Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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A Winning Chili – and Gov. Palin’s Loss

January 6th, 2009 · 1 Comment

We Southerners typically eat black-eyed peas and collards for New Year’s Day, hoping for extra coin (peas) and folding greenbacks (collards) to fill our pots in the coming year.

I dutifully did just that, inviting a few friends over to help them prosper as well. I made some extra dishes — corn pudding, sweet potatoes and a ham to go with the meal, and my almost-famous cupcakes for dessert. (Vanilla-peppermint, and Serious chocolate.) We’re going to be rich, if the empty plates were any indication.

But chili elsewhere

Carly and Adam Steinhoff

Carly and Adam Steinhoff

Beans of a different sort were happening across town.

Adam and Carly Steinhoff, part of my sort-of-adopted family (I’m the eccentric near-cousin), host a chili cook-off at their West Palm Beach home on New Year’s Day. It started three years ago, Adam said.

“We’re always looking for a reason to have people over, and we figured the only way to get them over on New Year’s Day was to feed them.”

He got the idea for a chili cookoff from a cooking magazine that I swore I wouldn’t name. He’d rather not be associated with a cooking magazine and this one in particular. The first cook-off was a success, so it’s now a growing tradition.

Kids judge chili

Kids judge chili

Adam’s sibling Matt Steinhoff won the first two cook-offs, which is judged by neighborhood kids who have no shame in stuffing the ballot box. Voting early and often is the mantra with these youngsters, who, despite their somewhat uneducated palates, take their jobs very seriously. They don’t know what’s in the chili, nor could they make it, but they sure know what they like.

I was asked this year to drop in and be an honorary judge. The eight pots presented by family and guests were markedly different. Some were sweet, some hot and spicy, some bland and more stew-like. Most held to the tomato-chili powder-bean-meat method; there weren’t too many surprises such as gator, armadillo or frogleg chili I’ve encountered at some chili judgings (thankfully!). Nobody was trying to prove their manhood with fire-breathing heat, either.

Going for a Triple Crown

The incumbent Matt went for a celebrity endorsement this year, though, in his bid for three wins in a row. The sibling rivalry is keen where the chili is concerned. Matt starts in the late summer plotting his entry. So he was scouting for an unusual chili when he caught one being made on TV.

This year’s moose chili is directly from the recipe box of (drumroll here) Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska. 

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

 “I was watching one of those morning shows, I guess it was the Today show, and Sarah Palin was on it, making chili and talking to Matt Lauer. The minute I saw it, I said ‘That’s it! That’s going to be my chili this year!'”

He wrote to the governor who was, of course, just coming off the campaign trail but still in afterglow. A request for chili for a cook-off? No problem!! I’m sure if he had been a fat-cat Republican willing to contribute to the 2012 campaign, he might even have persuaded Palin to come down and give the pot a stir. Instead, he got an actual autographed (to him, name misspelled) now iconic photo of Palin-in-Red. (Or is it really Tina Fey?)

Matt had one problem with the fairly simple recipe: Where to get the moose for this chili? (He claims the recipe called for helicopter-hunted moose.)

After shopping around online, he found it at the local Gander Mountain Outdoor Store. (For those who like roast beast, or wild beasts in their chili, this store carries a variety of frozen meats and poultry such as venison, quail moose, buffalo, boar etc.) 

I have to say that the Palin’s moosemeat chili gave Matt’s sister-in-law a run for her money – er, ah, bragging rights. (I’ll spring for a real trophy for you kids next year. In the shape of a bean, maybe; a moose one would cost too much.)

Carly’s chili had a distinct flavor — I could taste the subtle beer — yet it was totally balanced with the heat, spices and vegetables. It had a great texture, too – not too stewy or runny, and not so thick, either. Matt’s, while very good, wasn’t quite as balanced, and though I prefer chunks of meat like the moose in his chili (that’s the cowboy way), I prefer a little more chili flavor and a touch of heat or spice. Carly got all of those right.

Carly Steinhoff and her winning chili

Carly Steinhoff and her winning chili

She says this was a vegetarian chili recipe she got online, to which she added meats and did other tweaking: bacon, ground sirloin and chuck stew meat). The chipotle added a touch of smokiness that gave this chili its depth. I’m not usually a fan of kidney beans in chili (chili beans are smaller and less mealy), but they were a secondary player with all the other ingredients. Though too spicy for some, it won me over, and the neighborhood kids agreed it was tops. (A side note: Her bloody Marys were darn good, too.)

Matt came in a close second, and Matt’s mom Lila made it a Steinhoff sweep, coming in third with a simple ground beef and bean chili that satisfied all those who don’t like their bowl o’ red at all spicy.

Good job, to all the entrants — anyone who can cook a pot of chili on New Year’s morning gets gold stars from me.

Carly Steinhoff’s Winning Chili

  • 1 (14.5 oz) can stewed tomatoes, chopped
    2 cans original Ro-Tel tomatoes
    1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
    1 carrot, sliced
    1 large onion, diced
    2 stalks celery, chopped
    1/4 cup white wine
    1 bottle (12 oz.) beer
    1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    2 teaspoon crushed chipotle pepper flakes
    1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
    1/2 cup bottled steak sauce (A-1 or Heinz 57)
    5 slices bacon
    1 pound ground sirloin
    1 pound stew meat, cut into bite sized pieces
    1 package chili seasoning mix (I used Carol Shelby’s)
    1 tablespoons chili powder
    2 teaspoons ground cumin
    1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, drained
    1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained
    1 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

In a large pot over medium-low heat, combine tomatoes (stewed and Ro-Tel), tomato paste, carrot, onion, celery, wine, pepper flakes (red and chipotle) and steak sauce.
While tomato mixture is simmering, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy. Remove to paper towels. Cook ground beef and stew meat in bacon drippings until brown, drain.
Stir beer, beef, chili seasoning mix, chili powder, cumin, and bacon into tomato mixture. I simmered for several hours.
Stir in beans, parsley, and cilantro. Heat through and serve.

Tags: Recipes: What's Cooking!

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Matt // Jan 6, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Actually, Matt’s wife, Sarah, came in third place. Matt’s mom, Lila, did not place this year.

    —Matt

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