Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"San Francisco Firehouse Favorites" - (Super Bowl) Chili Beans

Date I made this recipe:  Sunday, February 3, 2013 – Super Bowl Sunday

San Francisco Firehouse Favorites – Great Recipes by the Bay City’s Famous Firemen Chefs by Tony Calvello, Bruce Harlow, Georgia Sackett & Shirley Sarvis
Published by:  Bonanza Books
© 1965
Recipe:  Chili Beans – p. 142

Well, it’s Super Bowl Sunday and you know what that means, right?  Chili!!!!  (Or Mexican—you should have seen the Mexican food ingredients flying off my grocery store’s shelves.)

This year’s Super Bowl game between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers was played in New Orleans, a city with phenomenal food, and so I thought about splitting the difference and featuring foods from the host city instead of one of the team cities.  And yet the books and recipes in my collection featuring New Orleans food were a little highbrow for a football game.  I mean come on, Oyster’s Rockefeller?  No.  Crawfish?  Not in these parts.  And so I scrapped those books for now, reserving them for an event more suited to New Orleans food – Mardi Gras!

So with Plan B in place, I set out to find suitable food from either Baltimore or San Francisco and even that proved to be a challenge until I unearthed this San Francisco Firehouse Favorites from the back of a shelf.  And right there, just when I needed it the most, was a recipe for Chili Beans.  (I was rather bummed it wasn’t Five-Alarm Chili to fit in better with a fire-fighter theme but beggars can’t be choosers).

Now truth be told, I only favored slightly the 49ers for this game but only by a smidgen.  The 49’ers beat my beloved Green Bay Packers to advance to the next round of the playoffs and so that did not make me happy BUT they are part of the NFC Conference and so I suppose I should be loyal to my own conference, right?

On the other hand…the Baltimore Ravens (or Baltimore “Raisins” as one friend’s 7 year-old dubbed them) beat the Evil Empire a/k/a the New England Patriots, the team I love to hate the most to get to the Super Bowl.  For that alone, I salute them.  But I wasn’t sure I could root for them seeing as how they represent the AFC and all and so when the San Francisco cookbook landed in my lap, there it stayed.

Still, I have to tell you that I (and my brother) am a very superstitious football viewer and I felt like I was almost asking for it by favoring one city’s food over another.  And sure enough, San Francisco was in danger of being embarrassed when the third quarter score was Baltimore 28, 49’ers 6.  The 49’ers looked a mess.  My chili clearly was the cause. Oh Lord, what had I done, what had I done?

And then

The lights went out in the Superdome (not to be confused with The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, a popular song in the 70’s and most certainly not with The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by The Band – yes, the band’s name is The Band.).  For 35 minutes, players sat on the sidelines, did warm-ups and just generally hung out while Superdome workers and the electric company scrambled to get everyone out of the heart of darkness.  The danged thing, of course, was that commercial ad sponsors thought that – and this is so silly, really – the game would be going on during that 35 minute period and so nobody bought ad time and so there was nothing to watch except the non-game.  This was bad but no use crying about it now.  In case you were unaware, two brothers ended up as the head coach of each of these teams, and conspiracy theorists posited that the San Francisco coach, Jim Harbaugh, “arranged” for the power outage to give his team a chance against his brother, John’s team, the Ravens.  Huh. As far as conspiracy theories go, this is not a bad one because...

…The 49ers took this downtime as an opportunity to get their mojo back and once power was restored, scored touchdown after touchdown until – can you believe it – they pulled within 3 of the Ravens.  Well, this was beyond exciting, folks!  BUT as these things go, the 49ers failed to score in the final minute or so which meant that they failed to go ahead of the Ravens which meant that they lost the game. 

But the chili was saved!

And speaking of saving, there is no job more admired in American than fire (or police) and these brave men and women know a whole lot more about saving things than I do.  This book, San Francisco Firehouse Favorites, is enhanced by black and white photos of men (in 1965, it was all men, all the time) in action, putting out fires.  Way too cool for school if you ask me!  (As are the “retro” fire trucks pictured in the book).  These photos remind me of my hometown’s volunteer fire department.  Every 4th of July, the fire station divides into teams for a water fight in the middle of what we consider to be our Main Street.  It was a 4th of July tradition dating back to when I was a kid  and it continues today, as does the sounding of the 9:00 fire alarm signaling curfew for young girls and boys -  talk about retro!

