I must have missed out on the “party planning gene” that every other person in the world seems to have, or at least other moms. I look at Pinterest, with the decorations and the tablescapes and the elaborate menus – and break out into a cold sweat.
If I want onion dip for the Superbowl, I could use the classic recipe: open a packet of Lipton’s soup mix and a container of sour cream, mix them together and have a fat bowl of MSG, corn syrup and unpronounceable things with a side of my entire RDA of sodium. Or I could make onion dip from scratch, controlling the ingredients myself, adding the right amount of salt, and slowly caramelizing the onions to add depth of flavor. Of course, caramelized onions require a long period of cooking them in a skillet, stirring frequently to make sure they don’t scorch, waiting for those Maillard reactions to hurry up and happen. Or you could just use a crockpot.
I don’t come from a place where chili is a thing. Heck, I’m from California — we put barbecue chicken on pizza. We don’t have things. What this means is that I don’t have firm and fixed ideas about what should and shouldn’t be in chili, and as a result, I’ve tried many a chili recipe over the years. I’ve tried white chicken chili, turkey chili, chili con carne, chili without beans, vegetarian chili, what was supposed to be Cliff Huxtables super spicy chili from the Cosby Show, and even a really weird one from epicurious that had green olives and raisins (which wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t chili. I may not be a firm con carne or con frijoles person, but I feel about chili the way the Supreme Court feels about pornography — I know it when I see it).
I never really settled on THE chili — the one that becomes my go to recipe, that I make again and again — until I found this chili. It presents a mild heat without bowling you over with spiciness, it has beans, which I like, and meat, which I also like and it has tomatoes without being a tomato stew. Best of all, it is easy as pie to make and can be made in the crockpot, which means all I have to do is chop an onion and brown a little ground beef in the morning, dump it in the crockpot with several cans and spices, and I have a nice bowl of chili waiting for me when I get home. It’s also great for a Super Bowl party — hearty and warming, and there’s no last minute fuss to prepare it when your guests arrive.
Ah, the poor crockpot. It is used, nay, embraced all winter, when it churns out a steady stream of warming soups, hearty stews and stick-to-your-ribs casseroles. Then, come summertime and hot weather, the lonely crockpot is summarily dismissed, banished to the cupboard below the stairs with the spiders. “No!” it cries, “Wait! It doesn’t have to be like this! I can be summery! I am more eco-friendly than the grill! I don’t heat up your kitchen like an oven! Save me!” But you remain deaf to its piteous cries, and turn your back on the crockpot. Until now. Look, I know where you’re coming from. Nobody wants to eat pot roast with gravy in July. But the crock pot should not be so easily dismissed. Just because it’s daylight until 10 pm doesn’t mean you don’t want to come home and have dinner waiting. And any appliance that doesn’t heat up the kitchen should be put into play in the summer. The key, of course, is to look to cuisines from tropical countries, where warm weather is the norm. You’re still making a stew or a casserole, but it seems, somehow, more fitting. Take this Thai pork with peanut sauce. I might not make this during a heat wave, but for a normal summer dinner, a crockpot may be just the ticket.
I'm Kate, and between my day job and my home job, life is pretty full. Look around to find some of the recipes, projects, stories and tips that keep me sane on the domestic front. Read more about me here and feel free to email me with any questions or feedback!