Since one of this year’s NFL Super Bowl XLVIII Half-Time performers are the inimitable Red Hot Chili Peppers, we thought the best food to highlight for your party would be that all-time American classic, chili. The Ancient Incans and Mayans first mixed together meat, beans and chilies thousands of years ago, thus creating the hearty fill-you-up meal. Where and how it became associated with all things sports, I couldn’t tell you; if it has anything to do with the conquistadores, we probably don’t want to know. I’m also not certain how it evolved into the multi-versioned smorgasbord we know today but anyone who’s been to a chili cook-off knows today’s varieties of chili reach far beyond the cans of Hormel we knew as kids.
To give you some out-of-the-crock-pot ideas to make your chili bowl a super chili bowl this year, I asked several of metro Detroit’s most popular and talented chefs to tell us what they would make if they were making chili for the near and dears at their own Super Bowl parties. Here are the responses we received and which we hope inspire you to get in the kitchen SANS can opener!
James Rigato, Chef at The Root restaurant in White Lake tells us that he likes to make his chili with either venison or buffalo (readily available at Eastern Market butchers) and include multiple heat sources. That means fresh chilies like jalapeno and serrano, dried chilies like ancho, pasilla and arbol as well as spices like cumin, peppercorns and Tabasco Sauce. The chef also uses Dragon’s Milk beer or Breakfast Stout in his chili, because in his words, “chili loves beer”. The chef garnishes with Guernsey Sour Cream, scallions, shaved cheddar cheese and pickled peppers, including seasoning the chili with the pickled pepper juice. In addition to traditional ingredients like tomato, garlic, onion and bell pepper, Rigato includes Michigan black beans or Michigan cranberry beans in his chili and adds that, “A simple omelet covered in chili is the best hangover cure.”
Nick Janutol, Executive Chef at Forest Grill in Birmingham provided us with a recipe for a contemporary braised brisket chili with a saltine cracker crust. After searing the brisket on each side, Nick removes the meat and adds onion and garlic, sweating in oil until tender. He then adds pasilla chilies with cumin, coriander and tomato paste and toasts them. He deglazes the pan with Scotch ale and reduces until the pan is dry. After adding a healthy amount of chicken stock, he re-adds the brisket and braises until tender and falling apart. Things get fancy from there, so for simplicity’s sake, we’ll shorten his recipe slightly and tell you that he then adds kidney beans and simmers until tender, adding lime juice and cayenne pepper, seasoning with salt to taste. He finishes by making a crust out of crushed saltine crackers, sautéed onions, softened butter and chives by combining the ingredients in a large bowl and then rolling them out between two sheets of parchment paper. He then freezes the crust and once frozen, cuts it into strips and places it in the refrigerator. Before serving the chili, Nick tops each bowl with a strip of the crust and broils the bowl until the crust is golden brown.
Although known for his life changing pizza, Dave Mancini, owner and chef of Supino’s Pizza in Eastern Market makes a kick-ass homemade chili as well. He starts by purchasing mixed dried peppers from Honeybee Market in Mexican Village, finely chopping and cooking them in good tomato puree until soft. Then he braises chuck in the liquid with fresh poblano peppers overnight (no beans in this recipe). He tells us that if he were going to “Italian it up”, he would add big chunks of pancetta. Dave would serve this with fried tortilla strips, scoops of crema, fresh chopped onion and cilantro. When he sent the recipe, he finished by saying, “I think I might make this tomorrow, ’cause that actually sounds really good.” We think so too, Dave.
Will Branch from Corridor Sausage in Eastern Market, says that chili should be a “glorious celebration of flavor and comfort, not bland homogenous spice mixes,” and that he is “sick to death of the same boring beef chili” served at every Super Bowl party and bar across the city. So, he sent us a dope recipe for Vietnamese Coconut and Peanut Chili using their own Vietnamese Chicken Sausage or Green Curry Pork Sausage. He notes that this “chili” should be a slightly spicy and thick broth with tons of flavor. Mince lemongrass, ginger and shallots, sweating them until fragrant, and then add the sausage without the casings, crumbling it in with the aromatics, cooking until caramelized. Add in 30 ounces of coconut milk, some ground clove and star anise, lime zest and juice, salt and pepper and fish sauce and simmer. Now, add half a cup of peanut butter, over low heat and whisk until all is incorporated. The chili should be the consistency of Elmer’s Glue. If you want a thicker chili, add a cornstarch slurry and thicken over time. Allow your chili to simmer for several hours, adjusting the spices (he recommends not to be afraid to adjust spice and to taste often). Top this with whatever Vietnamese style toppings you desire!
Petro Drakopoulos, owner of the newly opened Republica in Berkley sent us his wife’s chicken chili recipe from their menu and told us that, “She first served it to me about two weeks before I decided to marry her and I can tell you it’s no coincidence!” She starts her chili with a base of San Marzano plum tomatoes and then adds a pre-roasted medley of green and red peppers, blackened corn, celery, smoked chipotle peppers, roasted garlic, cumin, kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper. She then adds kidney and black turtle beans and poached chicken breast pulled by hand and simmers until all the flavors come together. Petro serves it with shredded sharp cheddar and Greek yogurt and says for him it defines comfort. We think it sounds like it defines romances as well.
Last but certainly not least are the bad ass vigilante chefs April Boyle and Gina Onyx from Komodo Kitchen. These chicks work pop-up style only, so you have to watch their website and Facebook to stay apprised of where they’ll be next. They sent us their recipe for Rendang Chili, which they entered in the Harmony Top Chef Detroit Coney Challenge. Start by combining toasted, ground coriander, tumeric, cardamom, cinnamon, white pepper, star anise and candlenuts with chopped shallots, bird’s eye chilies, ginger, lemongrass, garlic and galangal in a pot with two Kaffir lime leaves and two bay leaves. Sauté all ingredients with vegetable oil over medium heat and then add a large container of beef broth and let everything come to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Add the beef and braise slowly for ten hours. Add a can of coconut milk and kidney beans, which were soaked overnight and continue to braise for eight more hours. Serve with acar, Indonesian pickled carrots and cucumber and fried shallots to top.
Regardless of which inspiration you choose, you’ll have a winner on your hands, even if the team you pick is a loser this year. All of these recipes sound amazing and every one of them is sure as shit better than anything Guy Fieri ever came up with. Please note that links to the full and detailed recipes will be available on our website, with the e-version of this article. Happy cooking! | RDW
Originally Published in Real Detroit Weekly.