Chili Con Carne

from Soup Suppers by Arthur Schwartz

One of my favorite “food personalities” is Arthur Schwartz, known to many as “The Food Maven.”  You need to be of a certain age to even know who I’m talking about as his career has spanned over 40 years.  I first became enamored with Arthur during his 12 years on WOR radio hosting the program “Food Talk.”  I listened to this every lunchtime, throughout the nineties, in my office, writing down recipes, NYC restaurants I wanted to try, and especially Italian food and travel information.  At the time, he had a cooking school in southern Italy and took groups there.  I thought about joining one of his excursions, but I have my husband to guide me around Italy.  

I bring up Arthur Schwartz because I love his cookbooks!  Naples at Table has Italian recipes just like my family’s recipes.  It’s amazing.  We use this cookbook for many of our traditional holiday foods.  New York City Food is a historical and delicious anthology of foods that have made New York City the food capital of the world.  The best apple cake recipe around can be found in his Jewish Home Cooking. I promise to share recipes from all of these books in due time.   I have loved cooking from these books.

For this post, I’m going to share from my most recently acquired Soup Suppers. I purchased it about a year ago when I heard Arthur talk about it on a podcast that I listen to.  Every Monday at 8:00AM he calls into a show on Robin Hood Radio, a station out of Sheffield, Massachusetts, and for one half hour, he talks about food and recipes. One day, he mentioned this book and his recipe for Chile con Carne.  What peeked my interest was the fact that he called it “Chili con Carne.”  This is how this dish was referred to many years ago before it became just “chile.”  But when he mentioned a boyhood memory of his dad eating this with crumbled saltines, I knew I had to get this book.  My memory of “Chili con Carne “ is my mom opening a can of “Hormel Chili con Carne” for my dad on Saturdays for his lunch.   I LOVED the smell…..and the taste!   My dad would crumble saltines on top, and I’d eagerly wait for him to share with me.  Over the years, I’ve tried many versions of chili, always hoping to replicate this chili of my childhood.  Most were delicious, but missed the mark somehow.   Now the search is over.  The taste and aroma of this chili brings me right back to a Saturday lunch with my dad.  I garnish it the way I would with any other chili, with avocados, cheddar cheese, sour cream, etc., but I do miss the saltines.  And of course, my dad.   

RECIPE: Serves 4 to 6

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

3 medium, onions, finely chopped

6 to 8 large garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed

2 pounds lean ground beef

2 (28 ounce) cans of plum tomatoes, with their juice, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, or to taste

3 Tablespoons chili powder

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

2 (16 ounce) cans of kidney beans, drained, not rinsed

FOR THE GARNISH:

Sour cream

Shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese

fresh cilantro, chopped

Diced avocado

Diced fresh chilies

lime wedges

  1. In a 5 to 6 quart pot, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the onions until they brown, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the garlic and saute another 30 seconds.
  3. Add the ground beef and, with a wooden spoon, break it up and turn constantly until it loses it’s raw color.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, chili powder, 1/4 tsp. of cayenne, oregano, and cumin. Stir well. Partially cover and let simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Taste and add more salt and cayenne if desired, remembering that the beans will tone it down.
  6. Add the canned beans, stir well, partially cover again, and adjust heat so chili simmers gently for another 10 minutes.
  7. Ladle into deep bowls and serve with side garnishes.

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