With Love From
Darling's Kitchen

2. A Bowl of Red


Today, I am going to share with you 2 American Greats...2 recipes that are as American as saluting the flag, or loving baseball or belonging to the boy scouts.

The first of these Greats is American in origin and is affectionately known as a "bowl of red."  It is without a doubt, the most talked about, argued about and debated about dish on the national scene.  Of course, you know, I am referring to THE American passion for a bowl of CHILI.

Chili is one of the simplest and hardiest of dishes.  It is one of the most gratifying and...EASILY...one of the most controversial.  There are probably  more fiery opinions and more strident insults over WHAT is considered a bowl of red, than perhaps any other dish in our nation.

Chili has inspired chili contests, chili-cook-offs (better described as chili shoot-outs) and chili parlors.  Books have been written devoted entirely to chili and there is a Chili Lovers organization, with branches in all parts of the world.  It was formed to study, research and teach the world about Chili...and to create new chili recipes.

Ardent chili lovers are known to be feisty, obstinate, opinionated and even downright insulting in defense of their chili recipe.  They are outraged, offended, irritated and annoyed at the intrusion of beans, cocoa, tomato soup, barley, raisins, sour cream and a potpourri of other ingredients, in their beloved chili.  They have been known to get so mad, they can rip telephone books and bend crow bars with their bare hands.

This is really quite impressive, in light of the fact NO ONE knows the origin of the dish.  Food historians have not been able to trace its beginnings...and most have agreed that this information is forever lost in obscurity.  It is only generally believed to have started in Texas, on the Chuck Wagons, meant to feed the cowhands.  All we know about Chili is either a golden legend or a romantic tale.

Which leads me to the thought, that if there is no classic recipe, how could anyone be so conceited to believe there is only one way to make Chili.  There are as many varieties as there are Chili cookers.  It has been known to be made with racoon, buffalo, kangaroo, and even bear meat...which I feel is straining a bit.

It is amazing to consider that it has been the pride of railroad barons and American presidents, as well as a basic food for us regular folks.  It has been a specialty of firehouses, with its 2-alarm, 3-alarm and 4-alarm chiles.  It is a standard food for prisons and jail houses.  It was also served in the White House.  Presidents in top hats praise it...and cowboys in Stetsons defend it.

The Chili mystique is truly more than Chili fever...it is Chili madness.  Chili is not a dish...it is a craving, a passion, and an obsession. It has been said that Chili is not even a food...it is a way of life.

Well, how do I feel about this?  I like Chili.  In fact, I love a good Chili, but I don't agonize over it.  For me, no recipe is carved in marble as to be unalterable.  That is a vanity that I don't ascribe to, when it comes to Chili.  But when it concerns CHOCOLATE...that is an entirely different affair.

I've devoted a whole column to chocolate a few weeks ago, so I will not dwell on it.  But it does bring us to the 2nd great recipe.  Today, I will share with you one of America's best-loved chocolate desserts...which is so basic, so down to earth, so friendly, so family, so homey...and so delicious.  Of course, you know, I mean the Lovable Brownie. 

We chocolate lovers are kind and gentle souls, who are content to allow brownie lovers their preference.  We take no offense if brownie lovers like theirs chewy or caky, frosted or unfrosted, plain or filled with chocolate, nuts, raisins or dates. We accept brownies that are skinny or thick, moist or fudgy.  We forgive those who are cloyed with the thought of frosting...or those whose taste buds recoil with the addition of walnuts or raisins.  But WE DO draw a line...we cannot abide and will not respect...nor will we ever tolerate...those who can eat just ONE brownie. MORE IS LESS...except when it comes to chocolate.  And, now, the recipes.   

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Darling's Chili Con Carne

This is one my family's favorite chili.  It is very traditional and does not include beans.  When we were young, my mother always served it with beans and pink rice on the side. I know this will offend the purists, but as children, we loved it...and I still do.

3 onions, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons oil

2 pounds coarsley ground lean beef
1 pound coarsely ground lean pork

2 cans (10 1/2 ounces, each) beef broth stirred with 2 tablespoon
Masa Harina
1 can (1 pound 12 ounces) crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
1 can (7 ounces) diced green chiles
4 to 6 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
salt to taste

In a Dutch oven casserole, saute onions and garlic in oil, until onions are transparent. Add the beef and pork, and cook until meat loses its pinkness.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer mixture, partially uncovered, for about 45 minutes.  Mixture should be very thick.  Serve with thick slices of hot garlic bread.  Yields about 2 quarts chili...and will serve one chili lover.

Chili con Carne (with Beans
3 onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons oil 3 pounds boneless chuck steak,
coarsely ground ("chili grind")

2 cans (10 1/2 ounces, each) beef broth
3 tablespoons Masa Harina (finely ground corn meal)

4 tablespoons chili powder (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon dried oregano flakes
1 can (16 ounces) tomato sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, (or more to taste)
1 can (1 pound) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (7 ounces) diced green chiles

In a Dutch oven casserole, sauté onions and garlic in oil until onions are softened. Add the beef and cook until the meat loses its pinkness. Stir beef broth with Masa Harina and add to casserole. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer mixture, with cover slightly ajar, for 45 minutes, or until meat is tender and mixture is thickened. Serve with hot biscuits. Serves 8.

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Darling's Brownies with Chocolate Buttercream

This is my family's favorite brownie...They like it with chocolate chips, unfrosted and NO NUTS... But there are no rules...so add only those extras you enjoy.

3/4 cup butter ( 1 1/2 sticks)
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate

4 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, walnuts, dates or
raisins (all optional)

In the top of a double boiler, over hot, not simmering water, melt together the butter and chocolate until blended. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat eggs with sugar and vanilla until mixture is thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the chocolate mixture until blended. Stir in the flour and salt until blended. Do not overmix. Add any extras.

Spread batter in a greased 9x13-inch baking pan and bake at 400° for 22 minutes, or until a cake tester, inserted in center, comes out clean and top looks dry. Do not overbake or brownies will be dry. On the other hand, do not underbake, or brownies will be pastey.

Allow to cool in pan. When cool, spread top with Chocolate Buttercream which is also optional. Keep the portions small. Yields 24 brownies.

Chocolate Buttercream:
2/3 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of sal

Stir together all the ingredients until blended.

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Double Chocolate Fudge Brownies

And yet another decadent brownie that will please the most exacting chocolate lover. These are very dense, deep, dark and delicious.

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (1/2 cup)
6 eggs
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla

l 1/2 cups sifted flour
l cup coarsely chopped walnuts
l cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In the top of a double boiler, over hot, not simmering water, melt chocolates with butter. Allow to cool slightly. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs with sugar and vanilla until mixture is nicely blended. Beat in chocolate mixture, just until blended. Beat in flour until blended. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips. Do not overmix.

Grease bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan and spread batter evenly. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes. Do not overbake. Allow to cool in pan and then refrigerate. (This will make cutting easier.) To serve, sprinkle with a little powdered sugar and cut into 1 1/2-inch squares. Yields 48 cookies.

That's all for now.
Please have the very best of times, and remember to give yourself a kiss...cause you deserve it.

Enjoy with Love
Renny Darling

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