January 29

Super Bowl chili: Recipes for Cuban flavor, simple lamb or vegetarian

We bring the heat with a trio of chili recipes for game day.

The New England Patriots may not be playing, but there’s still a lot of interest in Sunday’s big game.

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Three bean vegetarian chili from the Pepper Club in Portland.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Becky Shepherd's Cuban Chili

Elizabeth Hopkins Brown photo

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I’ve heard a lot of people say that even if they can’t watch Tom Brady, they want to see what Peyton Manning can do for the Broncos.

So maybe you aren’t having that big Patriots-themed party, but that doesn’t mean you have to cancel your Super Bowl soiree altogether. And what says “Super Bowl party” better than chili – gallons of it that you can leave simmering on your stove so your guests can help themselves? It’s easy, it’s delicious and it’s the perfect antidote for the frigid winter we’ve been having.

The usual beef chili is always popular, but why not try something a little different this year? I’ve gathered some ideas that will satisfy your guests’ chili cravings but also pique their culinary interest.

There’s a Cuban-style chili that gets unexpected flavor and texture from raisins, almonds and olives. Yes, it gets a little heat and intensity from cumin and chili powder, but it also gets rich undertones of flavor from cinnamon and cloves.

There’s a lamb chili that is lighter than a traditional beef chili and uses unsweetened cocoa powder to enhance the spices.

And there are two vegan/vegetarian offerings that get their texture and flavor from adding more vegetables to the mix – along with ingredients like molasses, maple syrup and chocolate.

The Cuban Chili that Becky Shepherd serves at Wild Oats Bakery & Cafe was inspired by Brunswick’s sister city relationship with Trinidad, a city in Cuba.

Every year the Brunswick-Trinidad Sister City Association hosts Cuba Week in town; restaurants serve Cuban fare, theaters show movies about Cuba and clubs play Cuban music.

“I have a personal interest in it because I have family that used to live in Cuba,” Shepherd said. “I’m not of Cuban descent or Hispanic descent, but my relatives owned a sugar plantation and a botanical garden in Cuba, and so I have been there. About 12 years ago, I was able to go on a humanitarian exchange, so I have a personal connection and interest in Cuba and I think the sister city program is really fascinating.”

Shepherd and her staff researched Cuban cuisine and put together a variety of chili concepts. The Cuban Chili is the end result of those experiments, tweaked over time.

Wild Oats puts a dozen or more different homemade soups on its daily menu, and there can be as many as three chilis sometimes. Shepherd thought the Cuban Chili would go away after Cuba Week, but she was wrong.

It’s become a staff and customer favorite.

“Frankly, we were just planning to offer it that week because we thought it was too funky for people – the idea that it’s got almonds and raisins and olives, and the spicing obviously is not your traditional spicing,” Shepherd said. “It’s much more Caribbean. But we just started having people ask for it, so now it’s one of our staples.”

If you like a little bite to your chili, or you’re planning to serve beer, Shepherd suggests going with three tablespoons of chili powder. It will provide some heat, but won’t make you break out in a sweat. If you don’t like spiciness, cut back to two tablespoons.

Shepherd uses dark raisins but says golden raisins would probably work just as well, if that’s all you’ve got on your shelf.

One nice thing about this chili is that it gets better the longer it sits because the flavors have a chance to meld.That means you can make it the day before the Super Bowl and take it easy (or concentrate on making other snacks) on game day.

(Continued on page 2)

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Chris McClay's Black Bean Chili

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