Saturday, April 11, 2009

Chili Fever

Is there tomatoes in your chili? I asked coyly, pretending not to care. "Well," he drawled, "If I tell you, I'll have to kill you."

Most cooks are all to excited to share their recipes, but not at a chili cook off. Wise and wonderful, retired and reborn they sport aprons with profound slogans and cook up tales along with chili. Contestants will brag, exaggerate and embellish their chili's fame and their personal accomplishments, but they won't divulge how they make it. I copy that.

What am I doing in Bakersfield California, the middle of nowhere, fishing for information on chili? Why did I drive 150 miles to see crazy people drag out stoves, coolers and watch pop-up canopies yawn? To witness would be chili champions swear over pots of homemade Texas stew? Or maybe, for a shot of chili extended on a custom handle? Honestly, it's because I dream about being a crazy chili person too.

It was only about a year ago when my family and I went to our first magical Chili Cook off. Pots stewing, sweat pouring and the heady aroma of bliss in a bowl. I am a big fan of a "bowl of red", Chili speak for traditional red chili made with meat, any number of peppers and spices. I also love any occasion when people gather for food. Since, I have harbored a secret desire to show off my own special recipe. But not yet.

If I am serious about this, I need to prepare. To start with, I have been reading. So far I have read over 200 recipes, absorbing the history, the ingredients and tips from the masters. All of that studying of course is worthless if I don't get out the pot and cook!

I have, I did, and I will continue on my quest for my perfect chili. No, there will not be tomatoes in it, I am a chili purist. I believe in tradition with a few tricks, but that's all I will say. Did you really think I would share my recipe? You know if I did, I'd have to kill you. So here is a cookie recipe instead.

11 ¼ cup flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
3 cup butter
6 cup sugar
6 large egg
¾ cup milk
3 teaspoon vanilla

Stir together flour, soda, cream of tartar and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Beat butter for 30 seconds; add the 6 cups sugar and beat till fluffy.
Add eggs, milk and vanilla; beat well.
Add dry ingredients to beaten mixture, beating till well combined.
Make Cinnamon and Sugar mixture (9 tablespoons sugar, 3 teaspoons cinnamon) to sprinkle on cookies.
#40 scoop for mini cookies, 5x6 on sheet pan bake 5 minutes.
#24 scoop for regular cookies, 4x5 on sheet pan bake 8 minutes.
Flatten slightly and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture, or until lightly golden brown.
I think this makes 198 cookies, I told you I still cook like I am a caterer.

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