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Chili Nation Paperback – January 5, 1999
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From Library Journal
From Chili a la Whistle Stop (Alabama) to Serious Capitol Punishment Chili (District of Columbia) to Code 10 Chili (Wyoming), you'll find every imaginable version of what the authors describe as our "one truly national shared food." There are chilies with beans and without, with meat and without, green chilies, and many variations on the classic "bowl o'red." The Sterns' Roadfood (1976) and other books on American food are well known, and their latest is fun to browse through. For most collections.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Jane and Michael Stern document that every state in the Union has its own approach to chili, the Texas-created national dish. Devotees of the original "bowl of red" may fume in protest that Maryland's shrimp and crabmeat in cream sauce lightly rouged with chili powder stretches the definition of chili beyond the breaking point. Michigan's Upper Peninsula stuffs its miners' pasties with chili instead of the traditional meat and rutabaga filling. Washington State spikes its chili with plenty of coffee. Florida crosses chili with Cuban picadillo. Vermont mellows out the bite of chili peppers with maple syrup. And what does Hawaii do? Naturally, it studs its chili with chunks of macadamia nuts. One can read this book as the triumph of spicy cooking across the breadth of America or as a perversion of authentic ethnic cookery. Mark Knoblauch
Top customer reviews
I found another book like this for hot dogs, which also have a lot of interesting regional differences.
Great American Hot Dog Book
Not all chili has to be watery, or contain starch--many of the recipes are for what I call "Texas-style" recipes--all meat, no beans--which leaves you to choose your own side-dish to temper the heat. This book runs the gamut of recipes from ultra-mild to very hot, vegetarian to carnivore paradise. Almost every single recipe requires only one pot, and can easily be increased for a crowd. For solitary folks, nothing beats a batch of chilie--eat half over a few days and freeze the rest for a great meal when you're in a rush.
Get this one and have fun!
A recipe is given for each state in the nation plus an extra one for DC. Sometimes the distinction will be the inclusion of popular local ingredients (chocolate in Pennsylvania chili, corn in Iowa chili, etc.), while other times the recipe will be a version of a chili the authors have eaten in a restaurant in that state. Also included are a few side dish recipes: guacamole, three-bean salad, corn pudding, coleslaw, and jalapeno cornbread.
Because this is my first exposure to the Sterns, I can't really comment on how this compares to their other books. Though, if this is "coasting", as another reviewer states, I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of what they've written!
Downsides - Many recipes are very heavy on meat and fat. This is not a good book for people who are dieting or watching their cholesterol. The amount of salt used also seems rather excessive. I have found these problems easy to remedy by simply cutting down the size of the meat, using less oil, and not adding the extra salt. The recipes still turn out just fine. Some ingredients (fresh chilies, jalapeno powder, sweet chili flakes) may be difficult for people in smaller cities to find. However, they do offer some mail order resources at the front of the book.
Recipes I've tried that have been excellent include:
Chili a la Whistle Stop (Alabama)- The inclusion of oats in this delicious beef-and-tomato chili gives it a wonderful silky texture. This recipe is from the famous Whistle Stop Cafe, the focus of Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes.
Hot Springs Chili Tamale Spread (Arkansas)- A chili powder infused barbecue sauce is poured over homemade beef tamales, with fabulous results.
Gilroy Super Garlic Chili (California)- Fresh chilies and plenty of roasted garlic spice up this bowl of green.
Tall Corn Pork Chili (Iowa)- Corn, boneless pork, and green chilies, and jalapeno powder lend zip to a tomato sauce based chili.
American Chop Suey Chili (Maine)- Macaroni, Rotel tomatoes, celery, onions, and spices are mixed into a chunky chili and then topped with cheese and chow mein noodles.
Church Supper Chili Mac and Cheese (Nebraska)- Homemade macaroni and cheese topped with a barbecue sauce based chili.
16-Times World Champion Sirloin Chili (Oklahoma)- A chili pepper puree is poured on top of grilled sirloin or porterhouse steaks.
Recipes that have been merely "good" include:
Chicagoland Chili Mac (Illinois)- Macaroni topped with a Worcestershire sauce infused chili. Good, but just not as bold and spicy as the others.
Homage to Hershey Chocolate Chili (Pennsylvania)- Features unsweetened cocoa powder and chicken breasts. Plenty of jalapeno powder makes this recipe quite spicy. But it still lacked the depth of flavor of some of the other recipes.
The recipes also very quite a bit; most contain meat, but some are totally vegetarian, and some don't even have beans. There are red chilis, green chilis, spicy and not so spicy recipes, and the meats include beef, pork, sausage, chicken, lamb, shrimp, and veal. Some of the recipes stretch the definition of chili to the breaking point or perhaps beyond, such as the Maryland recipe that calls for shrimp and crabmeat in a cream sauce with a little chili powder. But whether this counts as true chili or not, I found the ingenuity and creativity of many of the state's recipes a delight and an interesting theme around which to build a cookbook about chili.
If you're into variety as well as spicy food, you'll probably enjoy trying out all the recipes here. The ones that don't have a locally famous ingredient often come from a restaurant the Sterns ate in that had a recipe that they liked. The authors also include a lot of information on chili history and trivia and a mail-order list of places to get spices and chilis. And last but not least, the Sterns also include a few side-dish recipes, such as coleslaw, jalapeno cornbread, corn pudding, and a three-bean salad.
Overall a witty, well-written, and interesting cookbook on a great American dish, and with some nice, extra features thrown in for good measure.