Food & Drink

Cowgirl Chef: Super Bowl chili, four ways

Lots of chopped green chile makes gives Beef and green chile chili a subtle, New Mexico-inspired heat.
Lots of chopped green chile makes gives Beef and green chile chili a subtle, New Mexico-inspired heat. Special to the Star-Telegram

I always take such great pleasure in making things that are quintessentially Texan, like chili, when I’m in Paris.

It’s because I know that there’s probably not a soul other than me roasting ancho chile peppers on a comal and putting together that particular mixture of spices — cumin, chile powder and oregano — that we use when making chili. It’s a combination that is unheard of in France, and if you’ve not packed chile powder in your suitcase, then forget about making chili here.

No matter which side of the pond you’re on, a big bowl of chili this time of year is comforting, and it’s a perfect way to feed a crowd. That’s why we all love to eat it during the Super Bowl, whether our team is winning or losing.

As simple as chili can be, no one makes it the same way, it seems, and I’m always looking for a new twist on how to make an even better pot of chili.

The deal with chili is that it’s a foundation for so many other things. When I was growing up in North Texas, my mom would make chili in a big red pot and then pass around the Fritos, cheese, sour cream and green onions at the table, which makes eating chili fun, no matter how old you are.

In chili’s heyday of the 1970s, I discovered chili-cheese nachos, which are exactly what they sound like, then learned how delicious chili could be simply spooned into soft flour tortillas.

Still, my favorite way to eat chili is poured on top of crisp, just-torn pieces of iceberg lettuce heaped onto a dinner plate, topped with cheddar cheese and Fritos — ranch dressing on the side.

I try to stay out of the bean-versus-no-bean debate; that’s for the serious chiliheads, and as much as I love chili, I don’t take it too seriously. It’s chili, for goodness’ sake. I’ll happily eat it with beans or without. These days, I make vegetarian chili as much as I do meaty chili, and no one I’ve served it to seems to mind.

It’s all about the spices — and the love you put into the pot.

Ellise Pierce is the author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent” (Running Press, $25). www.cowgirlchef.com, @cowgirlchef.

Chili checklist: how to make your bowl pretty

No matter what kind you make, it’s always good to have a variety of things to add to chili, for different texture or flavor, or just another way of eating it. Here’s my list of chili fixin’s:

▪ Grated cheddar, Monterey Jack or pepper jack cheese

▪ Sour cream

▪ Chopped fresh jalapeños

▪ Chopped white onion

▪ Chopped green onion

▪ Chopped cilantro

▪ Lime slices

▪ Fritos (the small ones — very important)

▪ Strong tortilla chips (that won’t fall apart with dipping)

▪ Soft tortillas, for making chili-cheese soft tacos

▪ Saltine crackers

▪ Cornbread, for eating on the side or crumbling on top

▪ An assortment of jarred and bottled sauces, from salsa verde to Valentina, along with Asian chile sauce and Sriracha (Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.)

Cowgirl chili-making tip: All chili, whether vegetarian or meaty, tastes better the next day, so plan accordingly.

Three-bean chili

Makes 6 to 8 servings

▪ 2 tablespoons canola oil

▪ 1 small onion, chopped

▪ 3 cloves garlic, minced

▪ Half of a red bell pepper, chopped

▪ 1 14-ounce can black beans

▪ 1 14-ounce can garbanzo beans

▪ 1 14-ounce can navy beans or kidney beans

▪ 1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes

▪ 2 tablespoons chile powder

▪ 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

▪ 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

▪ 2/3 teaspoon cumin

▪ 1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt

▪ A few handfuls of baby spinach (optional)

1. Put canola oil, chopped onion and garlic in a big soup pot over medium-high heat. Let cook until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add remaining ingredients except spinach and let come to a boil. Once it does, reduce the heat to low and let cook for 30 more minutes. If you’d like to add some baby spinach, do this right before serving and cook just until it wilts.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 6: 283 calories, 7 grams fat, 44 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, no cholesterol, 985 milligrams sodium, 12 grams dietary fiber, 21 percent of calories from fat.

