Sunday, January 24, 2010

Super Bowl Chili: To Soup or Not to Soup

In general, I avoid recipes that rely on canned soups. I try to adhere to the Michael Pollan rule of only eating "real food," not "edible foodlike substances."  And canned soups fall squarely into the "foodlike substances" category.  They have lots of salt, high fructose corn syrup, and other unpronounceable ingredients that I don't like eating or serving. Oh, I have one or two old, food-splattered recipes in my collection that call for canned soups, and I do cherish those recipes because of the history associated with them. But they are definitely the exception, not the rule.

I bring this up because my husband has a favorite canned-soup meal from childhood: his mom's Super Bowl Chili. It relies on canned tomato soup to give the chili body. I've made the chili many times, from my mother-in-law's recipe. And it rocks. Lots of chili flavor, but still mild enough for my kids to love. With a few tweaks (I altered the beef-to-bean ratio in favor of beans, e.g.), it quickly became our house chili. This is the stuff football gamewatches are made of.

But still, I hated cranking open those cans of processed soup and feeding it to my kids. So when winter weather finally hit San Diego last month, I decided to make Super Bowl Chili -- but with organic, canned tomato sauce standing in for the soups.  Guess what?  Still awesome.  And now served without the side of guilt.  I'll leave it to you to decide which route to go: to soup or not to soup.  But you know where I stand.

By the way . . . I just hosted a potluck party for a large group of friends.  I made this Super Bowl Chili and a batch of "Kicked-Up Chili" from Emeril Lagasse's Potluck cookbook.  I had been itching to try Emeril's chili for a while, as it included a long list of fun ingredients such as two bottles of dark beer, cinnamon, and a square of unsweetened chocolate.  I was envisioning a chili with mole-like flavors.  Guess what?  It was fine.  Certainly nothing wrong with it.  But just . . . meh.  And the good, old, ultra-easy Super Bowl Chili?  Rave reviews, as always.  This is definitely a case where simpler was more satisfying. 


Serves:  8-10
Time:  10 mins. prep., 1 hour mostly unattended cooking time

  • 2 lb. ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 TBSP chili powder
  • 2 x 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
  • 2 x 4 oz. cans chopped green chiles
  • 1 x 16 oz. jar salsa (mild to hot, your choice)
  • 2 cans kidney beans
  • 2 cans pinto beans
  • Toppings of choice:  chopped onion, cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro
  1. Brown the beef with the onion and some of the chili powder.  Drain off some of the fat. 
  2. Stir in the rest of the chili powder.  Add all other ingredients including liquid in cans of beans.  Simmer at least one hour, stirring with some regularity, to make sure chili doesn't start to stick to the bottom and burn. 
Serving notes:  Chili is always awesome with baked potatoes on the side.  And by the way, no, a microwaved potato doesn't really cut it. To get that steakhouse-quality crispy skin, you need to bake it at high heat, directly on the oven rack.  Try 450 degrees for about an hour.

When we don't have Russet potatoes in the house, we serve Super Bowl Chili with tortilla chips, corn bread, French bread, saltines, roasted new potatoes, etc.  Lots of folks like to serve chili on a bed of rice, too.  (And, apparently, if you're from Cincinnati, you like it over spaghetti.)
If you've got leftovers, try filling baked potato skins, topping with lots of cheddar, and broiling.  Serve with sour cream for dunking.  Also, chili freezes beautifully.  And, once, my pizza-obsessed, pizza-making husband put together a cornmeal crust and spread the leftover chili on top, smothered in cheddar.  So yum!



  1. I'm definitely passing this on to my husband. He's the real chef in this house...and he's been trying to perfect his chili recipe. We frown upon the chili over spaghetti here in these parts, Megan...tsk, tsk, tsk. ;)

  2. Well, this strange Irish/Italian girl likes her chili over mashed potatoes! what do you say to that?!?

    This sounds too easy, Megan. I'll have to give it a go. I've long been a fan of Cooking Light's All American Chili- turkey sausage + lean ground beef. A little red wine (which is always available around here) and I always add black beans. Ah ha, here's the link...

    Now I need to put "make chili" on my to do list!

  3. Rachel, I wanted to remain neutral and so did not add "Yuck" after the spaghetti comment, but I did think it. Does that make it better?? ;-)

    Chris, I love pretty much everything from Cooking Light! And any recipe with red wine + sausage gets a green light from me. Next time I make two chilis, I'll try that one instead of Emeril's again. And, yes, I've heard of mashed potatoes, but never tried it. And this recipe really is too easy. It's just pure and simple comfort. A hug in a bowl.

  4. You're blowing me away. Great stuff here