A Moveable Feast & Chicken Chili

autumn_leaves_close-upColorful leaves are starting to fall from the trees. There is a bit of a nip in the air and the threat of frost at night. The kids are back at school and football season has begun. From professional teams all the way down to little pee-wee leaguers every weekend is filled with blocks and tackles and all that other football stuff.

Our social calendars have not just changed but been turned inside out and upside down. In many towns Friday night is football night at the high school. Saturdays are filled with college ball, either at the stadium or on television. Sunday night football is sacrosanct. Nothing can come between football fans and the big game, unless it’s a football party.

When it comes to football parties there is nothing like a fabulous moveable feast. Yes, it’s time for tailgating. When I was a teenager we headed up to Hanover at least once during the fall to tailgate and watch Dartmouth play. We had no particular affiliation to Dartmouth except a few friends and neighbors but it was fun to spend a sunny afternoon in Hanover.

Parking in Hanover has always been a challenge, and more so on game day. Our alumni friends always had a secret spot, just large enough to hold a few cars and the people in them. The adults would chat and sip Bloody Mary’s. My brother and his friends would throw around a football. My sister and I and any other teenage girls would find an excuse to drift away. We would wander around the quaint college town, check out the shops and the book store, find an ice cream cone and engage in some boy watching. It was still a year or two before Dartmouth went coed so the town was overflowing with young men.

It’s been a while since I dodged my parents’ tailgating parties. Since those days, tailgating has changed and reached what can only be described as high culinary art. A simple picnic basket with a jug of Bloody Mary’s and a few sandwiches is no longer adequate. Tailgaters now travel with grills, picnic tables and enough party food to feed several hungry football teams. Stadium parking lots are turned into one big block party. It’s sort of like the old fashioned neighborhood you always wanted to call home. The kind of neighborhood where no one locks their doors and everyone is happy to see you.

So what’s in your picnic basket on game day? Do you wrestle with grills, coolers, tables and chairs? Does it take you at least an hour, maybe two, to pack the car and yet another to unpack? If you are looking for a delicious, warm and cozy game day lunch, why not try chili. You can simmer up a big pot at home. Wrap up the chili pot nice and tight in a couple of old beach towels and then slide it into a cooler. The towels will keep the pot from melting the plastic cooler. And regardless of its name, the cooler will keep the chili piping hot. When you get to the stadium, pass around big mugs of steaming chili. Dress it up with a sprinkle of cilantro, a dollop of sour cream and a little cheese. Add a few corn muffins and a batch of your famous brownies and you’ll have a wonderful football feast without a lot of fuss and bother.

Word is that Dartmouth still lacks a giant parking lot near the football stadium and the college has never developed the kind of tailgating culture found at other colleges. I guess it’s hard for a big party to develop spontaneously when you are stuck with on-street parking. I suppose the neighbors might disapprove.

However you spend game day, in the stadium or parked in front of the television, enjoy the game and have fun with the rest of the fans!

Bon appétit!

Chicken  Chili
Make the chili a day ahead and refrigerate overnight to allow its flavors to mellow and mingle. Enjoy!
Serves 8

3 pounds boneless chicken breasts
Spicy Lime Marinade for the chicken (recipe follows)
3 yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
1/2 -1 jalapeño pepper, or to taste, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 (28 ounce) can ground plum tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Olive oil
Garnish: fresh chopped cilantro, chopped onions, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and corn chips

Marinade the chicken, recipe follows.

Heat a little olive oil in a large flame-proof casserole over medium-high heat. Add the onions, peppers, jalapeño, chili flakes, cumin, cayenne and season with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring frequently,  until tender. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or two.

Add the tomatoes, white wine and bay leaf to the casserole and simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the marinade. Grill over medium-high heat or cook in a large skillet over medium high heat until just cooked through; do not over cook. Set aside to cool.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut into bite size chunks. Add the chicken to the vegetables. Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate over night.

To reheat, set on medium-high heat, cook until it starts to bubble, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Serve in large soup mugs with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro and pass the toppings.

Spicy Lime Marinade
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Grated peel of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime
4 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all the ingredients. Pour over chicken and marinade, turning frequently for 2-4 hours or overnight.

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Feel free to visit my other, cleverly named blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010


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