Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Big Pot of Chili

 I do love a party.  A gathering, a get-together.  Having friends over for dinner.  This must somehow stem from the Saturday nights of my childhood when Val would invite her friends over for a simple meal and a heated game of Scrabble or sometimes, penny poker.  After we kids ate dinner, we ran around, listened to the new original Grease Movie soundtrack (double album!), "Beauty School Drop Out" (side one)  over and over again on my record player in the bedroom I shared with my sister Karyn. 

 We plotted tricks to play on the younger ones while the adults picked over a batch of Anne's Pineapple Chicken Wings, drank wine and beer (a Classic Coke for Val) and gossiped.  They cleared the table and set out the old board game with it's smooth wooden tiles. The competition seemed to go on for hours. Occasionally, there was a loud uproar over a "challenge" and an overly dramatic call for the heavy, hard covered Webster's dictionary kept upstairs on a bookshelf with other important reference books. All of the kids clamored down the stairs to watch the fireworks fly as the outcome was decreed. Was it really a word or not? These were high stakes games with bragging rights for the winner until next the next time when that person would hopefully be dethroned.  Wild times on Old Meeting House Road.
I used to love running into the kitchen, whispering in my mother's ear and interrupting the "adult conversation" to ask for a cookie and yet another glass of  Cott Cream Soda- a treat that we only got to have on such special occasions.  The goings on around the dining table, the raucous scrabble game, it was all so foreign to me.  It was as if I had discovered a secret society taking place right there in my own home.  Val usually agreed to my request if only to shoo me away and get back to discussing the topic at hand which was likely inappropriate for children lest we repeat our own version back at school on Monday.  The kids could always count on getting away with eating far to many homemade chocolate chip cookies and drinking the entire liter of soda while staying up way past our normal bedtimes.  That and listening to my sister's clock radio at full blast up in our bedroom, making up new disco moves and dropping cookie crumbs all over the floor. We all loved a good party.
So, it seems fitting that on January 1st, when the big letdown begins and the holiday hangover sets in, that I decide to pull out all the stops.  Nothing delays the doldrums and post vacation ennui like a big pot of chili and a handful of friends to share it. Margaritas don't hurt, either...all the mothers who spent the last 10 days with kids at home for Christmas break, agree with me on that one.  By the way, Chambord makes a nice, sweet contrast to the tartness of the lime and bite of tequila. (Please see Mommy's Favorite Margarita ). Tex-Mex on the menu can really mean anything:  along with the chili,  something BBQ, queso dip and lots of tortilla chips for the kids to nibble on.  Of course, there must always be desserts, too.  But I got increasingly tired as my preparations wore on and I couldn't really come up something that was a good match for my menu.  So, I made my usual lazy treat: S'mores Bars.  They were a hit along with Karyn's gluten free brownies and an assortment of leftover holiday cookies which I was glad to be rid of.  Kids and most adults will really eat anything sweet.
The afternoon was a blast and the weather cooperated so the boys and some of the girls (after changing out of their sparkly, party clothes) spent a good 5 hours playing football in the yard until Billie managed to kick a field goal so high, the ball ended up wedged in the highest oak tree.  But that didn't deter their energy as they quickly shifted to a spirited game of hide and go seek, behind the house, under the deck, with numerous breaks for sugary snacks and sodas pilfered from the cooler kept outside (no space in the fridge).  Once the sun hit the horizon to the west, we drained our margarita glasses and I packaged up the leftovers for Dick to have for lunch the next day.  My last guest to leave was my foodie friend who brings his slippers as a practice (why not be truly comfortable?) and enjoys sharing his half opened bottles of wine with me.  I later learned that he lied to me when he said he was bringing quite a large handful of chocolate dipped oranges (he cleaned out the bowl)  to his ailing wife who was huddled up at home with a fierce head cold.  It has just recently come to light that she does not like any sort of candied fruit.  Of course, the whole incident made me laugh as I am flattered by his deception to keep all the oranges for himself.  Even more flattering and fun is the fact that everyone stayed well past the designated time for the party to end and just about every morsel of food was devoured.  I hope they all enjoyed themselves as much as I did.  Now to plan for February....

 Spicy Turkey Chili 
(Serves 8)

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 chili in adobo sauce, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium jalapeno, diced (seeds and ribs removed, unless you like a lot of heat)
2 teaspoons granulated onion
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
3 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 package ground turkey meat
12 oz. lager (I use Bud Light)
1 32 oz. can crushed tomatoes 
1 cup chicken stock
2 cans black beans, rinsed

Heat the oil on medium high in a large pot. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Season with salt and black pepper. Add the chili in adobo, minced garlic cloves, and jalapeno.  Cook, stirring often until softened.  Add all the spices (granulated onion-cayenne pepper).  Cook and stir until mixture forms a sludge.  Add turkey meat and cook until browned on edges, breaking up the meat into chunks.  Add lager and reduce to half.  Add tomatoes, chicken stock and rinsed beans.  Mix well.  Adjust seasoning by adding more salt, if needed.  Allow to simmer for at least one hour before serving.  Goes great with cornbread (See recipe below) and the following toppings:

diced red onion
diced pickled jalapenos
sour cream
shredded cheddar 
diced cherry tomatoes
lime wedges

Easy Cornbread
(Adapted from the Quaker Corn meal can)
Makes one 8x8 pan or 12 muffins

1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup corn meal
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
sea salt and black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease an 8x8 baking pan or a 12 cup muffin tin.  Combine dry ingredients.  Stir in buttermilk, oil and eggs.  Stir until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle sea salt and black pepper over the top of the bread or each muffin.  Bake for 20-25 minutes for a full pan of bread or 12-15 minutes for the muffins. Each should be golden around the edges and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Serve warm.

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