NEW YORK Cookbook author and restaurant owner Kate Rowinski is a big fan of chili because it is so versatile.
Rowinski, 58, makes classic versions with turkey or ground beef but does not stop there. Peanuts and pork, wild boar and pumpkin and even Maine haddock are added to recipes in her new book, "The Ultimate Guide to Making Chili."
"We lived in Maine for many, many years and it was just logical to take fish and use it in your chili," Rowinski said in an interview.
Fresh, local ingredients make as much sense as the old standards, according to Rowinski, who owns the Horse and Hound Gastropub in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her husband, Jim, and her daughter and son-in-law.
About the only thing she has not tried is duck, although she is certain someone has.
"I'm sure it's possible," she said.
Rowinski talked to Reuters about creating dishes from whatever is in the refrigerator and the history of chili.
Q: Why did you write a book about chili?
A: Chili is one of those great things that is so versatile that I've just always made it. And I think there are misperceptions about chili and what it is and isn't and I wanted to just bring all of that together.
Q: What are some of the misperceptions about chili that you wanted to correct?
A: First of all Texans, believe that chili is just meat and chili peppers. And a lot of Americans think that chili has got to be ground meat and tomatoes. And some people don't think it's chili if it's white or if it's got fish in it. ... Chili is anything with a base of chili peppers. When you define it that way the possibilities suddenly become endless.
Q: Could you explain a little bit about the history of chili?
A: I think that chili peppers were used in the southern hemisphere forever. I think the combination of meat and chili peppers probably was used by the Mayans and the Aztecs. Classic chili I think really was popularized by the cowboys and the pioneers of the West. It made sense because it is easy to grow in the Southwest, (has) intense flavor, (is) very portable, easy to carry along, and it also was really good at spicing up really bland meat or even hiding a meat that was a little bit older or a little bit gamey.
Q: What's been the reaction to some of your more exotic versions? I'm thinking of the Wild Boar and Pumpkin Chili.
A: Chili, because it's so versatile, it makes a lot of sense that you would use the local ingredients so if you have boar or you can get boar it's a logical thing to use it for. Boar is kind of a dark, intense version of pork and the pumpkin kind of softens that with, not quite a sweetness, but almost a sweetness. It's kind of a magical combination.
Q: You've included vegetarian chili. Does it lose any flavor for lacking meat?
A: It really doesn't. ... The chili powder itself is so flavorful anyway but there are so many ways to create the same depth in a chili that the meat provides whether it's coffee or wine or beer or even chocolate.
Q: What's your favorite?
A: The family classic is the Bartender's Chili. ... I do love that one because it's got beer and rum in it. Who can go wrong with that?
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
3 pounds (1.36 kg) ground beef
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 red or yellow bell peppers, seeded, coarsely chopped
1 large jalapeno, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 28 ounce (300 g) can crushed tomatoes
8 ounces (236 ml) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons (15 g) chili powder
1⁄4 teaspoon (.5 g) cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon (12 g) sugar
1 tablespoon (12 g) salt
1 12 ounce (355 ml) bottle Guinness or other stout
1⁄2 cup (236 ml) dark rum
2 15 ounce (300 g) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
Green onions, chopped
Cheddar cheese, grated
Brown ground beef with oil in Dutch oven. Add onion, bell peppers, jalapeno and garlic, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are tender. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, cayenne, sugar, salt, beer and rum. Simmer two hours. Drain black beans and rinse to remove excess starch. Add to the pot and continue to cook for 20 minutes to heat beans thoroughly. Adjust seasonings as needed. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese and chopped green onions.