Saturday, April 24, 2010

Captain Candy's Catastrophic Chili: One Big Bowl O' Birthday Fun

 As I mentioned not long ago in my last entry, I've been doing a decent job of keeping our Twitter presence up. If you were monitoring our feed today, you may have noted that it is Matty's 17th birthday today. I, being the thoughtful older brother that I am, neglected to get him anything of significance.

Hey, they don't pay me right now at my job... and I don't think ahead. As you can likely tell by his shirt, he got plenty of awesome presents as it was.

As the day has gone on and I've given the subject more thought, however, I realized that I could give him the greatest present of all: stress-relief.

You see, I have been prodding Matty for close to two months now to post our award-winning chili recipe on the blog. He's been either too busy or too unmotivated thus far to do it... and it's keeping him from contributing. I figure that if I take the burden off his shoulders, guess what on Earth we put in the chili, and get a post up, it'd make his day. A great side-effect? It'll surely make your day too.

That being said, here it is. The big one. That which our blog's measly reputation hinges on: Captain Candy's Catastrophic Chili.

"If the recipe is that good," you might think, "why share it with us lowly peasants lurking in the blogosphere?"

A good question, but one that is easily answered. Since we waited forever and a day to actually post this recipe, measured things... less than accurately, and hardly remember what we put in to begin with (I wish you could see this crumpled, pencil-scrawled sheet of paper in front of me), I don't think we're in any danger of losing a fortune on this one. Besides, we only actually took the 2nd place medal (out of 14 entries), our egos have been kept in check for now.

To be honest, the chili wasn't even our idea. Our church hosts a "Chili Cook-off" every year, and every year you know where to find us when that day comes around...

Not at the cook-off.

We don't have great memories, so we've never quite made it there. This year, however, we didn't have too much of a choice. The pastoral associate at the church, a very bright guy named Bill, knew about the Culinary Conquistadors and knew that we had a bit (keyword being BIT) of cooking experience. He hounded us week after week about when he was gonna see our name on the entries list and how he couldn't wait to try that Conquistador chili. He wasn't being obnoxious, just probably knew that we didn't have the gumption to enter ourselves.

Finally, without Matty's permission, I put our names on a slip and we were in the running.

When that fateful weekend came around, we hit the store, grabbed some ingredients, and went to work. given how long ago it was that we actually made the chili, I'll skip the faulty narrative and stick to the phases of preparation. Here is how it all went down.


Captain Candy's Catastrophic Chili

Serves: ???? (a crock-pot's worth)
Cook Time: ~6 hours (though you won't be present the whole time)