Chicken and white bean chili

Makes 6 servings

▪ 2 ancho chiles

▪ 2 tablespoons canola oil

▪ 1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)

▪ 3 cloves garlic, minced

▪ 4 cups cooked chicken, chopped

▪ 1 14-ounce can navy beans, drained and rinsed

▪ 1 cup corn (canned or frozen)

▪ 1 teaspoon cumin

▪ 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

▪ 1/2 teaspoon smoky Spanish paprika

▪ 2 teaspoons sea salt

1. Remove stems from ancho chiles, split them down the middle, and remove the seeds. Heat a cast-iron skillet or comal over medium heat and add chiles, pressing them down with a wooden spoon or spatula to make sure they toast evenly on both sides. This won’t take long; make sure the heat isn’t too high or the chiles will burn. The idea is to toast them slightly. When they’re ready, put them in a bowl and cover with a couple cups of hot water for about 10 or 15 minutes to soften them .

2. Put canola oil, onion and garlic in a soup pot and turn heat to medium-high. Let cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions become translucent. Add chicken, navy beans, corn and spices.

3. Meanwhile, puree the ancho chiles with some of the chile water (as much as you need) in a food processor or finely chop them by hand. Add this to the pot, let the mixture cook until it boils, then reduce the heat and cook for an additional 30 minutes.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 320 calories, 9 grams fat, 23 grams carbohydrates, 35 grams protein, 79 milligrams cholesterol, 1,088 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber, 27 percent of calories from fat.

Pork chili

Serves 6 to 8

▪ 2 tablespoons canola oil or vegetable oil

▪ 1 large white onion, chopped (about 2 cups)

▪ 3 cloves garlic, minced

▪ 2 pounds ground pork, with some fat

▪ 2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes (fire-roasted are best)

▪ 2 tablespoons chili powder

▪ 2 tablespoons smoky Spanish paprika

▪ 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

▪ 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

▪ Sea salt, to taste

1. Put oil, onions and garlic in a large pot and heat to medium. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add pork and cook until it browns. Then add everything else, give it a big stir, and let it come to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes to an hour, or until the meat is tender.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 6: 510 calories, 38 grams fat, 16 grams carbohydrates, 28 grams protein, 109 milligrams cholesterol, 400 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 66 percent of calories from fat.

Beef and green chile chili

Makes 6 to 8 servings

▪ 2 poblano peppers

▪ 2 tablespoons canola oil

▪ 1 large white onion, chopped (about 2 cups)

▪ 2 cloves garlic, minced

▪ 2 pounds ground chuck (I like 15 percent)

▪ 2 (14-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes

▪ 2 tablespoons chili powder

▪ 2 teaspoons cumin

▪ 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper (see note)

▪ 1 teaspoon sumac, optional (see note)

▪ Salt to taste

1. Roast peppers: Make a few slits in the flesh and put them directly onto a medium flame if you have a gas burner, on your comal or cast-iron skillet also over medium heat, or under the broiler. Watch them carefully and turn them to each side, as they burn and blister, so the whole surface is blackened. Remove them from heat, put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap so the chiles can steam and the charred skin can begin to loosen. After 10 minutes or so, gently scrape off the skin, open the chiles, remove the membrane and seeds, and chop them into 1/4-inch pieces.

2. Put oil, onions and garlic in a soup pot over medium heat. Cook until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add beef and cook until it’s browned. Add everything else, along with chopped poblano peppers, and let cook for about an hour, or until the meat is tender.

Note: Aleppo pepper and sumac are Middle Eastern spices that are available in specialty stores. Aleppo pepper isn’t as hot as cayenne, but you can substitute a smaller amount of cayenne if you can’t find Aleppo pepper. Sumac is a tangy, bright spice that is lovely with all sorts of meats, beef included. It’s not terribly strong, so if you can’t find this, you may simply leave it out.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 6: 503 calories, 37 grams fat, 14 grams carbohydrates, 29 grams protein, 114 milligrams cholesterol, 420 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 66 percent of calories from fat.

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