Although this chili will not set off any fire alarms, it was darned good but the instructions were a little off.  Instruction one was to cook the beans for 3 hours and this makes sense as you don’t want to break a tooth on a hard bean.  Instruction number two was to cook the chili for 3 more hours (or until beans are tender) and this didn’t make any sense at all.  I don’t want to break a tooth but neither do I want overly-mushy beans.  I think my total elapsed time was about 4 hours or so and that made everything just right.

As to ingredients, I have to admit that “stewed tomatoes” threw me for a loop when I got to the canned vegetable shelves because there were about a million different brands!  (Okay, slight exaggeration.)  When I was a kid, stewed tomatoes were just tomatoes that had been cooked a long time but I guess somewhere along the way, the recipe got all “fancy” because now they come with onions and celery and peppers.  Figuring that a few more ingredients couldn’t hurt, I added a can to my cart.

The “red chili sauce” proved to be a harder nut to crack because I wasn’t sure what it was.  Once again, grocery has grown up right before my very eyes because there were all kinds of variations of a red chili sauce, not one of which was the right size or the right level of heat (which is to say “none!”) for my recipe.  You may recall I mentioned earlier that Mexican food items were flying off the shelves while I was shopping and the chili sauce aisle was decimated.  So I improvised and bought a small can of red tomato sauce and then added cumin and Mexican oregano and garlic and a few more things I had on hand to try to approximate what I failed to purchase.  I think the result was okay but you should probably go with the real deal if you can.  And I’d suggest you not make this recipe on either Super Bowl Sunday or Cinco de Mayo because you’re gonna be in big trouble at the checkout when the item you want is not on the shelf.

And finally, remember that just like the ocean, one should not turn one’s back on a stovetop, especially when cooking greasy items like ground chuck.  Not that I did but fire safety is fire safety folks! 

So to recap Super Bowl XLVII, otherwise known as Super Bowl 47 (I hate when they use Roman Numerals; it messes with my head because I can never remember what the hell “L” stands for):  the Ravens were poised for a near blow-out over the 49ers when the lights went out, not in Georgia.  Meanwhile, back at the chili ranch, Ann started cooking the beans that took three hours to make.  The lights came back on, Ann added the additional chili ingredients, San Francisco started to pull even with the Ravens, Ann checked the chili to make sure the beans were not burning (cook responsibly, people), many commercials were aired after the lights came back on but not during since nobody planned on there being a 35 minutes outage (except maybe the 49ers coach), San Francisco had a chance to pull ahead with minutes left but they didn’t, and San Francisco’s coach was all mad and was yelling for the refs to call “holding” (“was it holding or was it not holding?”) and it was not holding and Ann served her chili, added some cheese (because it’s chili after all), the 49ers lost, the brothers shook hands, the parents were a mess (I mean where DO your loyalties lie at a time like this), the Super Bowl ended, I went back to watching a Law & Order marathon, cleaned my kitchen and called it a day and we are now enjoying leftovers of our San Francisco chili.  Amen.

See you next year!

Chili Beans – makes 8 servings – recipe from Charlie Radford, Engine Company No. 32
1 pound (about 2 cups) dry pinto beans
1 pound ground chuck
1 large onion, chopped
1 small can (1 pound) stewed tomatoes
1 small can (10 ounces) red chili sauce
¼ cup vinegar (Ann’s Note:  It doesn’t say what kind to use so I went with “white” vinegar)
1 tablespoon chili powder
Dash of liquid hot pepper seasoning
Salt and pepper

Cover beans with cold water, cover, bring to a boil, then simmer for 3 hours.  (Add water if necessary.)  In a frying pan, slowly brown ground beef and when crumbly, add onion, and sauté until limp; add to beans along with remaining ingredients except for salt and pepper.  Cover and simmer for three hours or until beans are tender and liquid cooked down to consistency desired.  (Ann’s Note:  three more hours will incinerate your beans, necessitating a call to the fire department.  Don’t do that.  Check after another half hour to an hour then serve.)  (Cook uncovered if necessary to reduce liquid).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  (Some people like me, like to add cheese and maybe even some sour cream.  It’s the Super Bowl – go for broke!)

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