A geographical guide to chili

January 13, 1999|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN FOOD EDITOR

Forget steamed crabs. Maryland now has its own chili.

At least, that's what cookbook authors Jane and Michael Stern determine in their new book, "Chili Nation" (Broadway Books), a geographical guide to the one-bowl dish. The couple, who toured the country in search of recipes, have added Chesapeake Bay Chili to the state's culinary reputation.

While acknowledging the seafood version is "unusual" compared with its fiery cousins, the Sterns say they offer the rendition in memory of the now-defunct Chesapeake House restaurant in Baltimore -- although they probably meant the Chesapeake Restaurant, the city's once premiere establishment at Charles and Lanvale streets that closed 10 years ago.

In their introduction to the dish, they write that the Free-State chili, which is reminiscent of seafood stew, captures "bygone silver chafing-dish meals" and "is a salute to the rich crab imperial that is still a specialty of many local crab houses."

If cream-saturated chili doesn't stir the appetite, the Sterns provide recipes from every other state in the nation, including such traditional types as Cincinnati Five-Way Chili and tear-choking Tigua Indian Definitive Bowl of Red from Texas.

Chili aficionados also can chow down on Pig Chili from North Carolina and Mardi Gras Vegetable Chili from Louisiana. Adventuresome renditions are Delaware's Blue Hen Succotash Chili, Florida's Havana Moon Chili and Gilroy Super Garlic Chili from California.

The cookbook also gives tips on how to handle hot peppers (with gloves) and provides a mail-order guide and a brief history of chili, which obviously has come a long way from its Tex-Mex roots.

Burgers aside, the Sterns, who also wrote "Eat Your Way Across the U.S.A.," say chili is now "the nation's one truly shared national food."

Chesapeake Bay Chili

2 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup chopped scallions

1 Cup chopped celery

1 Pound medium shrimp, peeled

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup whole milk

1 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 teaspoon celery salt

1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1 pound fresh crab meat, picked over to remove any bits of shell or cartilage (the better the crab, the better this dish will taste)

2 eggs, hard-cooked and sliced

cooked rice

In a heavy skillet or saucepan, melt the butter and saute the scallions and celery until soft. Add the shrimp and saute until pink.

In a small bowl, combine the cream and milk and stir in the flour until smooth. Add the cream mixture to the skillet along with the salt, pepper, celery salt and chili powder. Stir and cook over low heat until the mixture thickens. Gently stir in crab meat and eggs.

Serve at once; this chili does not improve with age. Serve on white rice.

Date: 01/13/99

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