This week finds us in Mendham, New Jersey, a picturesque Colonial village nestled in rolling hills and lush with deciduous trees. The area has a long history dating back to when the Lenni-Lenape Indians migrated to New Jersey from the "North Country" crossing the Mississippi River. Despite the present-day transformation from a rural farming community to a residential suburb, Mendham retains its early character through its carefully preserved homes, farm buildings, and villages, living remnants of the township’s past. In this portrait of Americana, we discover Allrecipes.com cook Doug Matthews cooking up some Alligator Chili, which is obviously not indigenous to the local cuisine. Playing our own version of "Six Degrees of Alligator," the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is nearby, though alligators are not known to frequent here.
Chili, the star of cook-offs, the passion of the people, and the subject of endless debate over its proper preparation, is this week's recipe. Doug will be the first to tell you that there's no better time to be a "Chili-Head" and that this recipe is a Super Bowl favorite that has the bite of a hungry gator! With chipotle peppers, smoked paprika, chili powder, hot sauce and more, this recipe is a wake-up call to the taste buds and will have you screaming for your favorite team!
If your chili is too thick, use beef, chicken, or vegetable broth or tomato juice to thin it and if it's too thin, add tomato paste to thicken it.
Brown all your meat (ground/larger cuts) prior to adding any liquid to your pan; this locks in the flavor of the meats and cuts down on overall cooking time of your chili.
For the ultimate chili, prepare your chili a day in advance or early in the morning (so that it simmers all day). This allows your chili flavors to meld together.
Mardi Gras Gator Meat Balls
These excellent meatballs are especially great for those that have easy access to alligator meat.
Boilermaker Tailgate Chili
This is the chili recipe the gang eats at Purdue Boilermaker football games. This is a combination of many different tomato-based chili recipes.
Debdoozie's Blue Ribbon Chili
This could possibly be the tastiest, easiest chili recipe you'll ever find.
Smokin' Scovilles Turkey Chili
This is a hearty and relatively low-fat chili recipe that is guaranteed to satisfy even the most sadistic spicy food lover...REAL MAN FOOD.
Doug's mother decided early on that her sons would never have to rely on someone to feed them so they all learned to cook at an early age.
"While I spent my youth being raised as an Easterner in New Jersey, I discovered during my young adult years in Denver, San Francisco, and Dallas, that I was really a Westerner at heart. A big part of that realization came not only from the wide open spaces and laidback lifestyles of the west but also from the bold new flavors of food that I was experiencing. I'm back living in the east now and I am a very happily married father of three who is also a frustrated New York City commuter that finds as much relaxation in cooking in my kitchen every weekend as I do on the golf course. I may have a 12.8 handicap when it comes to golf but I am scratch in the kitchen. I love to experiment and freestyle with different ingredients and flavor combinations which have resulted in some interesting recipes and results. I also travel a lot for work so I get to sample a lot of different regional cuisines and I use these for inspiration. My sister has always said that she can tell what I am going to order in a restaurant by looking for the strangest thing on the menu. I think she's right and I have the spice rack to prove it."
Doug admits he learned a lot of good strong basics in the kitchen from his mother that he has carried over into his cooking today. He loves to make Cajun food, with noted favorites including crawfish pie, alligator stew, and alligator chili, a Super Bowl favorite. Oh, and Doug is a Denver Broncos fan, which makes him a favorite cook of this particular host. Go BRONCOS! View Cook's Profile >>>
"Next to jazz music, there is nothing that lifts the spirit and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili." ~ Harry James
"Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili." ~ Kit Carson's last words
From the time somebody first mixed some chile peppers with meat and cooked them, the great chili debate was on. More of a war, in fact. The desire to stew up the best bowl of chili in the world is exactly that old. This week, I find myself in New Jersey of all places, making chili. But not just any old chili, Alligator Chili. The beauty of chili is that it's a state of Zen. It's what you want when you make it. You can add anything you want, hot or mild, adding any blend of spices you feel like at the time.
Well, that's exactly what we did in Doug's kitchen, throwing in alligator, smoked paprika, chipotle peppers, and more! For a little more bite, throw in some more chipotles or perhaps a tasty habanero. We got started immediately, with all of his kids jumping in to help. I took a few moments to peruse Doug's hot sauce collection built into the kitchen wall for what we would use in the recipe. It didn't take long to put this all together filling up the kitchen with a spicy smell! The trick to a good chili is to make it early and let it "simmer" all day long. If you have the time, making it a day early is ideal.
Whatever your taste, this chili will be the hit at any party, especially a Super Bowl party in which the Denver Broncos are up by a score of 31-7.
At Cajun Grocer, they carry more than 1,000 Authentic Cajun and Creole Food Products including Fresh Cajun Boudin, delicious Mardi Gras King Cakes, select crawfish, and of course, alligator!
Read more about Swampy's experiences in the kitchen and how he gets his Allrecipes' cook on!
Ralston Cider Mill
We made a little stop before cooking up the chili at the last authentic vestige of the once thriving cider and applejack industry in New Jersey.