Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Super Bowl (Of Chili, Chips and Melted Cheese)

Thank Goodness Banky crafted a post on the weekend leadership turmoil in Kansas City. I tried on many occasions to summarize the events and kept getting stuck. Look, I can barely write about my own team firing its coach, much less the circus you guys have brewing out there.

So let's move on to the game we'll all be watching out of pure habit, Super Bowl Forty-Three. If you've found some shred of relevance to cling to in this thing, good for you. Maybe one of the key players attended your alma mater. Perhaps you typically shade toward the underdog, especially when they're facing a team and a fan base comprised of child-molesting, towel-waving mouth-breathers. Or maybe, just maybe, you put a few bucks on the game.

I, of course, whole-heartedly endorse gambling in all its forms. It makes a crappy game like Arizona-Pittsburgh seem positively mesmerizing. For this contest, though, my angle is food. You see, I'm throwing one of those big, cliche Super Bowl parties you've all suffered through, with two twists. One is that this football-watching fiesta is the last one I'll host for quite a while (baby due in April). The other is that the food is going to blow the doors off any foreign car within three blocks.

So all week we're going to talk grub here at the House. We'll drop you some easy-to-follow menu ideas that will dazzle your friends and the charm the panties right off any fillies you happen to wrangle into your kitchen this Sunday. Tasty vittles, after the jump...

One of the more endearing depressing commonalities among us HoG scribes is that we've all toiled forever in the restaurant biz. It got us through college, and then sustained us for many, many years after that. You see, we're all lazy and lacking any real ambition. So instead of following our chosen career tracks (medicine, the law, priesthood), we instead labored in the backs of greasy spoons.

The upside to this sloth is the ability to churn out a spread that will feed many guests. Now to do the same, you'll need to follow a few simple guidelines:

Get a crockpot. Hell, get two. Or six. Long the refuge of the lonely housewife, the slow cooker is actually a powerful tool of masculinity. Utilizing the crockpot in your arsenal allows you to heat and serve piping-hot dishes all day while you focus on more important tasks. Like, I don't know, watching the game. And drinking gallons of beer. And impressing your guests with football knowledge you've gleaned from reading the House of Georges all year. Scratch that last part.

Prep ahead of time. I know, it's elementary, but the more work you do early the less you'll have to do at gametime. Take a slice out of these last few weeknights and Saturday for prep and you'll enjoy your Sunday in drunken bliss.

Cheat. This tip is entirely predictable, as it comes from a lifelong Broncos fan. No one has to know you didn't spend 10 hours slaving over a smoker to produce that delicious pulled pork or rack of ribs. You can get ninety per cent of the flavor with ten per cent of the effort. An oven and a little liquid smoke go a long way, y'all.

And with that, let's get started on some chili. It can sit around all afternoon, all it needs is an occasional stir. You can smother it on burritos, burgers or hot dogs, you can make a Frito pie, you can dip chips in it, or you can just eat a bowl of it straight up. Versatile and powerful, just like Ben Roethlisberger's memory only the exact opposite.

Note: These are simple recipes for simple people. We're not the kind of guys that whittle things down to the teaspoon, we like measurements like "handful." If you need more precision, feel free to visit Allrecipes or the Food Network.

Green Chile

Now forgive me if I'm getting a little provincial here. I live down near the New Mexico border, which is normally not something to be bragged about. One benefit of proximity to this national eyesore, however, is access to savory green chile peppers. To whip up a batch you'll need to find frozen, roasted, peeled and diced chiles. The brand most available in my local grocery stores is Bueno. If you can find this stuff, you're in business. If not, call me an asshole and move on to the next dish.

You'll need a pound of ground chicken and a pound of cubed pork stew meat. Brown both in a skillet and transfer to a crock pot. Dice an onion and a head of garlic, and simmer them in that skillet with the little bits of fried meat and throw them in the crock as well. Add half a carton/can of chicken stock.

Bueno makes a variety of their frozen chile called Autumn Roast--it has more burned skins and and color variation in the peppers than their standard neon-green offering. It also only comes in Hot, so I'll typically do one large (or two small) tubs of Autumn Roast combined with one large tub of Mild. This makes for a nice crowd-pleasing stew--just enough heat to sweat off last night's whiskey bender but not so hot as to put your grandmother in the emergency room. Add your chiles to the crock pot (preferably thawed in a sink of cold water, but not necessary) and heat on high until it starts bubbling. Then crank 'er down to low and let it matriculate for a few hours, or days. Salt and pepper to taste.

Chili Con Queso

This can be as simple as dumping a brick of Velveeta and a can of Rotel into a crock pot. Nothing wrong with that, but just a tad more creativity can make a world of difference.

Velveeta technology has outpaced development of renewable energy and cancer treatment, and with good reason. Why would a brilliant chemical engineer want to get bogged down perfecting the electric car or a cure for leukemia when he can pioneer a better processed American cheese goo?

One thing I look for in my Velveeta is an absence of that sickly orange pigment that makes your queso look like bowling-alley cheese. Try the Mexican variety, which also adds some kick. You'll also want to sprinkle in some real cheese for authenticity. You can run the ball with pepper jack, but why not go deep with an exotic variety? Asadero? Havarti? Me, I like smoked Gouda--it adds another layer of flavor. Mince some fresh jalepeno, serrano or habanero peppers in to boot, perhaps some red bell peppers and cilantro leaves for color. Now add your foundation, one can of Rotel Original chiles-and-tomatoes, melt and you're in business.

Red Chili

I prefer to punt here and focus my efforts elsewhere. Campbell's makes a pretty damned tasty canned chili, I combine one can of Roadhouse and one can of Firehouse in my third crockpot and my United Nations palette of chili is complete. Serve with tortilla chips (quick tip: Tostitos makes a hard-to-find flour tortilla chip that will blow you away), Fritos, and sour cream garnish.

All through out the week we'll add to the feast, with main courses, sides and perhaps even dessert. I invite my colleagues to join in, I know for a fact that both of them possess red chili recipes that far exceed my canned option.

Update: If you are, in fact, purchasing a new crock pot, buy this one (discontinued but occasionally available on eBay) or this one. The multiple inserts allow you to heat several dishes at once.


bankmeister said...

Hoo boy. That was so damn funny that upon my third and fourth out-loud laughs, I was asked to read some snippets aloud to a co-worker. Good stuff. From the long-missed career choices of the Iron Triangle to the hotness of Bueno curing whiskey hangovers but not killing grandma to the Velveeta technology, I think my eyes actually watered a bit.

Glad I got it read before supper.