Get ready to rumble! The NFL playoffs have begun and if you are, or reside with, a football fan, the TV will not be silent for the next two weekends, then there’s a weekend off for the Pro Bowl in Hawaii before the Super Bowl XLV on February 6 in the gleaming new Dallas Cowboy’s stadium in Arlington, TX. So, if you haven’t already, its time to make a beer run and break out the chips and guacamole, hot wings, and the mother of all football food: chili!
There are few foods that are as all-American as a hearty bowl of chili. Versatile and popular, this American classic is easy to make and lends itself to artistic interpretation and endless variations. From Texas to Cincinnati, from New England (Goooo Patriots) to California there are as many styles of chili as there are cooks. Cincinnati chili is a regional style characterized by the use of unusual spices such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and chocolate, and the absence of chili peppers or chili powder. There are white chilis and the traditional red, tomato based chili. Then, the question is beans or no beans, this is a hotly debateed chili issue and according to the International Chili Society, beans have no place in a pot of chili. Finally, you must decide on the type of meat; chicken (white chili), ground beef, ground turkey, a combination or, no meat at all for a vegetarian version.
While you’re deciding on what kind of chili you want to make (football is not a requirement, chili can warm your tummies on the coldest of winter days), here’s my family’s favorite and a super simple crockpot variation.
Inspired by cowboy wranglers on the range who would throw leftover coffee into the beans, this chili ropes you in with its deep robust flavor.
1 ¼ lb. ground turkey
2 15 oz. organic pinto beans
1 15 oz. organic black beans
1½ cup coffee*
3 T. chili powder*
1 can tomato paste
1 28 oz. can organic diced tomatoes
¼ c. Pace Picante sauce or salsa
* I use a combination of California chili powder, New Mexico chile powder and Chipotle chili powder
1. Brown the ground turkey in a skillet, breaking up the meat into bite size pieces as it cooks. Drain off liquid or use a slotted spoon to transfer the ground turkey to your slow cooker. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes or add a few dashes of hot pepper sauce if you like your chili to have some heat.
2. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. Because of the sodium in canned beans, I don’t add salt and, especially where kids and special diets are concerned, I prefer to let diners add their own salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
3. Cook on low for at least 6-8 hours or longer. That’s it! Serve with your favorite chili condiments: shredded cheese, chopped onions, tortilla chips, crackers, and hot sauce.
Notes: Buy organic if you can. I find that canned organic beans have less sodium than other brands – don’t know why, but for example a can of a common grocery brand of pinto beans has 530 mg of sodium per ½ serving while the TJs brand organic pinto beans have 270 mg. of sodium per ½ cup serving. *Edit 10/12/12 - Whole Foods 365 Brand carries many varieties of beans with No Salt Added.
* Coffee: After all these years, I’m finally giving up my secret ingredient! The idea of using coffee as part of the liquid probably came from an article on the different styles and origins of chili and what stuck with me all these years was that, back in the day of cattle drives, wranglers would spend weeks on the range; the camp cook whipped up hearty food from dried and salt-cured provisions and nothing went to waste, so coffee leftover from the wrangler’s breakfast was often thrown into the pot of beans. I swear it makes for the most full-flavored, robust chili ever.