespoon hot chile powder
1 tablespoon mild chile power
5 tablespoons red chile powder
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes and green chiles
3 dried California chile peppers, boiled and pureed
1 dried New Mexico chile peppers boiled and pureed
5 dried Cascabel chile peppers, boiled and pureed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
1 teaspoon Tabasco pepper sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
juice of one lime
salt to taste

Brown the sausage, dry, and set aside. Heat oil in a pot, and brown the beef. Add the cooked sausage to the pot.

Add the onion and beef broth to cover the meat. Boil for 15 minutes. Add oregano and half of the cumin.

Reduce heat to a light boil, and then add the garlic. Combine the chile powders into a mixture, then add half of that mixture, and cook 15 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and the can of diced tomatoes and green chiles with the puree from the dried peppers.

Add the chicken broth for the desired consistency. Cook for one hour, stirring often.

Add the remaining chile powder mixture and the remaining cumin, and simmer for another 25 minutes on low to medium heat.

Turn up the heat to a light boil, and add the Tabasco, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, lime juice and salt.

Comments? Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at  

Where to get a bowl
• Firehall Pub & Grill (32 W Broadway, Derry, 421-0012): Chili is served in a cup ($4.99) or a bread bowl ($6.99)

• Hermanos Cocina Mexicana (11 Hills Ave., Concord, restaurant 224-5669, takeout 228-5788): Made with sirloin beef and pinto beans. Served in a cup ($3.95) with tortilla chips or in a bowl ($8.95) with cornbread.

• La Carreta (139 DW Highway, Nashua, 891-0055; 545 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 628-6899): Bowl of chili with beans ($4).

• Poor Boy’s Diner (136 Rockingham Road, Londonderry, 432-8990): Chili cup ($2.75) or a bowl ($3.50).

• King Kocoa (336 DW Highway, Merrimack, 424-6848) Chili, call for days. Sizes range from small ($2.85) to quart ($8.75).

• The Black Forest Café (Route 101, Amherst, 672-0500) Vegetarian chili ($3.75) with eggplant, zucchini, tomatos, black and garbanzo beans.

• Airport Diner (Brown Ave, adjacent to Holiday Inn, Manchester, 623-5040): Chili & cheese cup ($2.99) or bowl ($4.99).

• Karen’s Kitchen (170 Route 101, Bedford, 637-1326): Bowl of chili served with corn bread ($4.50).

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