I spoke to Cooking Channel Chef Jeffrey Saad about some tasty and creative ways to “spice up” seasonal chili recipes. Chef Saad hosts United Taste of America on the Cooking Channel and has written multiple cookbooks. He’s also been featured on several TV cooking shows including, Chopped-All-Stars, Moveable Feast and Iron Chef America.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Can you give us a little history on how chili began? What are the most popular ways to make chili?
Cooking Channel Chef Jeffrey Saad – Well, I’ve heard that there isn’t an exact history. Some of it’s the Spaniards bringing over cattle originally and simmering meat and seasonings, and then beans got introduced. Kind of a creole thing. So, it doesn’t have a specific history that I know of, but I know that everybody feels attached to chili. And that’s what makes it so great. It’s this comfortable one-pot dish that warms the soul.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – What are the most popular ways to make chili?
Cooking Channel Chef Jeffrey Saad – Some of the ways I love to make chili are with these chili beans because they’re simmered in a chili sauce so you’re already half way to delicious just by popping the top. There’s the more traditional kidney bean chili, there’s a great twist for summer… a white chili chicken – it’s got the Great Northern beans; it’s really creamy and nice. And, then if you want to go vegetarian, you have a black bean chili with some kidney beans. It feels so hearty you don’t even miss the meat. Those are nice starting points. That’s what’s great about chili – there’s as many variations as there are people. Everybody has their go-to chili, but then you can really tweak it and amp it up in so many different ways.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – What are some new twists for making chili?
Cooking Channel Chef Jeffrey Saad – You can think about it two ways. You can definitely just pour everything out of your pantry into the pot, turn it on, bring it to a boil, and it’s time for dinner. It totally works and it’s delicious. You can also layer those flavors… you can saute the meat until it’s nice and brown, then you can add in the spices and toast those in the oil, then you can start adding your tomato (or beer or bbq sauce as the base)… and start building the flavor in the pot. Or, if you just want to pour and boil, maybe you add the flavor by letting people customize the chili the way they want. You got some sour cream or Greek yogurt, but maybe we stir some paprika into the sour cream. Maybe we blacken the chilis over an open flame and chop those up so if somebody likes spicy, they can add it themselves. I like to do what’s seasonal. So, if you see some beautiful kale on the market, chop up the kale, saute it with some olive oil, little chili flakes, garlic, fresh lemon juice on top…stir that into the white chili and now you’ve got this burst of color, additional textures, etc. So, it’s really just a fun way to have endless bowls and ideas out on the counter for people to customize it the way they want.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Is it best to go with a low and slow process, or can chili be a quick meal option?
Cooking Channel Chef Jeffrey Saad – That’s a great question and it’s a great question because all the answers are correct. If you talk to some people, they’ll say it’s got to have lots of liquid.. or other people say boil it all the way down to it’s really thick. Some people want to add cinnamon and cloves and maybe chocolate if you’re in Cincinnati… it just depends on what you like. I don’t think there’s a wrong answer. It’s about experimenting and getting started. If you have a good variety of beans, you have some great bases and you start to play around with toppings, then you can go any which way. Experiment. Try it different ways. If you have more time, it’s a Saturday and it’s a game day, and you’re really taking your time, I would say try sauteing the different ingredients. Caramelize the onions, roast the meat – create flavor that way. If you’re in a hurry and it’s Wednesday night and the kids got homework and you just want to get it done – pour, boil and stir. There’s a chili for every mood, if you will.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – What should we keep on hand in our pantry so we can easily make chili if we get the craving?
Cooking Channel Chef Jeffrey Saad – Yes, the pantry is power. That is the flavor base. That is where it all begins. If you open up my pantry, you’ll see a whole selection of beans. I like to have different colors and textures because they all add something different. Sometimes you’re in the mood for just one. Maybe I’m doing a Mexican chili; I’ll add black beans or a black and pinto. So, have a lot of different beans. Then, have spices. Whatever you like. If you’re in the mood for Spanish, throw in some paprika and dried thyme. If you want Mexican throw in some cumin and coriander. So have different spices; those will work great. Have a good tomato base that you like. I like a pureed tomato base. Have a great chicken base. For a chef or a cook, chicken broth is essentially water. That’s the water that we use in everything. So, have a really good, clean base. I have one that I like that I add water to, or you can do a boxed bouillon. Then, you’re ready to go. Really, when you open your fridge, that becomes your chili base. You got a little bit of this, a little of that…it’s all going to be good. You get to use up all those leftovers and not waste anything.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Where can we get more recipe inspiration?
Cooking Channel Chef Jeffrey Saad – I’m all about inspiration! Go to BushBeans.com. I’ve partnered up with them to create great recipes. You’ll find tons of tips there… whether you’re a chili expert or it’s your first moment in front of the pot, you’re going to be inspired. There’s meal ideas, so check it out and have a great chili season!
For more info on chili cooking tips, visit BushBeans.com.
For more info on Cooking Channel Chef Jeffrey Saad, visit www.cookingchanneltv.com