27 September 2012

Chilly? Then have some...CHILI

   OK. I know. Three months is way too long between blog posts. I really have to get focused on this blog, I have HUGE plans for it, but I realize that unless I post at least a of couple times a month that it will continue to just drag along. I will make a better effort to make this idea of family stories, food & genealogy come together more frequently. So, with that I bring you my first item for Autumn. Chili.

   This spicy stew-like dish has many regional variations. Meaty or meatless, spicy or mild, macaroni or no.... wait sorry for all of you Cheese Heads in Wisconsin , where I now reside, macaroni in chili is NOT chili...It's GOULASH !! The meat added can be any that you choose, the most popular being beef, I use mostly ground chuck, but at times prefer shanks or brisket. Should I add tomatoes or peppers? Should it be spicy or mild? But, the biggest controversy I have encountered when talking chili is. 

To Bean or not to Bean?... That is the question. 

   To me the only answer here is Yes! I use many different varieties of beans depending on the type of chili I am making. My mother's traditional chili calls for dark & light red-kidney beans. My wife and youngest daughter Emily love chicken chili, so here I go with Great Northern, creamy Cannellini or Navy beans. Vegetarian chili, for my daughter Abigail  begs for a legume trifecta of black, kidney & pinto beans.

   Growing up in NW Pennsylvania, chili for us always seemed to mark the "official" beginning of Autumn. Cool crisp afternoons, lawn freshly mowed, trees changing color. Coming home from squirrel or rabbit hunting with my dad or a Sunday sitting down with my family watching the Pittsburgh Steelers dominate the 1970's. This was also one of the first dishes I can remember making after getting married and moving to Seattle, WA while in the Marine Corps. Nothing can bring you closer to home than preparing the food you remember growing up with during your youth. My immediate family growing up consisted of my parents and older sister, and even though there was only a household of 4 my parents prepared every meal as if 15 people were coming over to eat. My parents made spaghetti sauce, soup, stew and chili by the " 5 gallon " rule, it was usually started before breakfast, probably because after cooking it all day it concentrated to a more reasonable 3 gallons.

My mother's chili is simple as follows.

Ground beef
Chopped celery
V8 vegetable juice - 1 large can
Kidney beans - drained
Whole canned or diced tomatoes
packet of chili seasoning

   I chop and cook down the onion & celery with salt/pepper in olive oil. Then I add the ground beef, once browned add tomatoes and beans, continue to cook for about 10 minutes add seasoning packet, vegetable juice then cover and let simmer on low for at least an hour. Serve with crackers or a nice crusty loaf of Italian bread.

   I love using this roaster for my chili. My mother gave this to me a couple years ago. It belonged to my dad's mother, grandma Nan. A classic Wagner Magnalite 4265-P probably purchased in the 1950's ( you'll see this again at New Year's for pork & sauerkraut ).

   Yes I know. Most people consider this to be a " Serving Bowl " Well it's the one I use for chili... and cereal...OK and ice cream. I mean come on, I need to fit 3 bowls in one, this was pre-DVR only 3 channels on a Zenith or Curtis Mathis console TV, you can't make multiple trips to the kitchen when your watching Terry Bradshaw launch one down the side-line to Lynn Swann, you might miss something.

   I hope you will all try my mothers chili, whether you like your chili with or without beans or want to substitute the beef for chicken it will be a dish that most definitely says... AUTUMN is Here!! Most importantly, get in kitchen and cook with your children, You'll give them memories that will last for generations and they will love you for it.

Thanks mom and dad. I love you both.

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