Yes we can make chili!

November 5, 2008

Things I like:

  • Plans
  • Themes
  • Elections
  • Chili

So when I heard that now President-elect Barack Obama had shared his family recipe for chili, well, I knew what I was eating on Election Night.

But here’s the thing. Obama is a team player. He listens to the people around him, even those who disagree with him. Team of Rivals is one of his favorite books. So I say this with great respect: Barry, maybe you should have worked with a team on this chili.

Not that it isn’t good. It’s a great start for some phenomenal chili. The ingredients reflect Obama’s childhood in the Pacific Islands, but if there’s anything I learned from his chili recipe, it’s that No Drama Obama is not a fan of heat. So, if you read on, I’ll break down how Obama and I teamed up to make some amazing Election Night chili.

And there are no pictures because it was so good I just started eating.

I got this recipe from ABC News, which also shared John McCain’s spice rub for ribs. Now, in the spirit of bipartisanship, I did look at his spice rub, and considered it for, oh, 12 seconds, but I don’t have a grill, ribs are hard to make for one person and, frankly, the spice rub is nothing special, especially when compared to Obama’s chili.

Now, because I am just one person, I halved this recipe (sorta), but the beauty of this recipe (and all chili recipes, really) is that they are really easy to multiply if you’re cooking for a crowd. I would totally enter this in an office chili cook-off or serve it on Super Bowl Sunday.

Obama’s recipe is below, and my comments are in pink.

  • 1 large onion, chopped  |  I used half an onion. Because I halved the recipe.
  • 1 green pepper, chopped  |  Again, half the pepper. Several cloves of garlic, chopped  |  Several? I need a president more specific about his garlic plans. I think I used 4 or 5 of those really tiny cloves from the inside of the head
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey or beef  |  I used beef like a good American, but only half a pound, because we’re in a recession
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground basil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

Now, here’s the thing. That is NOT a lot of spices for the amount of flavor in this chili. A whole onion deserves more than a tablespoon of chili powder. So I doubled the spices–and I halved the recipe! But I only put about 2/3 of those doubled spices in my chili. So I’m guessing, for a full-sized pot, double the ¼ teaspoon spices and use 1-1/2 tablespoons of chili powder. More for more spice. This is NOT spicy chili.

  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Several tomatoes, depending on size, chopped  |  Several? Really? I used two medium-sized tomatoes.
  • 1 can red kidney beans  |  I accidentally used red beans and was reminded of why I hate red beans. I love beans and used the whole can, so I think a can of kidney beans and a can of black beans would be yummy in a big pot. But be sure to bump up the tomatoes and vinegar (or add some water, crushed tomatoes or tomato juice) if you do that.

Saute onions, green pepper and garlic in olive oil until soft.

Add ground meat and brown.

Combine spices together into a mixture, then add to ground meat.

Add red wine vinegar.

Add tomatoes and let simmer, until tomatoes cook down.

Add kidney beans and cook for a few more minutes.

Serve over white or brown rice. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese, onions and sour cream.


I love how this recipe incorporates the time he spent in Indonesia with the inclusion of tumeric, and his Hawai’ian heritage, because it’s served over rice.

Now, I didn’t serve it over rice because I’m a maverick. But also, I didn’t have any white rice and brown rice would (a) take too long to cook and (b) taste weird with chili. I also added some Worcestershire sauce, which reflects the red wine vinegar and tumeric, but it gives it a deeper, smoky flavor that goes really nicely. I also salted it. WTF, Barack.

If you want some real kick to your chili, you could also add a can of Ro-tel or some hot sauce. This isn’t super-spicy chili, but it is really flavorful and delicious.

I can totally picture him making this in his kitchen in the White House as Malia and Sasha watch and maybe even help. Michelle’s hanging out with some guacamole and a margarita. Maybe the Bidens are over, or the Clintons. Maybe serving Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada or Sweetwater Blue to commemorate this historic victory!


One comment

  1. I want to read YOUR chili recipe!

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