How 'Bout Them Cowboys

Superbowl Sunday is always the cat’s meow. Even if your beloved colors are not playing, there is always some connection to one team or another. This celebrated day serves as an exceptional opportunity to rendezvous with friends, usually brings the promise of unbelievable commercials, gives most an excuse to indulge in wicked food, ignites animation surrounding the halftime show and lest we not forget the football itself. This year’s big game was an example of old versus new, namely that of Peyton Manning, an incredible, seasoned quarterback and the Seattle Seahawks new poster boy, Russell Wilson. We adore the Manning dynasty but this year invited new excitement and pride as partner-in-crime is a NCSU Wolfpack alumnus. Oy vey.

Growing up in Big D, we were die-hard Dallas Cowboys fans. My Mom, who was first introduced to “The ‘Boys” back in the early 1970s when living in Long Island, made sure of it. We grew enamored of NFL football during the heyday of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, Deion Sanders and my crush at the time, Daryl Johnston AKA The Moose. My little brother attended a football camp hosted by Troy. Sundays were always lively times in the Breyer household. They still are. Everything and anything took a back burner to Sunday football. Dinner was an every man for himself exercise between games. Our living room was filled with shouting, couch jumping and general animated livery. Forget doing your homework upstairs in peace. Why would we? These gentlemen led our team to three outstanding championships during the 1990s. It should be noted that we also had the most attractive and best dressed cheerleaders in the NFL. Still do. It seems like just yesterday that we wore our Cowboys jerseys to school and participated in parades to cheer on America’s team. 

When I moved to Charlotte many moons ago, I partially shifted my allegiance to another team, the Carolina Panthers. In fact, I was interviewed a couple of years ago for a piece in the Charlotte Observer and remarked that every gal living here should have a Panthers jersey hanging in her closet. All Carolinians can and will agree that 2013 invited a spectacular season and our team did us proud indeed. Football Sundays in the Queen City call for serious business. I might be biased but I think all will agree that no one knows how to tailgate like the Charlotteans. The games invite an all day affair. If you are ever offered tickets to Bank of America Stadium, do yourself a favor and participate in the contagious pandemonium. 

For this year’s NFL Super Bowl XLVIII, we had an intimate cluster of great friends over to enjoy what we had anticipated being a nail biting game. I am thankful that I didn’t place any bets in Vegas. I must admit, I was also not floored by the advertisements. Perhaps next year. On tap were grub, the associated libations and for those not too into football that wanted to enjoy the outdoors, a fire pit. This past Sunday saw temperatures in the 60s but come nightfall there was a nip in the air and frankly, the opportunity was ripe. Our mere collection of logs and sticks was imploring to be set a fuego.

After reviewing a myriad of recipes, I decided to serve chili for the halftime show. In terms of hosting a gathering where folks are glued to the TV on the couch, dishing up and eating chili is conducive to living easy. In lieu of preparing a beef chili, which can get fatty, I sought to prepare a dish that called for pork. Andrew Zimmern is the master of entertainment grub (as well as other things) and I went with his recipe that called for a medley of peppers and chilies. Instead of normal beans, I used a bag of my newly beloved Rancho Gordo ones. They are the Rolls Royce of beans.

Around noon, we began to get our ducks in a row in the food department. This chili was very simple to put together thanks to my Cuisinart. Once everything was chopped and browned, we brought my Dutch oven to a roaring boil and let it sit on the stove for hours, wholly undisturbed. Partner-in-crime took ownership of making the cornbread. Bravo Matthew, it was delicious. We picked up chips from the local Mexican haunt and visited our favorite Latino grocer for homemade corn tortillas.

Come eating time, we served my Holy Guacamole, tortilla chips, warm corn tortillas and invited folks to create their own masterpieces. We also put out put out bowls of chopped radishes, green onions, pickled jalapeños, cheddar and cotija cheeses as well as sour cream. If I were you, throw some limes into the mix. I then let everyone have at it. This chili is not too terribly spicy so use your own hot sauces to rev things up. The end result was a smoky, meaty and flavorful combination. This recipe has now supplanted others as our very favorite chili that will certainly not be reserved exclusively for game days. Hope you think so too.

Game Day Pork and Black Bean Chili
Adapted by Andrew Zimmern 

3 lb of pork shoulder – cut into one to two inch chunks – please salt your pork in advance and let it rest outside of the fridge for about an hour before cooking
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
4 slices of bacon – chopped
2 poblano chilies – cut off the stems, get rid of the seeds and finely diced
1 large white onion – finely diced
4 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce – chopped
10 garlic cloves – chopped
1/3 cup of ancho chili powder
4 TBS cumin
1 TBS dried oregano
1 cup of cilantro – chopped
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes – We like the San Marzano sort
1 lb dried black beans – preferably Rancho Gordo – soaked overnight and then drained
5 cups of chicken stock
3 cups of dark beer
Kosher salt
Cracked pepper

For Serving:

Chopped radishes
Chopped green onions
Cheddar cheese
Cotija cheese
Lime wedges
Sour cream with a drizzle of olive oil
Tortilla chips
Corn tortillas
Hot sauce

Time for Work Son

1. In your Cuisinart or food processor, finely dice your poblano chilies, onion, chipotle chilies, garlic cloves and cilantro. Set aside. In a small bowl, add your ancho chili powder, cumin and dried oregano. Set aside. You move fast when making this recipe so prep work is key.

2. In your Dutch oven, heat the oil on high. Add the chopped bacon. Stir regularly. Once nicely crisped but not burned, please transfer carefully to a plate.

3. Add your pork as well as some fresh cracked pepper. Cook over high heat until browned. Contingent upon the pot this can take anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes.

4. Once your meat is browned, add the poblano chilies, onion, chipotle chilies and garlic cloves. Stir for approximately 10 minutes or until your onions are translucent. Now add the chili powder, cumin and dried oregano mix. Now add the can of tomatoes (whole), beans, chicken stock, beer, bacon and cilantro.. Now is also a good time to add a couple of pinches of kosher salt and more cracked pepper. Give everything a big stir.

5. Bring the mix to a furious boil and then lower to simmer. Put the top on and cook for around 2 hours. Give the mixture a stir every once and a while. After 2 hours, remove the lid and cook for an additional 1 hour.

6. Dish everything into bowls and bon appétit!

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