Read The Laughing Chef's bio and previous columns


February 4, 2009

Chili and Chilly: Complementary But Not Homophonic


Some people might wonder whether it is more than coincidence that chili is a food best eaten when it is chilly outside. You may eat chili when it is hot outside, but all you are likely to do is make a big, sweaty mess out of yourself.


The heat of the food is one of the primary reasons that will happen. A bowl of steaming hot stew and a steaming hot day form a couple that may clash and use your body as a battlefield. This is coupled with the natural heat caused by the core at the heart of the food the chile pepper.


Yet, chili and chilly have a different kind of relationship. It is complementary, while at the same time touching in its homophonic nature.


Although stories about the first bowl of chili are today just legend records from that period are spotty at best today, we know that a pot of chili typically incorporates three elements, the pepper, meat and beans. Some will suggest that you can opt out of one of those three. If others wish to do that, let them go down that path. Today, we stick to the tried and familiar.


Although the meat most generally associated with chili is beef, you may if the mood strikes you substitute chopped pork. This is not ground pork, because if we are going to go off the beef reservation, we may as well go all the way off. Most people associate ground beef with chili, and we will blow their minds instead with pork chops cut into small pieces.


Brown this as you would with any other kind of chili meat, in oil with garlic, onions and cumin. Students of advanced cumin studies can explain to you the taste difference between cumin added early on and cumin added late. For us, we proceed to the point where the onion is soft and the pork is browned and to where you add some diced jalapeno peppers, stewed tomatoes, cayenne pepper and dried oregano.


Is there something missing? There is. Your pot of chili is currently light on the bean element. Let us change that.


Add some black-eyed peas, and some water for them to cook in. Your ears may perk up at such a suggestion. A pea in a pot of chili . . . with browned pork? What will they think of next, you ask yourself . . . jumbo shrimp?


Like chili and chilly, they complement each other just not in a homophonic way.


If you have presoaked your peas or even cooked them ahead of time, you will have a short wait until lunch. If not, your lunch will be delayed by several hours. Consider planning further ahead next time.


When the peas begin to approach softness conducive to eating, add some frozen corn. This will not only add a vegetable that all elements are comfortable and happy around, but some needed flecks of color in a sea of reds and browns.


2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column #TLC121. Request permission to publish here.

Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Gregory D. Lee
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jessica Vozel
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
The Laughing Chef
David J. Pollay
Business Writers
Cindy Droog
D.F. Krause