Phase I: Meat and Flavorings
  • What you'll need
    • Coarsely ground beef (2.5 lbs+)
    • Bulb of garlic (6 cloves)
    • Salt & Pepper
    • Onions (1.5 cups+)
    • Olive oil (a few Tbsp. to cover the electric frying pan
  • Preparation
    • Thaw the beef, chop it up. Keep it chunky. Microwave, hot water, whatever you need to do to make sure it's not frozen and can be worked with.
    • Chop up your onions. We diced them, but not finely. pieces were probably 1/2 in. long.
    • Crush your cloves of garlic. We used a garlic press, I recommend one if you can find it
    • Add oil to electric frying pan, turn to 300°F. Heat oil.
  •  Cooking
    • Put beef into the electric frying pan / heated oil. 
    • Add prepared garlic and onions
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Allow the mixture to cook for a few minutes until the beef and seasonings are browned
Phase II: Vegetables
  • What you'll need
    • Variously colored bell peppers, the more colors, the more fun (1.5 cups+)
    • Celery, chopped (1.5 cups+)
  • Preparation
    • Chop that business. Like onions, don't go too fine.
  • Cooking
    • Drain meat and seasonings
    • Add new oil to frying pan
    • Add chopped vegetables
    • Sauté vegetables for 5 min. or until soft
Phase III: Beans, Spices, Etc.
  • What you'll need
    • Kidney beans (40.5oz. can)
    • Dark red kidney beans (30oz. can)
    •  Can of tomatoes with oregano, basil, and garlic (28oz) [You may want to try the kind with diced green chilies in it as well]
    • Spices
      • Oregano
      • Ground black pepper
      • Basil
      • Chili powder
      • Hot paprika
      • Cinammon
      • Crushed red pepper 
  •  Preparation
    • Drain beans
  • Cooking
    • Add drained beans to vegetables in electric frying pan
    • Add seasoned tomato mixture
    • Stir, add spices to mixture. Now I realize that we haven't given you any measurements, but honestly we didn't measure it either. You've just got to work with what you have and guess a bit along the way. We continually tweaked the spices toward the end to equalize spiciness, saltiness, sweetness, tartness, etc. to meet our qualifications. We'll come back to this... just put in a couple shakes for now and try not to overdo it.
Phase IV: All Together Now!
  • Combination
    • Add everything, meat, vegetables, etc. to crock pot
    • Simmer the mixture for several hours (4-5 hrs.) The flavors need to "become acquainted", as one of our aunts likes to say. Don't bother taste testing for a while.
    • We kept a bit of overflow simmering in the electric frying pan for testing purposes... we had very little faith in ourselves and wanted to avoid polluting the whole batch if possible. You may want to try this too
Phase V: Hittin' the Sauce - Finishing Touches
  • What you'll need
    • Buffalo sauce (We used a brand called "Moore's", 16oz.)
    • Frank's Hot Sauce
    • Srirachi asian hot sauce
    • Limes (two)
  • Mixing it up
    • Juice both limes, add the juice to the chili
    • This is where any semblance of a scientific approach falls apart. We added the entire bottle of buffalo sauce, squirts of Frank's and srirachi, and fiddled with cinammon, hot paprika, and chili powder. Here are some pointers:
      • The lime juice and cinammon add a sweetness to the mixture with a bit of tartness from the limes
      • Srirachi sauce adds spice, but almost a little sweetness as well
      • Frank's has more distinct flavor than the srirachi sauce, thus adding more spice that equalizes the sweetness
      • Chili powder, hot paprika, and crushed red pepper all add spice
      • Salt and pepper are useful for normalizing any oddities
    • Pray that it works out and don't give up until you find a flavor you like

... Or something like that.

It wasn't exact, it wasn't elegant, but it was pretty dang good. For once, you don't even have to take just our word for it either.

What we learned from all of this is that chili is something that is meant to be toyed with and is hard to mess-up. As long as you have a consistent base with the beef and vegetables, your originality will come from how you season it. In our case, the limes and srirachi are what really made the difference, I believe.

You don't even have to use beef if you want to try something different. The chili that took number one in the cook-off was a green chili-based, shredded chicken chili. It was made by a woman who was a much more accomplished cook than we and was thus a tasty departure from the norm. If you're confident, try something crazy!

Now that it's Spring, chili-season may have passed for the most part... but if you're looking fora different spin on a recognized classic, we suggest giving this one a try. Captain Candy has never let anyone down... at least not yet.

A brief update before something signifcantly more interesting.

Good afternoon, or morning, or whatever... the Indians are playing in Oakland today so I'll be sensitive to you folks from the West Coast.

So, you may have noted that the activity on the blog picked up earlier this month then proceeded to drop off as usual, not surprisingly. I admit that I could have been working a bit harder to conjure some culinary creations during this period. My cohorts (yes, you may not recall them as it has been SO LONG since they posted much) have been of little help. To be fair, they've been busy. Both starring in plays, Deering performed a ridiculous number of shows at Wittenberg U. last week and Matty had three appearances as Cpt. Hook in the high school's Peter Pan presentation. These beleaguered thespians have had their minds on just about anything but cooking, I imagine, though Deering may not have a choice as he works in a fancy restaurant.

Regardless, you, Internet-world, haven't seen nor heard much from any of us. If you follow our tweets, that may be an exception... we've stayed pretty up-to-date on those (see the left hand column if you're too lazy to make your way to Twitter or pick up your snazzy mobile device which probably has a Twitter app as well); follow us if you haven't already.

