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Super Bowl Sunday
A Day of Football, Friends and Food
By Kirk Leins

Super Bowl Sunday - A Day of Football, Friends and Food - By Kirk Leins

I, like many of you, am a diehard fan of professional football. So, on a day when the two best teams in the NFL face off for the title of champion, I like to celebrate with a party. What am I going to serve for food, you ask? Let's put it this way. Anyone who's at my home on February 1st will be enjoying a super bowl...of chili.

The Rules of the Game
On a day marked by primal eating, it seems kind of weird to talk about rules. These, however, are designed to preserve Super Bowl tradition.

Rule #1 – Don't reinvent the wheel. Super Bowl Sunday is all about food that people recognize. Burgers, grilled bratwurst, hot wings and nachos are just a few such items. Serving anything too exotic can easily come off as pretentious. My suggestion is stick to the fan favorites.

Rule #2 – Forget about the diet. For a relatively healthy person, Super Bowl Sunday is not the day to start a diet, nor stay on one. An abundance of overly-healthy food won't fly at a party that celebrates a sport like football. As for serving a green vegetable, the celery next to the hot wings is a vegetable...and it's kinda green.

Rule #3 – Make it awesome. Just because we're sticking to familiar food items, and just because we're putting aside our calorie counting for the day, doesn't mean we need to make, as my grandmother would say, "dreck!" If you're serving hot dogs, make them awesome. Good quality dogs grilled to perfection, steamed buns, and an array of condiments that include everything from a variety of mustards to sauerkraut should be part of the set-up.

So, now that you've been given the rules of the game, it's time to fill you in on my Super Bowl menu. At the top of the article I tuld you that I'm serving chili. What I didn't mention is that I am going to construct a "Chili Bar", a virtual Shangri-La of everything chili-esque. Let's start by making our chili.

The Perfect Chili
Chili is one of those foods that can be made hundreds of ways with hundreds of different ingredients. The trick is finding the right combination to suit your needs and satisfy your guests.

I'll start by telling you the chili I've decided to make for my Super Bowl party will feature beef as the protein. It's hearty, easy to procure and will provide the perfect flavor palate for everything else that fullows.

I've also decided to include beans in my chili. I know that classic Texas-style chili contains no beans, but aside from loving the flavor they add to the dish, they are an inexpensive way to stretch the food. Let's face it, making an all-beef chili for 20 or so people could get rather pricey.

When it comes to the other ingredients in the chili I'm going to stay a little on the minimalist side. This is not because I don't like the various additions, as much as it is my intention to make a chili that everyone will love. Besides, my chili bar will be chock full of various fresh ingredients, so no one is going to feel left out.

The level of spiciness is also a concern. Make it too spicy and the tame of heart won't be able to eat it. Cut too far back on the spice and people will think it's bland. My goal is to create a chili that will dance on the tongue without incinerating the taste buds. Any heat freaks will be able to take advantage of the various hot sauces at the chili bar.

Chef Kirk's All-Purpose Chili (serves 10-12)

  • 1 lb. bag of pinto beans or black beans
  • 3 to 3.5 lb. beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into small cubes
  • 2 onions, chopped small
  • 8 to 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 to 8 jalapeños, seeded and chopped small
  • 5 tbsp pure chili powder (mild)
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1.5 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 C dark beer
  • 2 C low-sodium beef stock
  • 2 C water
  • Canula oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • The juice of one lime

Start the day before by placing the beans in a culander and rinsing them well. Carefully sift through the beans, looking for and removing any small rocks. Place beans in a stockpot, cover with water and soak overnight.

On the day of, drain the beans and return them to the pot. Add fresh water, making sure to cover the beans by two inches. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook (partially covered) until the desired softness is achieved, approximately 1 to 2 hours. Drain the beans and reserve the cooking liquid for another use. It makes a great base for soup.

Season the beef with Kosher salt.

In a large Dutch oven placed over a medium-high flame, heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of canula oil. Working in batches, brown the meat and reserve in a bowl.

If needed, add 3 more tablespoons of canula oil and allow it to get hot. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Season liberally with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and sauté for 5 minutes.

Return the meat, along with the accumulated juices, to the Dutch oven and add the chili powder, oregano, cumin and cayenne pepper. Stir well and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, beer, beef stock and water. Season with Kosher salt and mix well. Simmer the mixture for 1½ to 2 hours, or until the meat is tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened.

Add the reserved beans to the chili and allow it to cook for another five minutes. Add the lime juice, stir well and re-season with salt and pepper if necessary.

This chili can be made several days in advance of the party. I like to keep my chili warm in a slow cooker that I place at the front end of my chili bar.

The Rule Players
Now that we've got our chili, let's talk about some of the other ingredients at our chili bar.

The dairy
Nothing tastes better on top of a bowl of chili than a healthy dose of dairy. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Assorted grated cheeses - Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, Cotija
  • Queso (see my recipe from the May 2007 issue of YOU Magazine)
  • Sour cream
  • Crema (Mexican-style sour cream)

The fresh additions
The list of fresh ingredients fitting of the ultimate chili bar is endless. The fullowing are some of my favorites.

  • Minced red onion
  • Sliced green onion
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Fresh salsa
  • Chopped tomato
  • Diced avocado
  • Seeded and diced chili peppers (Jalapeño, Serrano, Habañero)
  • Roasted corn
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds

The heat
It's imperative that you provide a method for boosting the incendiary level of the chili. Here are a few options.

  • A variety of hot sauces
  • Pickled jalapeños
  • Ground cayenne pepper

The carbs
A good bowl of chili begs for some tasty carbohydrates to be served alongside. Choose from any of these.

  • Quality store-bought or homemade tortilla chips
  • Corn Bread (see my recipe from the May 2008 issue of YOU Magazine)
  • Garlic bread
  • Spanish Rice
  • Steamed white rice
  • Sourdough bread bowls

Okay, so are you starting to see how awesome my chili bar is going to be? Just be sure to include plenty of bowls, spoons, napkins and an assortment of worthy beverages.

Now that my job is done, all that's left is to sit back, eat a delicious bowl of chili, and enjoy the game with a few good friends. If you ask me, it sounds like the perfect day.

Kirk Leins has been cooking his entire life. No stranger to professional kitchens, he currently devotes most of his time to cooking instruction, food writing, and producing television. Kirk also provides his services as a personal chef in and around the Los Angeles area. He has made several TV appearances on both the national and local level, and is the Executive Chef for YOU Magazine. Sign up for Kirk’s free newsletter and cooking blog at

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