Sunday, January 25, 2004

Helpings



By Chuck Martin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

I'd like to make chili for my Super Bowl party next week. How do I make the best bowl of red?

No easy solution here, since chili is very subjective. Some people like it fiery hot, some prefer to add their own heat. Some like beans, some don't want beans near their chili. The best rule of thumb is moderation. Don't overdo the peppers, beans or beer, which can overwhelm the chili's flavor. As in preparing any dish, use the best ingredients available and cook the chili slowly.

More chili tips

• Grind your own beef in the food processor for a more coarse texture. Chuck steak has a good lean-to-fat ratio for chili.

• After browning the beef, drain it well.

• Use a flavorful, not-too-salty beef or chicken stock or broth for background flavor.

• Intensify the flavor of cumin, chili powder and other spices by sauteing them in oil with the onions. Or, toast them briefly in a dry pan over medium heat.

• Salt the chili lightly at least three times: At the beginning of cooking, during cooking and the end, after tasting.

• Don't cook beans in the chili. Stir cooked (or canned) beans into the stew after it's done to prevent them from turning mushy. And if you're using canned beans, drain, rinse and drain again before using.

• It's true - chili and other stews and soups really do taste better the next day. Resting in the fridge overnight helps the flavors develop, so make the chili a day ahead, warm it gently and taste it again before serving.

The best spice: In a taste test of chili powders, the editors of Cook's Illustrated rated the following as the top three for making chili con carne: Spice Island ($2.77/2.4 ounces); El Paso Chile Company's Chili Spices and Fixin's ($6/5.2 ounces); and Penderys Top Hat Chile Blend ($8.91/pound). Spice Island is available at many groceries. El Paso Chile Company spices: www.elpasochileco.com. Penderys: www.penderys.com.

Real chile: Many chili pros turn up their noses at chili powder, which is often a blend of dried chiles, garlic, cumin and other spices. They insist on using pure chile powder, made from mild ground ancho or New Mexico chiles. Buy pure chile powder from www.mexgrocer.com for about $5.95 per 16 ounces.

Tube Food: Weatherman and cookbook author Al Roker hosts Tailgating Party, beginning at 9 p.m. Tuesday on the Food Network. Recipes include Hot and Spicy Eggplant Patties and Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Broccoli Rabe.

On the range: If Mad Cow has you wary of ground beef, or if you're looking for a leaner alternative, ground bison may provide the basis for your Super Bowl stew. Grown in New Richmond, Vista Grand Ranch ground bison is available at several Greater Cincinnati stores. To find retail locations: www.vistagrandranch.com.




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