Martha Stewart, we realized last week, is following @CulinaryFTW on Twitter... she follows 6,000 some folks out of the 2,000,000 or so that follow her, so we felt pretty honored. Twitter is really a great place to meet other folks interested in cooking, foodie matters, dining, etc. I've learned a bit and I know that certain tweeps have benefited from some of our tweets as well. Trendy though it may be, its useful. Get on it if you haven't yet.

Anyhow, between the plays and my work schedule (food around here is generally cooked by the time I get home... not that I'm complaining), we haven't had much of a chance to tackle stuff. Hopefully that'll be changing as school is winding down for the other two Conquistadors, potential guest stars will be coming back into town, and I'll be motivated to do more cooking and less social media work around this endeavor. Who knows? We may even get out the camera and start the long rumored internet show. Only time will tell...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Re-establishment... the Western Way

Greetings followers/ Internet-world! We're still here.

You may have noticed (or not, depending on how often you're around these parts) that things are a bit different on the site right now. We had to do a bit of clean-up given some formatting issues we've run into of late. While Safari, Opera, and Chrome have all seemed content to show the blog the way it ought to look, Firefox and Internet Explorer haven't shared in that view of late. After struggling for some weeks to find out what has been causing the problem, it seems as though we've fixed our issues.

As a result of our tinkering, you'll note the sidebars have been altered slightly and that a new poll has been put in place (you should respond to it). Hopefully the site will stay in one piece henceforth and we can focus a bit more on what we're supposed to be doing - cooking.

On that note, I have a little something-something to share with y'all today - a recipe brought to us by the very same little lady that imparted unto us her buffalo chicken dip knowledge. Yes indeed, Erin has been back in town for a few days and this time she taught us how to make a variation on something that may or may not have originated from a Campbell's soup can: "Cowboy Casserole".


"Cowboy Casserole"
     Serves 6-ish



What you'll need:
  • 1 small onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (pressed)
  • 1 lb. of ground beef or turkey (if you prefer a healthier alternative)
  • 2 10.75 oz. cans of tomato soup(we used Campbell's)
  • 2 10 oz. cans of diced tomatoes and green chilies (we used Rotel's)
  • 1 pack small tortillas (you'll need approx. 6 of the tortillas)
  • 1 cup shredded mozarella
  • Olive oil
  • Optional: a splash of Frank's Hot Sauce


The greatest thing about this recipe is that it is simple. It can be made quickly, the preparation is not difficult (something that you cannot necessarily count on with our recipes... remember the gumbo?), and it's tough to mess up. Perfect.

To begin, you'll need either a large skillet or an electric frying pan: we used the latter. Once you find that, you're ready to cook.

1. Begin by pouring some olive oil into your skillet/frying pan, just enough to roughly cover the bottom. Turn the heat onto Medium (or equivalent).

2. Dice your onions / press your garlic if you have not done so yet. Once they're in appropriate form, toss them into your skillet to saute. Leave them in there, stirring as necessary until the onions are browned.

3. Add your hamburger, chopping it up with a spoon or spatula as you do. Begin browning the hamburger in the oil with the onion and garlic.

4. Slice your tortillas into bite-sized pieces while the hamburger is cooking. I used a knife to slice the tortillas, though a kitchen scissors would work.

5. Add your cans of tomato soup and tomatoes/chilies to the skillet. Stir together with the ingredients already present and heat the mixture. Think of it as if you were heating a can of soup; it shouldn't take more than a few minutes to reach a good temperature. Erin added a dash of Frank's Hot Sauce here. The chilies add a kick of their own, so this is optional dependent on taste.

6. Pour your mixture into a large serving bowl. Place tortilla strips and cheese in their own bowls and serve. Tortilla strips and cheese are meant to be used as a topping for the soupy casserole, adding consistency. Add these ingredients as you see fit.

7. Enjoy.


In the words of a famous warthog, it's "slimy, yet satisfying." Of the six who tried the dish today, five heartily approved and one (nine year-old) complained that it was a bit spicy for her. This is a great lunch dish if you're looking for something quick but a little different.

Experiment with quantities - we had no problem cleaning out this amount of the casserole, including a side of tex-mex vegetable mix (corn, tomatoes, beans, peppers, etc.), hence the "6-ish" serving designation. As long and you make enough, this one is a sure winner.